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The Scar by China Mieville
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The Scar (original 2002; edition 2004)

by China Mieville

Series: Bas-Lag (2)

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3,609851,459 (4.12)163
Member:firstfloor1
Title:The Scar
Authors:China Mieville
Info:Del Rey (2004), Mass Market Paperback, 608 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, science fiction paperback

Work details

The Scar by China Miéville (2002)

  1. 10
    City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (davisfamily)
    davisfamily: A mystery within a unique setting. Interesting mix of Religion and Politics.
  2. 12
    The Book on Fire by Keith Miller (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For the depiction of the city.
  3. 03
    Scar Lover by Harry Crews (bertilak)
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Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
Bellis is a cold woman running away from New Crobuzon, begrudgingly let on a colonizing ship to act as a translator between races. But when plans go awry and her ship is boarded by pirates, she is brought to a strange city called Armada. It's a city never seen before, made of a nimbus of ships bound together until even a city's districts and factions are reflected in this place. But not everything is as it seems, and enemies and allies alike don't speak of hidden agendas. For Bellis, she only longs to get back home. But as she makes plots and plans, the question that soon rises to the surface, like foam on the ocean, is whether she is the player or played.

Unfortunately I could only get my hands on this book before reading Perdido Street station, but hopefully that doesn't cause any discrepancy in this review.

I liked this book quite a book, but certain things held me back from saying its a great book. First off, the world. Wow, can Mieville write a different world. With the rich description and imagination to paint the Armada, it's really quite beautiful. Not to mention, the multitude of races, the mosquito people and the cactus people. It's interesting to see how commonplace elements are incorporated into a sentient race. The only drawback that I would say from the world building is the amount of time put into it.

I love a beautifully descriptive world as much as the next sci-fi fan, but Mieville really bogs down the book with endless description. Almost every single sentence is loaded with adjectives and descriptive phrases. It's dense. It's a really dense book that is hard to skim or understand the jest of a paragraph. It takes time to savor each paragraph. And when things drag, it gets a little boring. The first hundred pages or so had so much descriptive detail that I really wanted to keep flipping as fast as I could - but you can't do that when the important facts are hidden behind adjectives galore. It's still a beautiful world though, just a denser book than I generally prefer.

It's actually really interesting how Mieville treats the characters. It's almost as if he doesn't care if you like them or not. The main character Bellis is so unemotional and analytical it's sometimes hard to sympathize. In fact, it's hard to sympathize or love any character. But I guess I did love Bellis in the end, because as hard as she tries to be unemotional (besides going home), she does end up caring for people. In her stoic ways, at least. She is definitely an anti-hero. The interaction between the characters are genuine, but short. Dialogue is minimal. I guess that's understandable because Bellis hardly speaks. But that also means the story drags on a little longer. I was a little annoyed at how quickly important secondary characters switched in and out of the story, as if the story only had room for two characters at a time. (ex: Johannes, Silas, Doul, etc.) It's made the story feel discombobulated at times, unfocused even.

The story grew upon itself. That was a good thing at first because you realize that there are layers of deception upon more lies - and that's fascinating because I wanted to know the truth, I wanted to figure it out. But towards the end, it just started getting frustrating. It was like beating a dead horse. No, you can't trust anyone. Yes, you are being used. No, this is not the end goal. Yes, there is a hidden agenda. They were all beautifully written, more or less engaging, and very different. But at some point, it just feels like it's dragging on. And I was disappointed at the reveal of the Scar. Not impressive enough, bah.

I actually loved the ending when I read it. And then I thought about it a little and then was just sad. I loved it because of how realistic it is. Not everyone can be a player, a mover and a shaker. Not everyone knows all the pieces of the puzzle. And though Bellis was like a marionette, she was still able to say yes I did that with myself and reason behind it all. Even though all of her relations and friendships fell apart, she still received her desire at the end, but not through her own strength or cunning. It was just so realistic; I love it when a book can end without falling into cliches. And then I thought about it and ah, it is a bit of a bittersweet ending, perhaps even a tragedy. Perhaps.

This is not a book that leaves you with warm and fuzzy feeling about humanity, or with triumphant huzzahs. It's not a whirlwind of laughter and joy to sadness and worry. It's not that kind of book. As for emotions, it's as emotional as the main character: hardly. You'll turn the pages with anticipation and maybe a bit of fear and worry, but this is not a happy book. It's real, it's dark and gritty, it's a world that forces you to see things without those rose-colored lenses.

Three stars because it was a good read with strange, new world. Unfortunately the story got bogged down by excess detail and perhaps one too many plot twists. I was tempted to give it 3.5 stars because of the ending, but there are just too many problems for it to really hit that 3.5.
Recommended for people who like a lot of world building and are not afraid of dense books. It's quite interesting.

