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London's Overthrow

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London’s Overthrow is a potent polemic describing the capital in a time of austerity at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Award-winning author and essayist China Miéville cuts through the hyperbole of our politicians to present a view from ordinary London – of the inequality, oppression and indignity and the hidden, subversive sentiment pervading throughout our streets.

96 pages, ebook

First published January 1, 2012

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About the author

China Miéville

146 books13.9k followers
A British "fantastic fiction" writer. He is fond of describing his work as "weird fiction" (after early 20th century pulp and horror writers such as H. P. Lovecraft), and belongs to a loose group of writers sometimes called New Weird who consciously attempt to move fantasy away from commercial, genre clichés of Tolkien epigons. He is also active in left-wing politics as a member of the Socialist Workers Party. He has stood for the House of Commons for the Socialist Alliance, and published a book on Marxism and international law.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.

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5 stars
65 (21%)
4 stars
121 (39%)
3 stars
96 (31%)
2 stars
16 (5%)
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7 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 41 reviews
Profile Image for Nataliya.
781 reviews12.4k followers
April 27, 2023
China Miéville does not really look like your "average academic type", does he? When I look at him, I don't necessarily think "PhD thesis in Marxism and international law".

Stereotype vs. China Miéville - looks can be deceiving indeed.

And yet CM is an academic, and when he writes a passionate, angry, taking-no-middle-ground political photo-essay about the impact of recent economic and political decisions and trends on London and on the country as a whole, I am not only willing to pay attention but also feel tempted to take copious notes, like a good student should.

"London, buffeted by economic catastrophe, vastly reconfigured by a sporting jamboree of militarised corporate banality, jostling with social unrest, still reeling from riots. Apocalypse is less a cliché than a truism. This place is pre-something."
This guy is no stranger to politics and its implementation and consequences, and I am more than willing to take his opinions seriously. And now I know that I have tremendous respect for him not only as a talented writer but also as a person, and I admire the strength of his political convictions and his willingness to not just take the often easy compromising middle ground on troubling issues (having said that, I do believe that quite often middle ground is the only reasonable way to go, but I don't have to agree 100% to appreciate his views).
"The pay gap between the highest and lowest paid in the UK has grown faster than in any other developed country, spiking since 2005. In 2008, average income of the top 10 percent was 12 times that of the lowest. Their riches grow. We others are told to tighten belts.

We’re approaching Victorian levels of inequality, and London’s more unequal than anywhere else in the country. Here, the richest 10 percent hold two thirds of all wealth, the poorest half, one 20th[...] Almost a quarter of young Londoners are out of work. A wrenching 40 percent of London children live in poverty.
Now, I don't know that much about current British politics or economics. But the climate is not that different in the US - the country, where, interestingly, 'socialist' is a slur employed by our own right-wing political party. And so I feel that I can understand and relate to the issues that Miéville so angrily yet eloquently brings up.
"People, though, refuse to forget that the filthy riches of the filthy rich are not unrelated to the filthy poverty of others."
Miéville tackles the uncomfortable here. He attacks the huge and still growing economic divide between the rich and the poor, aptly noticing that "Still, in London, defenders of privilege aren’t quite so prone to open swagger as their US counterparts".
"The Olympics are slated to cost taxpayers £9.3bn. In this time of ‘austerity’, youth clubs and libraries are expendable fripperies; this expenditure, though, is not negotiable."
He questions the rationale behind severe cuts to the welfare and education systems while at the same time dropping huge amounts of money on the upcoming Olympics. Seeing the similar things happen across the board in my own country, I do share the indignation.
"Everyone knows there’s a catastrophe, that few can afford to live in their own city. It was not always so."
He addresses "feral" youth rioting, questioning the motives behind viewing the young people as danger and the actions of police dealing with them. Miéville thinks police actions cross the line more often that not.

He takes on racism as well - the ultimate uncomfortable subject that most politicians would rather pretend doesn't exist.
"Racism, of course, endures, adapts. According to the exigencies of ideology, casts around for one, then another first-choice hate [...]The government’s official counterterror strategy includes asking lecturers to report depressed Muslim students."
I loved this passionate and highly intelligent (would you expect anything different from CM?) essay about the wrongs of the society. I'm reading his politically charged fiction book Iron Council now, and reading this essay made me appreciate the events he portrays in his story even more, seeing what he thinks of the real-life events. I highly recommend this essay - but be warned if your political views are closer to the right-wing - you will not like it.

