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…
I am not normally someone that would do a book review on my blog for many reasons, here are a few:
- Because I am not a professional book reviewer
- Because I am not that eloquent of a writer
- Because I am just your average Joe book reader that no one knows
- and too many others to list here…
But I feel the need to write something about Myke Coles’ Debut novel Shadow Ops: Control Point.
I came across Myke Cole on twitter through following author Peter V. Brett writer of The Demon Cycle Series (an amazing series in it-self so go buy it). So Mr.Cole can blame him for having me as a follower now. As of late I have been trying to go digital on my books purchases in an effort to stop having boxes upon boxes of books piling up in my home. But I have been having some issues with my tablet and the e-reader programs so have begun buying paperbacks again. If you follow my blog you are aware that I have recently been laid off work so my book buying has taken a back seat in an effort to save some cash. Stuck at home being an unemployed bum has given me far too much time to sit online. But this allowed me to be online when Peter V. Brett tweeted a link for a contest on his website; the prize was a copy of Shadow Ops: Control Point along with a signed book plate and challenge coin. Lucky me I was the first to answer the question correctly.
The prize pack arrived on Feb 14th containing the book, personalized signed book plate and a very nice challenge coin. I was surprised at the size and weight of the coin; I’m wondering if they will make a few of the SOC units as stand-alone challenge coins in the future for purchase. (Hint, hint)
In the first hour of reading I found myself 150 pages into the novel as I was pulled into the story and cast of characters but eventually had to put the book down and go to sleep. The evening of the 15th I was able to finish the novel with a desire to read more right away. I hope the publisher is looking to have this as a long running series versus a finite trilogy. I believe there is unlimited longevity for the series based upon the characters and the world created.
So if I haven’t bored you to death yet and you haven’t searched for something else to view on the web let’s get to the story…
The series centers on Lieutenant Oscar Britton living in a world that has suddenly awakened to find that Magic has returned. Every major world and/or military power has created their own Special Forces teams that use these new found magical powers. For Britton he is attached to the US military’s Supernatural Operations Corps – or SOC.
Those that have magical powers are considered Latent. If you do not report your powers to the government and make ill use of them you are a Selfer (only caring about your-self and endangering others) which will have you tracked down by the SOC and arrested or eliminated. As with anything the governments of the world have decided what “Good” magic is and what is “Bad”. Those whose latency is found on the negative side of the magical coin are classified as “Probes” short for Prohibited.
Magical classifications are as follow:
Legal Schools: Prohibited Schools:
Pyromancy – Fire Magic Negramancy – Black Magic/Witching
Hydromancy – Water Magic Necromancy – Death Magic
Terramancy – Earth Magic Portamancy – Gate Magic
Aeromancy – Air Magic Sentient Elemental Conjuration
Physiomancy – Body Magic
Terramantic Animal Control (Whispering)
Offensive Physiomancy (Rending)
This new world’s morality is brought into question right from the beginning of the book with an operation to take down two “selfers” on a rampage at a local high school. Internal and external conflicts arise regarding the use of force and the actions of team leaders. Britton struggles with the results and questions the chain of command.
Britton later manifests a prohibited latency; not in control of his new powers he has a number of incidents that make him a target of the SOC and is classified as a selfer. Captured, he enters into a world conspiracy theorists can only dream about. Secret bases, secret SOC teams, and confronted by the abuse of power that surrounds him Britton must make numerous ethical choices. Britton is forced daily to deal with the consequentialism theory: Do the means justify the end? Driven by his morals to do what is right for those around him and to escape his future role as a classified weapon, Britton goes rouge.
His efforts to escape lead him to make some monumental decisions that have both good and tragic ramifications for himself and those around him. Death & destruction are common place. The old idiom: Absolute power corrupts absolutely is prevalent in this new world of magic. The characters Fitzy and Harlequin are prime examples of the corruption that can occur.
Myke Cole leads the reader through his newly created world and those who inhabit it via highly detailed and action packed storytelling that draws the reader in wondering what will happen next. Coles’ own military background allows for seamless integration of procedures and terminology that only adds to the flow of the story. Character interactions could almost be classified as bi-polar as philosophies change over the course of their internment at the training center and subsequent battle engagements they take part in. I could elaborate on the “secrets” mentioned before but I leave that to the reader to discover. Let’s just say there are numerous exciting twists both in plot and world creation that will come out of left field for the reader. This book encompasses multiple writing genres smoothly integrated into a cohesive novel which should appeal to many different readers.
I await the next book in the series to see what becomes of Oscar Britton and those that were pulled along with him. Does he have the internal fortitude to live with his choices?
What are you waiting for?…go buy the book already!
So enough for now…as some other sparkly has my attention…till next time…OH SO SHINY…