I'll also probably make an edit after I read the first book. ( )
  NineLarks | Sep 15, 2014 |
Bellis is a cold woman running away from New Crobuzon, begrudgingly let on a colonizing ship to act as a translator between races. But when plans go awry and her ship is boarded by pirates, she is brought to a strange city called Armada. It's a city never seen before, made of a nimbus of ships bound together until even a city's districts and factions are reflected in this place. But not everything is as it seems, and enemies and allies alike don't speak of hidden agendas. For Bellis, she only longs to get back home. But as she makes plots and plans, the question that soon rises to the surface, like foam on the ocean, is whether she is the player or played.

Unfortunately I could only get my hands on this book before reading Perdido Street station, but hopefully that doesn't cause any discrepancy in this review.

I liked this book quite a book, but certain things held me back from saying its a great book. First off, the world. Wow, can Mieville write a different world. With the rich description and imagination to paint the Armada, it's really quite beautiful. Not to mention, the multitude of races, the mosquito people and the cactus people. It's interesting to see how commonplace elements are incorporated into a sentient race. The only drawback that I would say from the world building is the amount of time put into it.

I love a beautifully descriptive world as much as the next sci-fi fan, but Mieville really bogs down the book with endless description. Almost every single sentence is loaded with adjectives and descriptive phrases. It's dense. It's a really dense book that is hard to skim or understand the jest of a paragraph. It takes time to savor each paragraph. And when things drag, it gets a little boring. The first hundred pages or so had so much descriptive detail that I really wanted to keep flipping as fast as I could - but you can't do that when the important facts are hidden behind adjectives galore. It's still a beautiful world though, just a denser book than I generally prefer.

It's actually really interesting how Mieville treats the characters. It's almost as if he doesn't care if you like them or not. The main character Bellis is so unemotional and analytical it's sometimes hard to sympathize. In fact, it's hard to sympathize or love any character. But I guess I did love Bellis in the end, because as hard as she tries to be unemotional (besides going home), she does end up caring for people. In her stoic ways, at least. She is definitely an anti-hero. The interaction between the characters are genuine, but short. Dialogue is minimal. I guess that's understandable because Bellis hardly speaks. But that also means the story drags on a little longer. I was a little annoyed at how quickly important secondary characters switched in and out of the story, as if the story only had room for two characters at a time. (ex: Johannes, Silas, Doul, etc.) It's made the story feel discombobulated at times, unfocused even.

The story grew upon itself. That was a good thing at first because you realize that there are layers of deception upon more lies - and that's fascinating because I wanted to know the truth, I wanted to figure it out. But towards the end, it just started getting frustrating. It was like beating a dead horse. No, you can't trust anyone. Yes, you are being used. No, this is not the end goal. Yes, there is a hidden agenda. They were all beautifully written, more or less engaging, and very different. But at some point, it just feels like it's dragging on. And I was disappointed at the reveal of the Scar. Not impressive enough, bah.

I actually loved the ending when I read it. And then I thought about it a little and then was just sad. I loved it because of how realistic it is. Not everyone can be a player, a mover and a shaker. Not everyone knows all the pieces of the puzzle. And though Bellis was like a marionette, she was still able to say yes I did that with myself and reason behind it all. Even though all of her relations and friendships fell apart, she still received her desire at the end, but not through her own strength or cunning. It was just so realistic; I love it when a book can end without falling into cliches. And then I thought about it and ah, it is a bit of a bittersweet ending, perhaps even a tragedy. Perhaps.

This is not a book that leaves you with warm and fuzzy feeling about humanity, or with triumphant huzzahs. It's not a whirlwind of laughter and joy to sadness and worry. It's not that kind of book. As for emotions, it's as emotional as the main character: hardly. You'll turn the pages with anticipation and maybe a bit of fear and worry, but this is not a happy book. It's real, it's dark and gritty, it's a world that forces you to see things without those rose-colored lenses.

Three stars because it was a good read with strange, new world. Unfortunately the story got bogged down by excess detail and perhaps one too many plot twists. I was tempted to give it 3.5 stars because of the ending, but there are just too many problems for it to really hit that 3.5.
Recommended for people who like a lot of world building and are not afraid of dense books. It's quite interesting.

I'll also probably make an edit after I read the first book. ( )
  NineLarks | Sep 15, 2014 |
The world-building in Perdido Street Station (the first book of this series) blew me away. I was even more impressed by the world-building in The Scar - Mieville builds on the world he has already created, and adds whole new cultures and dimensions to it. In many books where the world-building is outstanding, the plotline or the characters don't shine, but that's not the case here. The story is suspenseful and interesting, and the characters are very real and believable. It is truly a challenge to create characters that an earthly reader can identify with in such an other-worldly world, but Mieville succeeds with flying colors.

