Evan Leach's Reviews > The Scar

The Scar by China Miéville
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Jun 26, 12

bookshelves: fantasy, hugo-nominees, 2000-2009, english-literature, novels, top-10-2000s
Read from May 27 to June 23, 2012

”There is no redemption in the sea.”
- The Scar.

The Scar is the second of China Miéville’s Bas-Lag novels. It isn’t exactly a sequel to Perdido Street Station, although the book begins right where Perdido left off. The aftermath of Perdido’s events, and the totalitarian government’s brutal search for answers, force Bellis Coldwine to flee New Crobuzon for her own safety. She sets sail for one of the city’s colonies, but her ship is attacked by pirates en route. Bellis and the other survivors find themselves press-ganged into a floating city named Armada: a pirate nation constructed on the bones of thousands and thousands of reconfigured ships.

img: Armada

As Bellis struggles to adjust to her new life and home, it becomes clear that the leaders of Armada, including the superbly creepy duo known as The Lovers, are pursuing some mysterious and disturbing goals. I’m not going to go any further into the plot, as part of the book’s appeal is the sense of mystery and wonder as it unfurls. But the final result is a superb adventure story with some truly memorable scenes and a fantastic ending.

If you haven’t read Perdido Street Station, you can start with The Scar and be just fine. I’d recommend you read Perdido first, simply because it’s a great book, but The Scar will make perfect sense with or without knowledge of China’s first Bas-Lag novel. As good as Perdido is, I actually thought The Scar was better. Perdido Street Station was kind of a spectacle book for me, the literary equivalent of a movie like The Matrix. While the writing and characterization were very good, even great at times, what made the book special was the sheer force of imagination on display. I don’t remember the last time before Perdido that I’d read a book with so many jaw-dropping, “holy-crap” moments. It was a total thrill ride, but there were times I was worried that China was leading us off the rails. He never did, and Perdido Street Station got an enthusiastic 5 stars from me, but I didn’t think it was perfect.

The Scar, on the other hand, was pretty darn close to perfect. Now that he’s left the claustrophobic confines of New Crobuzon behind him, Miéville lets his imagination run wild across the whole of Bas-Lag and the results do not disappoint. The sheer originality Miéville displays is simply incredible. I can’t think of another contemporary fantasy writer who can touch Miéville in this regard. Some of the scenes he creates are astonishing and unlike anything I have ever read. The book is filled with memorable characters, from The Lovers to Uther Doul to Bellis herself. But unlike his earlier books, the writing in The Scar blew me away. I have always been a fan of Miéville’s style, but this was the first book where I felt he was using it to full effect. Unlike Perdido Street Station, I never thought the narrative wandered off course, and the story just builds and builds to a fantastic conclusion. The end of part seven (the last section of the book before a brief coda) was pretty much perfection in my opinion and really impressed me, both in how powerful it was and how effectively Miéville set it up. Before reading this book, I thought China Miéville was a very good writer (with a world-class imagination). Now I’m starting to think he’s a great one.

Most people seem to like Perdido Street Station best among Miéville’s Bas-Lag books. That book was pretty amazing, so it’s hard to quibble with that assessment. But I thought The Scar raised the bar even higher. This was the best fantasy novel I’ve read in years: at least since The Dark Tower…and maybe since A Storm of Swords way back in 2001. 5 stars, highly recommended.
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06/09/2012 page 181
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Oh really...

Evan Leach Ryan wrote: "Oh really..."

Yeah these Bas-Lag books are pretty awesome. Now time for Hyperion!

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