Home > Incoherent Text > Review: China Miéville’s – The Scar…

Review: China Miéville’s – The Scar…

So back on September 9th 2012 I received via twitter a recommendation by Myke Cole author of the Military/Fantasy series Shadow Ops (Fortress Frontier hits shelves on January 29th, go buy it) to read China Miéville’s novel The Scar. Having never read anything by Mr. Miéville I bought a copy. And as you can tell by the fact it is now January 14th, 2013 I’m a tad late with my review…apologies to Mr. Cole.


Now I’ll be honest, I had to go back and read the book a second time as the first time it did not fully grab my attention. But considering the issues that were occurring in my life at the time I think I can say with conviction that my mind was busy on other things. So to be fair to the author and the book in general I went back to it after things had settled down in the real world so I could immerse myself into Miéville’s world. ..Wonder if this would count as a clever transition …

So, as a late comer to the world of Bas-Lag I find myself in a Steam-punk world of ships, dirigibles and magic; populated by Human, Remade (people altered with mechanical and magical means usually criminals as punishment but not limited too) and non-human life forms.  Now each of the Bas-Lag novels is described as self-contained story not to be considered a series; but there is a small link to the first Bas-Lag novel Perdido Street Station via The Scar’s central character Bellis Coldwine. This link is the premise for her fleeing the authorities of New Crobuzon which has placed her onto the path of events that are about to unfold.

Stepping aboard the ship Terpsichoria as a translator bound for the new colonies of Nova Esperium; Bellis Coldwine hopes to evade capture and disappear till things settle down back home. Unfortunately for her and the other passengers their lives are about to take a drastic detour.  During the opening of the voyage we are introduced to 4 other characters that will be noteworthy for the rest of the story. Johannes Tearfly, a scientist who’s field of study is Botany. Tanner Sack a New Crobuzon criminal that has been remade as punishment for his crimes.  There is Shekel, a young cabin boy who is serving on the Terpsichoria. And upon visiting the Cray city of Salkrikaltor we are introduced to one Silas Fennec a New Crobuzon spy who takes over the ship on official business and immediately turns them back towards home.  On the return voyage they are attacked by pirates of a floating city that has been a rumor in the history books for hundreds of years: Armada.

I find Mr. Miéville is a very descriptive writer generating images in the reader’s mind of the world his characters live in. He can get a little overboard with his language every now and then but nothing too distracting (one word he used that kept bugging me was chymicals though). His description of the city of Armada, its leaders and inhabitants draws you further into the story and their possibilities.  Armada is lead buy a couple called The Lovers and keeping the inhabitants in-line is their bodyguard Uther Doul. Armada is on multiphase plan that only the leaders are fully aware. The Lovers and Doul drag the city along in a series of dangerous events in their quest for the possibility of ultimate power. Johannes Tearfly plays a vital part in one of The Lovers plots using his knowledge of sea life to their advantage, but once the task is completed he is cast aside and just keeps whining about it…

In the midst of all this intrigue we come back to Silas Fennec who brings not just one destructive force against Armada but two. Causing immense trauma to the city and people of Armada in the effort of getting back home and escaping a race called the Grindylow whom he has stolen vital information from. Silas has no qualms about using people to suit his needs and plays Bellis and through her actions Tanner for fools; scarring their trust in him and each other. Silas is also spreading rumors and inciting revolt on Armada in the end causing other characters to come to blows over the course of the story. Others in league with the Grindylow use their attack as the means of pushing Armada into a full-on civil war.

Now the books title The Scar is an actual destination in the novel; but in my humble opinion it actually refers more to the mental, physical and emotional scars of the characters. Be those scars self-inflicted or inflicted by others. The Lovers are at the forefront with their sadomasochistic/ritualistic mirrored scaring of their bodies during their lovemaking. There are the physical and emotional scars endured by Bellis during the events of the novel that she will carry for the rest of her life.  Even lesser characters like the remade woman Angevine the lover of Shekel shows how people can be marked by allowing others into their lives; this is shown by the mark left on her engine after Tanner Sack upgrades her boiler. Many are killed and many more are forever scarred by the events that transpire. Some of those marked grow stronger from their ordeals while others succumb. Bellis in some ways becomes less naive and stronger but in the process becomes the cold uncaring woman she pretends to be at the start of the novel. Others like Tanner, takes his punishment of being remade and embraces the change by fully transforming himself into an amphibian.  As Tanners chirurgeon (Miéville spelling not mine) states:

“You’ll be tender, Mr. Sack,” he had said. “And even when you’re well, I want to warn you: some of the cuts I’ve made, some of the wounds, they may heal hard. They might scar. In that case, I want you not to be downhearted or disappointed. Scars are not injuries, Tanner Sack. A scar is a healing. After injury, a scar is what makes you whole.”

In the end my thoughts are: you can embrace the scars and be whole, or you can reject them and be forever broken .

I found The Scar to be a novel full of intrigue and strife, battles and magic all set in a truly interesting world. Being that I have not read anything of Miéville’s before an appendix or a world map might have been a little helpful, maybe even a small breakdown of his magic system, but that’s just me. The novel consists of stories within stories and a learning curve and growth for all the characters involved. Do The Lovers reach the Scar? Who lives and who dies? The normal questions one asks of a book, but I won’t tell because that would be cheating, you want to know?

Go read it yourself…or another review as they might have given more away…

So enough for now…as some other sparkly has my attention…till next time…OH SO SHINY…

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