Here's where I would normally write a plot summary, but that's pretty complicated.... Bellis is fleeing her home city of New Crobuzon because she is tangentially involved in some of the events from Perdido Street Station and needs to go into hiding temporarily. She sets out on a ship, which is seized by pirates, who take the ship and its passengers to Armada, a massive floating city, where they are bound to stay for life. Bellis wants to go home to New Crobuzon, But that simple plot summary doesn't even begin to do justice to the intricacies of the plot or the world in which it takes place.

You could read this book without having read Perdido Street Station - the two build on each other, but the storylines are only tangentially related. I think The Scar might be better than Perdido Street Station, although it's a close call... The Scar feels more coherent, and isn't nearly as nightmare-inducing.

This is one of those books that I found myself reading for hours at a time (I was glad it was so long!), and thinking about obsessively when I wasn't reading it. Truly a fantastic achievement. ( )
  Gwendydd | Jul 20, 2014 |
The Scar is the second novel in the Bas-Lag series by China Miéville.

Plot:
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.

Read more on my blog: http://kalafudra.com/2014/05/11/the-scar-china-mieville/ ( )
  kalafudra | Jul 18, 2014 |
China Mieville has a bit of an ego as an author. He writes extravagant plots, uses a 1 dollar word when there is a perfectly good 5 cent word available. But, luckily for China Mieville - he is a damn good author. Other authors could not get away with a book like this ... the extravagant plot is all needed ( I did a mental edit... and couldn't really come up with a part that wasn't necessary). The characters are cold but are humanely flawed. This world is strange- but doesn't need explaining.

This book is dark. Very very dark. There is not a spot of humour or light in it all, just various shades of gray, some parts a lighter gray than others. It is not happy book. But it is intriguing and interesting, and as a reader, I wanted to know more. Because of the darkness of this book - I found myself having to push myself to finish it - reading it in bits and pieces.

As for the book itself, the writing is poetic. Mieville has a way with words that I haven't found in a modern author. The characters are well written and are interesting. The plot is fantastic, but always grounded. This is a scary world.

The only true flaw... and I'm not sure its a flaw... is the ending. It takes an unexpected turn and leaves a reader with a "That's All?" sort of feeling.

So, read it, but know its an odd, difficult read. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Oct 8, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miéville, Chinaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mège, NathalieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, EdwardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Villa, ElisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wood, AshleyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Yet the memory would not set into the setting sun, that green and frozen glance to the wide blue sea where broken hearts are wrecked out of their wounds. A blind sky bleached white the intellect of human bone, skinning the emotions from the fracture to reveal the grief underneath. And the mirror reveals me, a naked and vulnerable fact. --Dambudzo Marechera, Black Sunlight
Dedication
To Claudia, my mother.
First words
A mile below the lowest cloud, rock breaches water and the sea begins.
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I am the Brucolac, and your sword won't save you. You think you can face me?
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Haiku summary
New Weird pirate yarn:
Floating collectivist state/
Sea-beast chariot!
(Longshanks)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345460014, Mass Market Paperback)

In the third book in an astounding, genre-breaking run, China Miéville expands the horizon beyond the boundaries of New Crobuzon, setting sail on the high seas of his ever-growing world of Bas Lag.

The Scar begins with Miéville's frantic heroine, Bellis Coldwine, fleeing her beloved New Crobuzon in the peripheral wake of events relayed in Perdidio Street Station. But her voyage to the colony of Nova Esperium is cut short when she is shanghaied and stranded on Armada, a legendary floating pirate city. Bellis becomes the reader's unbelieving eyes as she reluctantly learns to live on the gargantuan flotilla of stolen ships populated by a rabble of pirates, mercenaries, and press-ganged refugees. Meanwhile, Armada and Bellis's future is skippered by the "Lovers," an enigmatic couple whose mirror-image scarring belies the twisted depth of their passion. To give up any more of Miéville’s masterful plot here would only ruin the voyage through dangerous straits, political uprisings, watery nightmares, mutinous revenge, monstrous power plays, and grand aspirations.

Miéville's skill in articulating brilliantly macabre and involving descriptions is paralleled only by his ability to set up world-moving plot twists that continually blow away the reader's expectations. Man-made mutations, amphibious aliens, transdimensional beings, human mosquitoes, and even vampires are merely neighbors, coworkers, friends, and enemies coexisting in the dizzying tapestry of diversity that is Armada. The Scar proves Miéville has the muscle and talent to become a defining force as he effortlessly transcends the usual clichés of the genre. --Jeremy Pugh

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:49 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A group of prisoners and slaves, their bodies remade into grotesque biological oddities, find themselves on the Armada, a floating city whose bizarre leaders harbor a sinister agenda.

(summary from another edition)

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