I can't help it, I'm a hopeless Miéville fan. I want to wallow in his prose. The writing is as good as the stories, and the stories are as good as his writing, and the richness of the details and the strength of his vocabulary make it hard to breathe.
Okay, hopeless geeking out of the way, let me talk about this particular novel.
Iron Council is politics all the way down. Of course, they're Bas-Lag poltitics, so we've got Stiltspears being wiped out by the train company and remade anti-heroes rebelling in New Crobuzon. The theme I picked up most was sacrifice - blood, time, youth, life, all spent on various altars. Most not by choice. Or maybe the theme is exactly that, choice, who has it and who is willing to fight for it.
I'm gonna skip around some. I tried to let it stew in my mind before I wrote this out, but it's still just scenes and flashes for me. The idea of a bunch of whores and workers and slaves getting together and just running off with a fucking train made me damn near euphoric. Laying down tracks, rolling across them, and then picking up and putting them down again. A slow, beautiful, hard won flight to freedom. Burying their honored dead on flatcars or under the tracks as they pass. The images leave me speechless.
There are more remade in this one, which makes the idea both more and less frightening to me. More, because of the details that come out ("Am I a prison? Was he alive inside me?"), less because even the worst horrors fade some with repetition.
More homosexuality, too, and the ways that impacts on lives and society. There's a huge gap between the homoerotic but certainly not at all gay, how can you even suggest it world of genre fantasy and the Clive Barker/Neil Gaiman yeah, so what, let's explore how this facet of sexuality and life informs everything else take on various attractions. And Miéville is in that second camp, of course (not the only way I'd lump him in with the other two there, anyway), and I've got no complaints about that. In a society where men fall for bug-headed women, I would think that being gay would be the least of someone's worries.
Of course, the New Quillers hate both. Might as well call them droogs, really, with their bowler hats and bovver boots. Miéville's English, and he knows the image of the well dressed thug, an everyday boogyman.
final thought: Frankly, I could talk about this book for hours, given beer and someone to talk to. The problem is, none of my friends have been willing to wade through his writing or find it as amazing as I do.