The Scar (China Miéville)

The Scar is the second novel in the Bas-Lag series by China Miéville. [Here’s my review of the first book.]

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?

2 thoughts on “The Scar (China Miéville)

  1. Sorry, I’m tired and I seem to be unable to find correct phrasing in English, so French it will be!

    J’ai mis des mois à lire le début de ce livre pour le finir en une nuit ! Je veux dire que je me suis couchée pour me relever une heure après parce que je n’arrivais pas à dormir, je voulais absolument savoir la suite !
    J’ai aimé la variété des personnages féminins. Même si je n’aime pas particulièrement Bellis, elle reste très intéressante et bien construite : elle fait tout ce qu’exige sa survie. J’ai aimé l’amante et son obsession totale, à tel point que l’amant m’a semblé fade.
    J’ai été fascinée par Uther Dol aussi. Quel panache ! Et son épée !! Il *faut* la traduire en jeu de rôle ! *o* Par contre, il est absolument détestable comme mec, avec son besoin d’être adulé et son côté manipulateur… Je l’ai trouvé très “hannibalesque” d’un certain côté.

    Tu as lu “Kraken” ? J’ai un peu de mal à m’y mettre. J’ai aimé la page 99 mais je n’arrive pas à l’atteindre pour l’instant… Là encore le début est loooooong… :)

    • Ah I just wrote a long comment and then suddenly it was gone and now I’m crying. (Though that might be more due to the fact that it’s approaching 1am and I just spent a good hour correcting statistics homework. What has my life become? Anyway, that’s also the reason I have to answer in English, even if I don’t have any problem with you commenting in French.)

      Onwards and upwards.
      I’m really impressed that you would get up again to restart reading. I barely can stay awake reading in bed at all (no matter how exciting the book). Every once in a while everything conspires and I’ll read the whole night through, but getting up again? Never happened to me. But if somebody could do it, it would be Miéville.

      I didn’t always like Bellis, but I always loved her, if that makes any sense. And I loved that Miéville gave her a close female friend who may not play a big role but who is her own character with her own goals.
      In French it’s so easy to tell the Lovers apart! :) Though I honestly loved that their symbiosis (if you wanna call it that) went so far that they shared one name and couldn’t be told apart from afar. And I loved, too, that l’amante (for clarity’s sake I’ll stick to the French in this comment) got to be the aggressive driving force in that relationship, especially given the beginnings of it.

      And Uther Doul and his possibility mining – it’s gonna haunt me for a long time yet. He’s definitely a manipulative, vain ass, but that didn’t help with making him any less attractive. Not for one minute. One worries about oneself sometimes. ;) Hannibalesque is certainly the right word.

      Yes, I read Kraken, though it’s been a while. Here’s my review:
      Miéville is never that easy to get into and you need to be in a certain headspace to appreciate his slow starts and complexities, but I thought with Kraken I thought it really pays off. It’s among my favorites of his.

      Ah, Miéville fangirling. The perfect thing to do before bed…

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