Miéville's photo-essay is here, free on his website.

Recommended by: Candiss
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,970 reviews1,984 followers
April 19, 2013
Rating: 5 outraged stars of five

This call to arms has been revised and can now be found at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.

Content Warning: If the idea of a civilization being strangled by sado-monetarism causes you to froth at the mouth, you need to read this book.
Profile Image for Markus.
475 reviews1,561 followers
December 9, 2018
Outside, north London gets on with its dark. There’s an apocalypse more wintery than Martin’s conflagration. At the end of all things, Fenris-wolf will eat the sun. Its expression will be of nothing but greed, and it will look out at nothing.

An extraordinarily powerful little essay, especially for a resident of the grey and dreary city of London (already so grey and dreary even without the outrageous scenes described by Miéville).

There are many things I would not see eye to eye with this author about, many disagreements. In this little text, however, about all facets of London's social injustice, he is entirely right.

I'd heavily encourage Londoners and non-Londoners to give this (quite short) eye-opener a read.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,169 reviews1,140 followers
December 9, 2018
Love the format of this photo essay. I started paying attention to urban issues especially the rights of its citizens only last year, so I enjoyed the way Mieville outlined the problems when the citizens are no longer the owner of the city, when their freedom of expression is banned/curbed, when public properties are abandoned for the sake of the rich and powerful, and finally, when state-sponsored violence spread yet undisturbed and a police state begins. I think I would love it more if I knew more about the environment and/or having been there myself. However, this remains an insightful, thought-provoking essay. 3.5 stars rounded up.

Available for free at http://www.londonsoverthrow.org/
657 reviews60 followers
June 13, 2020
Una crónica del final del capitalismo en forma de largo paseo por el Londres de los disturbios previos a los Juegos Olímpicos de Londres. Uno de los grandes escritores del género fantástico de la actualidad realiza un análisis crítico impresionista pero no menos certero que llega a ser visionario y apocalíptico. Rascacielos, obras públicas interminables, zonas gentrificadas pero también descampados, casas okupas y tiendas saqueadas componen este texto que después de la pandemia y el Bréxit adquiere tintes premonitorios,
Profile Image for Evan Leach.
462 reviews142 followers
February 5, 2017
I have been a fan of Miéville's fiction for some time now, but this was my first taste of his nonfiction writing. Miéville is active in left-wing politics - he stood for the House of Commons in 2001 - and his socialist leanings can be detected in many of his works (especially the Bas-Lag novels). This photo-essay from late 2011 describes some of the problems afflicting London on the heels of the Great Recession, particularly the changes in the city's physical landscape (including a growing dearth of affordable housing) and conflicts between different cultures within the city.

An interesting and insightful essay by a talented writer. I knew little about London's problems going into this piece, but still found it engrossing. 4.0 stars, recommended!

Available free here for the curious: http://www.londonsoverthrow.org/index...
Profile Image for J.P..
305 reviews49 followers
May 20, 2012
This is the first time I've read non-fiction from China Miéville. He does an amazing job of portraying the side of London that doesn't get into print often. As he writes:
We’re approaching Victorian levels of inequality, and London’s more unequal than anywhere else in the country. Here, the richest 10 percent hold two thirds of all wealth, the poorest half, one 20th. A fifth of working residents in the London boroughs of Brent, Newham, Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham earn less than a living wage. Unemployment in the city is above 400,000, and rising. Almost a quarter of young Londoners are out of work. A wrenching 40 percent of London children live in poverty. Talk about a chasm between economic classes.
I found this much more readable than George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier which was authored on the same topic in 1936. George Orwell is by no means a hack writer, but I found his diatribe on economic problems and advocacy of socialism to be more like a dry lecture delivered by a college professor by comparison.
There are lots of striking passages here, like:
The lion looks out from its apocalypse at the scrag-end of 2011. London, buffeted by economic catastrophe, vastly reconfigured by a sporting jamboree of militarised corporate banality, jostling with social unrest, still reeling from riots. Apocalypse is less a cliché than a truism. This place is pre-something.
I'm behind the author 100% when he blames part of the economic problems on big businesses. While some people struggle to put food on the table, the CEO of a company can afford to spend $5,000 on a shower curtain as they rake in profits by getting astronomical sums for finished products compared to the cost of manufacturing them.
Thanks to whoever found this online. It's very well written and thought provoking. Check it out.
Profile Image for Mika Lietzen.
Author 34 books36 followers
February 2, 2013
London's Overthrow is a wonderfully eloquent rant by China Miéville, touching on subjects such as the 2011 London riots, youth, banks, olympics, multiculturalism, food, housing, city planning and birds. The account freewheels through the city's streets, interspersed with shaky nocturnal photographs. It's a decidedly leftist tirade, but never tiresome; Miéville's way with words keeps it going, even if the ideas conveyed by the words don't break any new ground, not sure if they even scratch the surface. It remains a superficial treatise, a slightly blurred snapshot of London in our time.

