Bellis Coldwine has to leave New Crobuzon, and quickly, too. That’s how she ends up on a ship on its way to the furthest off colonies that New Crobuzon has. The ship carries a ragtag mix of people – from scientist Johannes Tearfly to remade prisoners like Tanner Sack and even picks up a mysterious passenger on the way – Silas Fennec who orders the ship to turn back. But before they get very far, all of them are captured by pirates and have to restart their lives on the floating pirate city Armada.
I just wanted to start this review with the words that I liked this book even more than I liked the first one. But I don’t know if that’s true. I certainly liked Bellis more than Isaac, though I did like Isaac too. But both are absolutely brilliant books in very different ways.
I’m usually not very excited about pirate stories. Or spy stories. The Scar is both and I didn’t care for a single minute. It’s a tense book and as all of Miéville’s novels it is fiercely intelligent.
Even though the world of Bas-Lag is known already, Miéville manages to introduce many new ideas, both factoids and huge concepts in this one. He does take his time with that a little bit and since he starts off with a chapter written from the perspective of something with a rather alien intelligence (it’s explained later, I just don’t want to spoil it), it’s a little slow and overwhelming in the beginning.
But if you push through that you’re rewarded with a story that’s intriguing, a world that’s fascinating and mostly with characters that steal your heart and scare you to death before you even notice that you like them. As I said, particularly Bellis was a wonderful woman and I was as intrigued by Uther Doul as she was.
And I loved how the relationships between the characters were handled. There’s sex without romance and romance without sex and both are equally okay (or not okay but not because they’re only half of what people expect a relationship between man and woman to be like).
It’s a complex setting with complex characters and complex relationships and surrounded by, enriched with philosophical ideas that become tangible in this world.
Summarizing: should I praise it more or are you reading it already?