Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Scar

The Scar by China Miéville
Random House, copyright 2002
Trade Paperback, 656 pages
ISBN-13: 9780345444387
New Crobuzon Series, #2

A mythmaker of the highest order, China Miéville has emblazoned the fantasy novel with fresh language, startling images, and stunning originality. Set in the same sprawling world of Miéville’s Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning novel, Perdido Street Station, this latest epic introduces a whole new cast of intriguing characters and dazzling creations.
Aboard a vast seafaring vessel, a band of prisoners and slaves, their bodies remade into grotesque biological oddities, is being transported to a fledgling colony of New Crobuzon. But the journey is not theirs alone. They are joined by a handful of travelers, each with a reason for fleeing the city. Among them is Bellis Coldwine, a renowned linguist whose services as an interpreter grant her passage—and escape from horrific punishment. For she is linked to Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, the brilliant renegade scientist who has unwittingly unleashed a nightmare upon New Crobuzon.
For Bellis, the plan is clear: live among the new frontiersmen of the colony until it is safe to return home. But when the ship is besieged by pirates on the Swollen Ocean, the senior officers are summarily executed. The surviving passengers are brought to Armada, a city constructed from the hulls of pirated ships, a floating, landless mass ruled by the bizarre duality called the Lovers. On Armada, everyone is given work, and even Remades live as equals to humans, Cactae, and Cray. Yet no one may ever leave.
Lonely and embittered in her captivity, Bellis knows that to show dissent is a death sentence. Instead, she must furtively seek information about Armada’s agenda. The answer lies in the dark, amorphous shapes that float undetected miles below the waters—terrifying entities with a singular, chilling mission....

My Thoughts:

The Scar by China Miéville is set in the alternate world of Bas-Lag and is the second book in the New Crobuzon Series following Perdido Street Station.  In The Scar linguist Bellis Coldwine is fleeing the city of New Crobuzon by signing up to serve on a ship heading for the colony of Nova Esperium. On her journey pirates capture the ship and everyone onboard is taken to the Armada, a floating city composed of captured ships that is ruled by the Lovers, a twisted sadomasochistic couple. 

The Lovers have a mysterious plan they want to set into motion while at the same time others have secret agendas, plans, and schemes of their own. Exactly who can be trusted and is anyone telling the truth?  As The Scar progresses, numerous revelations and surprises unfold. The plot is riveting. I could hardly wait to read what would happen next, especially since I knew the outcomes would generally not be predictable. 

As expected, Miéville's writing is incredibly creative. His use of words and descriptions is astonishing. The setting, while in Bas-Lag, expands on the world and the mythology originally set forth in Perdido Street Station. It is inclusive and inventive, even while Miéville has tighter control of this story. The Scar follows a more linear pace than Perdido Street Station, which is great because of all the surprises and plot twists in The Scar. With the creation of a totally new world inhabited with unique characters, and unpredictable plot-lines China Miéville has proved without a doubt that's he is one great writer.

Admittedly, Bellis is not a sympathetic character, but she's not supposed to be emotionally accessible. She is living a solitary life and keeps tight control of her emotions. As a newly captured member of the Armada, she knows very little about the city and it's inhabitants. Miéville wisely keeps her true to her character and the personality he created  all the way through the novel. Bellis is literally swept along by events that are totally out of her control and beyond her immediate understanding. And I like this very much because it seemed so true to life. All the other supporting characters are equally well developed and interesting. 

As for the Scar, the Scar itself is not only a real place, but it also manifests itself in numerous other ways, as a mark left after cutting, as damage done, emotionally or physically. Even when wounds heal, they always leave some mark. Nothing can be as it once was - there is always a change. Scars are the price of change.
Very Highly Recommended


There is heroism and brute warfare on the ocean floor, unnoticed by land-dwellers. There are gods and catastrophes. pg. 2

Much later, when she was miles from everything she knew, Bellis would wake, astonished that it was not the city itself, her home for more than forty years, that she dreamed of. It was that little stretch of river, that weatherbeaten corridor of country that had surrounded her for less than half a day. pg. 8

The economy of Tarmuth is more than prostitution and piracy. The town is full of industrial yards and sidings. It lives as it has for centuries, on the building of ships. The shoreline is punctuated with scores of shipyards, building slipways like weird forests of vertical girders. In some loom ghostly half-completed vessels. The work is ceaseless, loud, and filthy.

The streets are crisscrossed with little private railways that take timber or fuel or whatever from one side of Tarmuth to the other. Each different company has built its own line to link its various concerns, and each is jealously guarded. The town is an idiotic tangle of railways, all replicating each other’s journeys. pg. 10

"You can learn from this, Miss Coldwine," he added. "At sea you can't waste time. Remember that: don't wait." pg. 15

The invaders were mostly men and cactus-people, a few tough looking women, and Remade. They were dressed in ostentatious and outlandish gear: long colorful coats and pantaloons, high boots, and studded belts. What distinguished them from the pirates of pantomime or cheap prints was the grime and age of their clothes, the fixed determination in their faces and the organized efficiency of their attacks. pg. 60

The man in grey, the pirates leader, turned slowly to face his captives. It was the first time Bellis had seen his face.
He was in his late thirties, she guessed, with cropped graying hair. Strong featured. His deep-set eyes were melancholy, his mouth set taut and sad. pg. 64

"You must come with me," the man said, just loud enough for everyone to hear. "To a new city." pg. 66


Jeanne said...

I enjoy hearing you talk about each new Mieville book. So much enthusiasm!

Lori L said...

Every Mieville novel I read makes me appreciate his writing more. I think I have 2 more to read so expect more enthusiasm!