But it does set the reader thinking, it pushes buttons and elicits reactions, something better essays often do. And there's humour, humour's always good. Certainly it offsets some of the dystopia Miéville seems to revel in. He might be saying he doesn't like what's going on, but he damn sure loves to depict it. And that he does very well, very well indeed.
Profile Image for Frank Jacobs.
200 reviews3 followers
April 14, 2014
Described with lyrical anger, this London is a city you won't recognise from the tourist brochures – but arguably much more real than the heritage core drawing all the visitors; the night city illuminated by mystery, as in Mieville's own fiction (and by the author's own, suitably blurry snapshots in this little book), the humdrum city maintenanced by its poor, huddled masses, as it has been since before Dickens, and as such a useful antidote to another fiction, much more dangerous because it masquerades as this era's accepted wisdom: that London will be reduced to a mere playground for the criminally rich, and that everything else is of no value, slated for demolition.
Profile Image for Dan Coxon.
Author 37 books51 followers
June 4, 2013
Nicely written, with Mieville's characteristic eye for a beautifully turned phrase. My only issue would be with the subject matter. Despite first-person interviews and other exclusive material he offers little new insight on London and its post-millennial woes. The unrepentant bleakness becomes wearying after a while too. Still, as an extended (nihilistic) prose poem to one of the world's great cities, London's Overthrow feels like a natural successor to William Blake. Dark, grimy, but unexpectedly beautiful. Much like London itself.
Profile Image for Charlotte.
152 reviews4 followers
November 26, 2012
A perfect bus-read for whizzing around London. Interesting format with poetic, often humorous chunks of text interspersed with pictures of London taken from a blurry phone. A succinct and necessary portrait of the political times that straightforwardly talks about the "balieuisation" of London and the other effects of the current coalition government. It was a bit tragic to be reading it just as the student protest on Wednesday got so severely drizzled on...
Profile Image for Tom O'Brien.
Author 3 books17 followers
January 12, 2016
A personal and perceptive essay on London. Written in 2012 and still relevant today, Mieville walks us through the city, glancing caustically at the moneyed spires while opening the doors to the world of poverty, squats, survival and despair on the streets themselves. There are magical and mystical touches of his fiction in the writing style but the overall voice is clear, concerned, humorous and often indignantly angry.
Profile Image for Malcolm.
1,767 reviews432 followers
December 29, 2017
Miéville’s excellent essay on post-GFC, Con-Dem coalition London is a wonderful unpacking of inequality, injustice and resistance. Written in late 2011, this takes in Occupy, anti-fees and anti-austerity protests, homelessness and immigration, riots, the Olympics and not-quite-psychogeographical takes the current state of the city. Miéville has a fine eye for juxtapositions of injustice and for the voices on the receiving end of the decisions that bring about and sustain that injustice – here woven into the everyday artefacts and spaces of city living: laundromats, Tube stations and the residue of once present or unfinished structures of urbanity.

Not only does he expose the neoliberal meddling and destruction that is London, both he and many of those to whom he gives voice give sustenance to those seeking and building a better London. Not exactly and call to action, but an excoriation of one of the world’s world cities. Highly recommended.
337 reviews3 followers
January 2, 2017
Very short (about an hour's read) politically charged essay about the 2011 riots and the aftermath, covering the criminalisation and demonisation of London's youth, especially minorites. There's nothing that hasn't been said before, but it bears saying again - mostly, the unanswered questions of what led up to and caused the riots (and no, Theresa May, it wasn't pure criminality, unless you're talking about the police killing Mark Duggan).

