Try an audiobook on us

October

The Story of the Russian Revolution
Narrated by: John Banks
Length: 11 hrs and 37 mins
4 out of 5 stars (185 ratings)
£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

Summary

The renowned fantasy and science fiction writer China Mieville has long been inspired by the ideals of the Russian Revolution, and here, on the centenary of the revolution, he provides his own distinctive take on its history.

In February 1917, in the midst of bloody war, Russia was still an autocratic monarchy: nine months later it became the first socialist state in world history. How did this unimaginable transformation take place? How was a ravaged and backward country, swept up in a desperately unpopular war, rocked by not one but two revolutions?

This is the story of the extraordinary months between those upheavals, in February and October, of the forces and individuals who made 1917 so epochal a year, of their intrigues, negotiations, conflicts and catastrophes. From familiar names like Lenin and Trotsky to their opponents Kornilov and Kerensky; from the byzantine squabbles of urban activists to the remotest villages of a sprawling empire; from the revolutionary railroad Sublime to the ciphers and static of coup by telegram; from grand sweep to forgotten detail.

Historians have debated the revolution for 100 years, its portents and possibilities: the mass of literature can be daunting. But here is a book for those new to the events, told not only in their historical import but in all their passion and drama and strangeness. Because as well as a political event of profound and ongoing consequence, Mieville reveals the Russian Revolution as a breathtaking story.

©2017 China Mieville (P)2017 Audible, Ltd

Critic reviews

"Even when he is orbiting somewhere in a galaxy too far away for normal human comprehension...Mieville is dazzling." ( The New York Times)

What members say

Average customer ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    86
  • 4 Stars
    63
  • 3 Stars
    26
  • 2 Stars
    7
  • 1 Stars
    3

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    91
  • 4 Stars
    55
  • 3 Stars
    18
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    1

Story

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    81
  • 4 Stars
    55
  • 3 Stars
    27
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    1
Sort by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

not a book for audio - good to read only,

I really like this auther & have heard all his other audio books but this one's not good for audio. U have to just concentrate, shut ur eyes & empty ur mind of all but the audio book. good story, well narrated, but best read it.

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

dry and boring

I got this book after reading the author saying it wasn't a dry academic treatment of the subject.
How wrong I was. The majority of the book us just reading out the minutes from meetings.
Very little wider context , motivation or character development. I'm sure it will suit someone who wants to know the specific breakdown of votes to every meeting.

27 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting

Although I was well aware of the major events of the revolution in Russia this book fills out the details

Narration was good.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A well written account of the Russian revolution

A fascinating account of the Russian revolution that China Miéville has written in a way that makes it feel like a book of fiction. The characters are interesting and the every day details that Miéville includes brings to life a period of history that could be as dry as dust!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent

An excellent analysis of the Russian revolution. The author tackles this huge historic event magnificently, you feel like a witness to the Russian people's desire to topple the tsar and greedy monarchical hold over the empire.

More info on what other key people were up to would have been greatly appreciated, for instance Stalin pops in and out throughout and we don't get a thorough understanding of what his role or importance was. Or we dont really understand the tsars personal reaction to the end of his reign.

Overall, a very worthwhile listen, great voicework by the speaker. A follow up book on bolshevik consolidation of power and civil war events would be great, the author certainly knows this bloody history well.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • stuart
  • LONDON, United Kingdom
  • 27-06-18

Informative but unsatisfying

A good account of the October revolution and the year leading up to it, full of interesting detail and engagingly presented. Readers unfamiliar with the specifics will learn a lot, but the book is ultimately unsatisfying. Every incident and character is slanted in favour of Lenin and revolution. Every action of Kerensky and the provisional government presented in the worst light. Mieville says he is careful to avoid hagiography and I am sure he has tried, but I find it difficult to believe an impartial reader will believe he has succeeded.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

October makes political meetings interesting.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Definitely, to both friends on the left and right. In its own right its a fascinating story, with endearing characters and a tempo that really builds up pace. But more, you get a real feel for the decisions and debates of the revolution. A must read for anyone interested in revolutionary struggle.

Who was your favorite character and why?

When it finished, I felt immensely sad not to be around the characters any more. They are personally and politically all very interesting. Lenin is obviously fascinating. I also liked Martov's continual interjections. But I think, as a character rather as a historical figure, Alexander Kerensky is my favourite.

What about John Banks’s performance did you like?

Great performance. His voice makes everything sound deeply profound and important. Its fun to imitate when doing menial tasks.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, I think its a little deep for one sitting.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

An interesting treatment of a crucial period

The Russian Revolution was a major event that has attracted a lot of analysis over the years. This book offers a detailed look at the politics rather than the personalities involved. The quotations from meeting minutes and speeches are fascinating, showing how, after the forced abdication of Nicholas II, the governance of Russia most closely resembled anarchy until the final triumph of Lenin’s Bolshevik faction in October 1917. That’s where the book ends, with a perfunctory summary of the aftermath.

