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.


  1. You need to read "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand.

    As for this, it's on my Kindle to read so I'll need to get around to it. I do like Dystopian novels so...

  2. I will have a look at Atlas Shrugged then. The local library does seem to have everything as long as I pay 50p to get it delivered there from the more central libraries.

  3. Hmm sounds interesting but then again I can be a bit biased when it comes to the subject matter :P

    Good luck in the revolution ;)

  4. This sounds like a great book to read. I will have to look for it for my kindle. Thanks for posting this review!

    I love the idea that this book was written 100 years ago and that some of the issue mentioned are still relevant today.

  5. Hi! Spotted you over at bookblogs. I didn't know about this Jack London title-- I thought he only wrote nature/animal type novels. I like dystopians and most speculative fiction so I'll keep an eye out for it.

    I see you like sci-fi-- the Dreams & Speculation blog is hosting a women authors of sci-fi bookclub that you might enjoy. Here is the url if you want to check it out:


  6. Pawel,

    I actually was thinking about you as I read the book :-p


    In the end because we still have a capitalist society on the whole there are aspects of the flaws in society that can still be seen. The only issue I suspect people have now is that we know that Socialism has fundamental flaws. Therefore we know that a lot of the statements in the book about the glory they could have don't hold true.


    I have to admit, I was surprised that this was a Jack London book myself based on what I knew he usually wrote.

    Anyway, I had a look at the bookclub and it looks rather interesting so I may sign myself up there and start from the March book if I can get hold of a copy easily.

  7. The bookclub is fun so far. I read the Jan book and am halfway through the Feb book. The March book may prove elusive in my neck of the woods.

    I really like that book reviews aren't required-- I'm not much a book reviewer-- too many other bookish topics to post about. Also, it is ok to read books you missed then go discuss on the host's discussion posts for those books.