Friday, 25 February 2011

The Iron Heel - Jack London

Published: 1907
Price: Kindle Version can be got for Free, Print Version is £6.76 : Here

Well, this is an example of what free E-books can do. I would never have read this book normally but when I saw it on Amazon for free I thought I may as well give it a whirl. I actually read it on my lunch breaks at work by using Kindle for Iphone, the one thing I have learned here is that the Iphone really is rubbish for reading books!! However, if you don't have a kindle but would like to read books like this then go get one of the free "Kindle For" products as they do work!

The Iron Heel is believed to be one earliest forms of modern dystopia and it does paint a bleak future for the “normal” people of the twentieth century. However, unlike other dystopian novels such as “1984” this one paints rampant capitalism as the great evil that corrupts society.

The novel is based upon a Manuscript which is hidden away during an attempted revolution, before being found centuries later. The Manuscript is introduced and interspersed with footnotes of a scholar who is reviewing the manuscript centuries in the future.  This scholar is present during the great “brotherhood” which shows that in the end a successful revolution against the horrors detailed will occur and create a better society.

The manuscript is written through the eyes of a woman (Avis) detailing the lives of herself and her husband (Ernest). It follows her conversion to his socialist views as he shows her the realities of the poverty and horrors of the working classes. It then follows the fall of democracy as the great capitalists use their influence and power to usurp election results, leading on to the new capitalist oligarchy weakening a revolution before it can begin by splitting the labour movement in two with bribery. It then detailed the failure of the revolution that does occur, before ending mid-sentence as Avis and Ernest prepare to fight a 2nd revolution which the scholar from the future has already informed us will also fail.

Overall, I have to admit I enjoyed the book hugely. The political speeches and discussions made by Ernest are brilliantly written and explained. I also liked the way that even in 1907 Jack London foresaw a war centred on Germany’s attempt at empire around the same time that WW1 really did begin. The one let down I did have is that you don’t actually find out how the oligarchy fell in the end. I would have enjoyed reading the actual success of overthrowing the dictatorship and creating their glorious future.

Since reading the book I have looked back on the true state of society back then and I admit that I can imagine it happening had the US Government not decided themselves to break up the great capitalistic trusts which are the main vehicles for the oligarchy in this novel.

I have also found myself being more mellowed to the overall case of socialism and I can see why the labour movement was so important back in the earlier parts of the twentieth century. I am now telling me wife that we should lead a revolution against the evil bankrupt financial market driven society and create a glorious socialistic republic. I think we should call it the United Socialist Scottish Republic or the USSR for short!

In all seriousness, if you like dystopian or political novels then I can’t recommend this book enough. However it can be very dry due to it's subject matter, so you have been warned! It is amazing how a book from more than 100 years ago can still make sense politically now as it did back then.