The reader does a good job with the narrative. An interesting addition to the wealth of material written about a crucial and formative period in history,

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful novelistic aproach to 1917

John Banks does a solid if not spectacular job of voicing Mievilles thrilling retelling of the events of the two russian revolutions of 1917.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful book .

History , brought to life , by a great writer . Can't recommend it enough .

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

Sort by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Darwin8u
  • 12-08-17

The 20th Century's New Weird History

A nice narrative history of the Russian Revolution in 1917. This isn't an academic book. This, by design, is meant to be a nonintimidating book of history for the curious. As we look back on the last 100 years, the Communist Revolution still has much to teach us. Hell, Steve Bannon is a self-described Leninist. We might want to pay CLOSE attention to the trains of the past.

I'm still trying to sort out exactly what I thought of this book. On one level it was well-written and paced (Miéville is a gifted story teller, obviously). He even makes the bureaucratic, committee-heavy, infighting of 1917 seem exciting. But while his approach is similar to others who have approached history or biography from a novelistic approach, it doesn't quite hit the level of literature (not quite Mailer or Capote) I was hoping for. Next to Miéville's own books, it doesn't rise to the top.

China Miéville is well-versed in political philosophy. Dude has a PhD in it (technically in Marxism and International Law). His own leftist politics is felt from the first to the last pages. That is where the book gets a bit messy for me. This is Red October told by a New Weird SF/Fantasy writer who also happens to be strongly involved in International Socialist causes. This is a bit like having Orson Scott Card write about Mormonism or having Ayn Rand write about Adam Smith. Sometimes gifted people who are "true believers" aren't going to be the best/fairest critics of things they love. To be fair, Miéville spends a bit of the last few pages discussing how the 'revolution' went off the rails. But, he does't dwell too much on it. It is uncomfortable to dwell too long on purges, gulags, and Stalin.

He also doesn't have enough room here to properly examine most of the characters that appear. I would have loved to read more about Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, (plus the women), etc. Instead, this novel (constrained by an already large topic) passes over some crazy characters like eyes over an active chess board.

Anyway, I liked it (probably 3.5 tsars). Enjoyed it even. Like Red October, however, it was boring in parts and seemed constrianed by a leftist genius who at times seemed blind to the dangers of his own ideology.

40 of 44 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Laura Adams
  • 06-12-17

Read by someone who can't pronounce Russian words

How did the narrator detract from the book?

As someone who speaks Russian, I was unable to listen to the reader mispronounce the many, many Russian words in this book. The audiobook will likely be very difficult for anyone who knows how these words, names and places are supposed to be pronounced.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Paul Robison
  • 19-05-17

"Insurrection has strange triggers..."

...and so do the reasons for listening/reading this book. If you're looking for a book about what happens AFTER the revolution of October 1917, look elsewhere.

Great narration, but dense content for my mind. I listen while driving and at points had to either not pay as much attention to the book as I wanted to, or pull over to absorb the words and speeches more deeply; many times requiring the need to go back a chapter or two to find and re-listen to important paragraphs that, later on, take on contrary, ironic, and/or more powerful meanings.

China writes nonfiction in a similar voice to his fiction to great effect. The Bolshevik party plays the main-ish protagonist, as they (spoiler) eventually gain power. But, every party and player has a seat at the table, there is even some in-depth explanation and context of pre-soviet Jewish and Muslim law and order. (pretty much new information to me.)

The book, I feel, doesn't follow a traditional dramatic structure; alternating through build-up, conflict, resolution, conflict, build-up, conflict, resolution, conflict, build-up, and resolution. Needless to say, the events previous to and following 1917 are filled with conflict, much of it springing from little provocation.

If you're interested in Russian history, even world history, you're in good hands. I found myself making connections with present political, social, and military strife more times than I was comfortable with. Still, as any student of history knows, anyone who is capable of getting themselves into power (All power to the soviet!) should on no account be allowed to stay in power, and "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

So, listen and share your copy with your friends... you might surprise yourself how often you can relate to Lenin, Trotsky, and Kerensky. John Banks will at least have you calling out "All power to the soviet!" by the end.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • kwdayboise (Kim Day)
  • 15-05-17

Comprehensive chronicles of people and events

The study of revolutions could be a lifelong interest. Every revolution will have similarities to all other revolutions, and each will have unique differences caused by a multitude of other factors including culture, history, key individuals, assumptions of the age, and just plain luck.

Novelist China Miéville confesses a long interest in the Russian revolution and in what is a fairly short book manages to cover considerable territory. While the book has a few glimpses of earlier Russian history, including Peter the Great's creation of St. Petersburg and the emancipation of serfs in 1861, nearly the entire book focuses on a 10-month period ending in October 1917 when the Bolsheviks succeeded in taking over Russia during what John Reed called the 10 days that shook the world.