There's also some very interesting commentary too about the then upcoming 2012 Olympics, the huge non-negotiable spending of the tax-payers money on a spectacle, in a time when those who can least afford to be austerity are being ordered to be so be those who can afford not to be austere.
Profile Image for Simon.
761 reviews23 followers
August 27, 2015
Outraged and intelligent analysis of some of the things going wrong in London (and, by extension, the UK) at the moment. Specifically austerity, but also racism and other related issues. A bit of a rant, it jumps from topic to topic with a fact here, a statistic there, snippets of interviews and lots of poetic-apocalyptic grumblings. I'd probably have preferred a longer, more detailed analysis which was less concerned with dark, weird imagery. Talking of which, the photos the author has taken on his phone are mostly incomprehensible blurs and seem to be there mainly to pad out the pages.
Profile Image for Laura.
117 reviews9 followers
December 20, 2015
Inspiring. Some parts of this read like poetry. I even got shivers when he writes about apocalypse tourism or the 2011 riots. I would love to hear this read aloud and dammit I want to speak to these people. Refreshing to hear of the women who work in the sex work "sector" [quotes for direct quote, not because I don't believe it] and young people who's tinny phone music is just "their own soundtrack". Yes, read this.
Profile Image for Jeroen.
219 reviews38 followers
July 18, 2016
A heartfelt but ultimately rather insipid analysis of the London riots. Reads like the average Verso blog post, and will tell anyone whose nutritional diet extends beyond force-fed mass media junk food very little that they didn't yet know. I liked the part on the London Olympics, though, and the suggestion that they should have kept it recessionally minimal, with just some grime rappers as the opening ceremony. Now that would have been something.
Profile Image for Stella.
299 reviews
February 10, 2013
London 2011/2012: photos and prose leave a holistic and direct version of the effects the ConDems and Olympics have supported. Describing ordinary London; the inequality, opression and changing landscapes whilst demonstrating the hidden subversive sentiments that pervade our streets. Marvellous and thought provoking.
Profile Image for Colin.
54 reviews5 followers
March 3, 2013
Such a cool author, this is his first non-fiction that I've read and it's an interesting quick read. It brings a lot of the recent government shambles and general grimy life of London into perspective through the eyes of someone who lives there. It's also slightly poetic and includes occasional pictures dispersed throughout.
Profile Image for Laine.
1 review4 followers
February 14, 2015
Excellent book about the state of London from everyone's second-favourite sci-fi socialist. A few years old so it's a little dated but still relevant to the current political climate. Lost one star because it's so short, I would have really appreciated a longer version with more in-depth interviews.
Profile Image for Tiziana Terranova.
Author 7 books23 followers
November 2, 2015
A book which makes justice to the major upheaval that London is going through in its 'sadomonetarist' phase without losing sight of the difference and heterogeneity that makes it the only true multicultural metropolis in Europe. Highly recommended for londoners, ex-londoners, london-lovers and all others
Profile Image for Colin.
1,414 reviews33 followers
August 23, 2016
This is a brief, yet weirdly long-winded moan about all the usual suspects (the Millennium Dome, the Olympics, the middle class) and saying all the usual things (they're rubbish). Even when he's right, he's tedious about it and uses twice as many words as he needs to. He just seems to want to sprinkle shit on everything. Shit and adjectives.
Profile Image for Moira McPartlin.
Author 11 books39 followers
June 4, 2013
A bit of a rant but it did give lots of information about the wealth gap in London. I felt many of the references to youth culture could have been slotted into any decade since the first world war - meaning nothing changes except the width of the wealth gap.
Profile Image for Brendan Coster.
268 reviews11 followers
June 17, 2014
As much as the examples and instances are entirely London, the socio-economic problems Mieville tackles in "London's Overthrow" are nearly the same as you'd find in many parts of the world -- backdoor in NYC for example. That's it, just read it.
Profile Image for Leo.
179 reviews4 followers
October 28, 2012
Interesting little rant. Evoked a London familiar to me that is under represented.
Profile Image for Sean.
154 reviews8 followers
September 2, 2015
This brief book remains highly pertinent a few years on, with definite echoes in Australia given our current government. Like a 21st century flaneur China writes an angry love letter to his city.
Profile Image for Andy.
666 reviews19 followers
April 29, 2016
Poetically rendered political ramble through the banalized spaces of neoliberal London and a poignant take on salvage and/or ruin aesthetics.
202 reviews5 followers
April 23, 2016
Well yes, although let's admit that stylish though the writing is some of the sentiments are formulaic.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 41 reviews

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