Andrew's Reviews > The Scar

The Scar by China Miéville
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's review
Sep 01, 2011

really liked it

China Miéville’s The Scar is another excellent addition to his already impressive body of work. It is a novel that is successful at so many layers of narrative that the measure of its true quality approaches with something like stealth and is really only fully revealed in its closing epistolary piece. On a pure story level, The Scar is an extremely satisfying blend of nautical adventure, gritty urban fantasy and monster mash. China’s ability to make the most outrageous creatures seem a natural part of his novels’ milieu is already legendary. But The Scar boasts an assortment of beasties that would make Ray Harryhausen drool on himself: vampir with forked tongues, beetle-headed Khepri, mosquito men, centaur-like lobster men, cactus men, frog-like Vodyanoi, sentient seaweed and much, much more. But China also laminates The Scar with layers of subtext using physical scars as incredibly sticky metaphors for several different things at once. Scars represent, at different times in the novel, the loss of separate identity between lovers, the reinforcement of lonely individuality, the physical and emotional toll of one’s past, the manipulation at the heart of politics and the price of both wielding power and capitulating to it. For China, the personal is most definitely political and the results of poor decisions in both spheres can be scars—both physical and psychic. China obviously loves his deeply flawed characters and the core of The Scar is the emotional and physical transformation of the main character, Bellis Coldwine, a woman who begins as barely likable and whose every action in the course of the book is some kind of tragic mistake—mostly for others—yet who becomes so human, so fully sympathetic, through the course of the book that she feels like family in the end.

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