The Russian revolution was spurred by many of the same forces that had spurred other revolutions. There was tremendous poverty with a wide gap between the wealthiest and poorest in society. At the same time there was a solid layer of well-educated professional and commercial middle class, almost always the group which is in a position to perceive the economic and moral flaws of a country: Close enough to the poor to have a strong sympathy with the poor but also in a position to understand the difficulty of rising out of the middle class due to financial or cultural barriers. There was also an intransigent or simply blinkered head of state that could not or would not conceive the need for change.

Nicholas II and Aleksandra were, in their way, similar to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Both leaders were more interested in their hobbies and lavish lifestyles than they were with governing. Both had foreign-born wives. Aleksandra was suspected of being insane by some, particularly because of her closeness to Rasputin, and was suspect for her German heritage at the outbreak of WWI.

The war was a disaster for the country, with some estimates of as many as 3-million Russian soldiers dying on the battlefields and the military and groups of cadets played an extensive role in the revolution. While much of what happened in 1917 was kindled in the 1905 revolution (Bloody Sunday, the mutiny on the battleship Potemkin, the exile of Lenin, the creation of the constitution and Duma governing body) the human and financial cost of the war, as well as the arming of millions, may have been the major factors in the final overthrow of the Tsar.

Miéville manages to thread his way through the dozens of intrigues and hundreds of characters driving the revolution, including the political battles among the communists, liberals, conservatives, and bourgeoisie to attempt to lead the country while maintaining Nicholas II in power. Much of the final outcome had much to do with the power of personalities and the failure of liberals to create and lead a moderate coalition. And then there's just dumb luck, such as the many close escapes of Lenin who was wanted for arrest from the moment he made his way into the country through Finland, or the discovery of a boot helping to expose Rasputin's killers.

Miéville takes the events month by month and sometimes hour by hour to create as clear a narrative as possible. Because of his skills as a novelist I had hoped for more in-depth material on living through the events of 1917. Still he manages to briefly dramatize many of the events and helps open up much of the mystery of how some things happened the way they did.

In the epilogue of the book the author focuses on what could have been in a change of government that began with so much hope and freedom. He doesn't shirk from their eventual collapse or from the horror of life in the country after Lenin died. But he does remind the reader of the positive hopes that inspire revolutions with a wistful sense of what might have been.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Caveat Emptor
  • 19-07-17

Not great storytelling

I've read/listened to all of CM's major books, some a few times. I'm a fan. However, this is not a good audiobook. It is dense, and hard to follow and digest in this format. Maybe the print version has section breaks or graphics that indicate different sections, I don't know. But in audio, there is no sense of this; the chapters are long and, as read, often feel like unending paragraphs. As a fan, I'm reluctant to say that it might be a structural problem with the narrative. I appreciate the author's reluctance to dumb things down, and erudition is part of CM's appeal, but I think you need a prior course or primer on the Revolution. I thought this book was going to be that introduction.

On the upside, I did learn very relevant things about Russia and Russian "democracy" (or lack thereof) today, not just the Revolution, and the book got me wanting to learn more.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tony Udell
  • 26-05-17

Exceptional!

I highly recommend this to anyone looking to understand the eventful year of 1917 in revolutionary Russia.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • andrew ross
  • 22-10-17

Not for nubes

I thought I knew enough about socialist history and the early days of the revolution, but my God. I was totally in the dark the whole time with the endless names and political terms which the author goes to no trouble explaining. I've only heard good things about his fiction, so I'll definitely check that out, but yeesh, as a story this was one of the most difficult ones I've ever finished.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Grant Stover
  • 03-08-17

Toward a new October

In China Mieville's gifted hands he writes a story of October 1917 that places the reader within the story, and forces the reader to reconcile with the objective conditions of revolutionary Russia. Ultimately, the bankruptcy of Russian liberalism, the fragility of dual power, and the democratic vision and organization of the Bolsheviks led the masses towards the October Revolution. Mieville helps any revolutionary see how imperative it is to study the Bolsheviks, and how a revolutionary can learn from their successes and failures.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • r
  • 25-09-18

oddlly the prose of a fabulist science fiction

oddlly the prose of a fabulist science fiction makes this exceptionally strange history follow it's internal logical

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • andrea zanetti
  • 11-08-18

A love letter to a better world and a testament to the capacity that a popular history can be detailed, accurate and compelling

China Mieville is first and foremost a fantastic author and historian. His vast body of knowledge on and passion for the October revolution are clear in this book. I am a History major who has a particular interest in revolutionary Russia and this is the premiere text on the period between the revolutions in February and October as it pertains to politics in Petrograd.