(My review on goodreads)
Despite the bewildering array of names, organizations, committees, conferences, assemblies, parties, and alliances, Miéville manages to convey a sense of the movement from February to October 1917 and the rapid shifts and mobilizations that led finally to the socialist revolution.
One of the principal points is that for most of that period it was workers, peasants, and soldiers who led the way, with the political parties and factions doing their best to either keep up or to slow the bottom up mass actions. It was almost amusing to see the way that Lenin, ensconced after July 4 in Finland, trying desperately to influence the action from afar, always a couple days late owing to delays in getting the news from St. Petersberg - his frantic urging of the boldsheviks to either press forward or to hold back, with his messages arriving out of sync with the events on the ground.
It was a year of chaos, with improvised land confiscations in the countryside, accompanied by beatings, looting, and murder; random murder in the cities; hunger everywhere; and always the war overshadowing all else. With the abdication of Nicholas at the end of February the provisional government was hastily set up, and from the beginning competed for power with the ever growing number of soviets. The Russian empire was, for most practical purposes, stateless for the final months before the October revolution. I can´t imagine what that must have been like.
Miéville brings all this to life, in condensed form, and concludes with a brief retrospective on the revolution and its aftermath. While acknowledging that things went badly wrong, and that not everything can be blamed on the invasions and civil war that followed the revolution, Miéville sees the revolution for what it was: the first time in history that the great mass of people had reason to hope for a future free of oppression and subjugation to the will of a ruling elite. That it turned out otherwise is no reason to think that such a transformation is impossible.