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The Scar (2002)

by China Miéville

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Bas-Lag (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,5431211,872 (4.11)236
A colossal fantasy of incredible diversity and spellbinding imagination. Damian Lynch narrates China Mieville's British Fantasy Award-winning novel of human cargo bound for servitude in exile. A pirate city hauled across the oceans... A hidden miracle about be revealed... These are the ingredients of an astonishing story. It is the story of a prisoner's journey. Of the search for the island of a forgotten people, for the most astonishing beast in the seas, and ultimately for a fabled place - a massive wound in reality, a source of unthinkable power and danger.… (more)
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    vwinsloe: New weird remade people. Plus pirates.
  2. 00
    City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (davisfamily)
    davisfamily: A mystery within a unique setting. Interesting mix of Religion and Politics.
  3. 12
    The Book on Fire by Keith Miller (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For the depiction of the city.
  4. 03
    Scar Lover by Harry Crews (bertilak)
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» See also 236 mentions

English (117)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (120)
Showing 1-5 of 117 (next | show all)
This was an enjoyable read. The world he created was interesting, and I liked the overarching story. I haven't read a science fiction (fine, "weird fiction") sea voyage/pirate story like this before.

Things I did not love:
- all of the characters except one
- random/inconsistent/seemingly arbitrary spelling and font choices
- general inconsistencies in the nature of the world and all of that

I didn't read the first book of this series (it wasn't in the library...), and it's possible the inconsistencies would be explained away there.

ALSO, SPOILER:
While I did think the ending was interesting (Bellis realizing she's been manipulated into all of her decisions, Uther doing all that manipulating, plans coming into place because "possibility"), I thought it could also have been much more powerful/meaningful. If, for example, I cared about Bellis at all. ( )
  ctanons | Jan 26, 2021 |
Whew,that took me awhile to read on my Kindle. I enjoyed the strangeness of the characters physiognomy, but their psychology didn't seem so different than regular humans. The plot is slow but his language is beautiful. ( )
  Angel.Tatum.Craddock | Dec 17, 2020 |
Pretty much what I expected, although I thought it was not as good as the first book, but then they are only very loosely connected and completely different story lines anyway.

Overall it was a fantastic fantasy novel as a fantasy novel should be. Fantastic fantasy. ( )
  gullevek | Dec 15, 2020 |
The Scar. is a weird fiction tale of a gang-pressed linguist helping a floating pirate city capture a god-whale for mysterious purposes and a mad quest.

The characters are a mixed bag. Tanner Sack, a slave with octopus tentacles surgically grafted to his chest as punishment for committing a crime, is affable, likeable, and active secondary character in the story. To counterpoint, the main character Bellis is a cold, sterile, inhuman creature, who fails to make even the most basic of human relationships and passively floats through the story more than the pirate city of Armada. While I can applaud China for making such an atypical character in Bellis, this doesn’t make her strong, or engaging, or interesting. The secondary characters are well-fleshed out, with unique perspectives, goals, and flaws. The antagonists---there are no real villains in the novel, which is a plus---are The Lovers, two people so involved with each other that they willingly gave up their individual identities, and Uther Doul, a mercenary bearing a relic called the Possible Sword.

The world-building is nothing short of phenomenal, and this is China’s real strength. Regardless of any other issues in this novel, it is worth the effort to read The Scar for the setting alone. Armada, the pirate city comprised of hundreds of ships Frankensteined together like a wooden man-o-war, is one of the most unique destinations I’ve read about. Depictions of the merfolk called the Grindylow and their homeland are suitably terrifying and the descriptions stick with you. I still have nightmares on what a ‘limb farm’ is. The vampires in the novel are literally mosquitofolk. No sparkles or rock bands here, they are twisted deformed creatures with elongated limbs, insectile wings, and a hideous proboscis, fueled by insatiable hunger. They are foreign and scary as vampires are supposed to be.

The plot is a shambles. You could easily split the lengthy tome of The Scar into two halves. The first half is slow, plodding, and melodramatic as we listen to Bellis complain and everyone just sit and wait in a ship. This section of the book requires more endurance than the typical triathlon. The second half of the book, while not break-neck fast, picks up steadily and introduces the layers of espionage, back-stabbing, manipulation, and betrayal. The book suddenly becomes engaging, almost as a reward for slugging through the first 300 pages like a real trooper.

China’s writing style is heavy. He switches between methods and viewpoints frequently, which pleasantly breaks up his prose nicely and provides some exposition without it seeming like exposition. You often get the sense that China is trying too hard, and he often gets ‘stuck’ on certain words. For example, ‘puissant’ appears at an alarming frequency for a few chapters. It feels like an insecurity, dealt with not by brutal editing but by using as many $10 SAT words as possible.


This ad was probably written by China Mieville.

Lastly, the ending. The ending of The Scar is a divisive issue, and for good reason. It is the biggest load of nonsense ever written. There is no ending. None. No climax, no confrontation, no action. While some arguments and battles occur in the book, they are all well before this point in the novel and what does occur feels flaccid. We reach the end goal, with mind-blowing consequences promised, none of which occur and nothing occurs to take its place. SPOILER: They reach the Scar, the culmination of their mad quest, where literally all things are possible. Then just decide to turn around and no home, having experienced or done nothing. The unlikeable character Bellis, the ending, and the word play between Magus Fin/McGuffin make it seem that this is by design, as a critique of the genre. Things happen outside of the control of the everyday person, not everything has an epic ending, etc. I can appreciate the message, but it doesn't make the story better to know its crummy for a reason.

Let me give you an analogy that sums up the experience of reading The Scar. Imagine you are a girl at a hot club. The Scar walks up to you, flirts a little. Initially you are put off by his weird mannerisms, but the conversations flows nicely and he is really cute. You buy a few more drinks, dance with him, and it becomes an almost magical evening. You’re swept off your feet and a little infatuated. He takes you back to his place. You are titillated beyond your wildest dreams, and begin to make out and grope with a wild abandon envied by bonobos. The Scar lowers you to the bed, caresses your face, and gets in bed next to you.

He then proceeds to come in his underwear before you even touch him and pass out into a deep and heavy sleep, leaving you pining and angry and confused, staring at the ceiling, wondering where it went wrong.

Are you the person who would storm out fuming and leave hate-filled messages on his voicemail? Don’t read The Scar. Are you the person who laughs it off and calls him for a date in a few days? Go read The Scar.

TL;DR: The journey is so good its worth it, despite the shitty destination.
( )
1 vote kaitlynn_g | Dec 13, 2020 |
Bellis Coldwine has fled New Crobuzon, using her skills as a translator to live on the frontier of the sea until things cool down enough for her to go back home. On the Swollen Ocean, her ship is seized by the pirate city of Armada, where she finds herself trapped as citizen in name and prisoner in reality.

This gorgeous fantasy novel overflows with lush language which paints a breathtaking world full of intrigue and intricacy. Fully autonomous as well as morally and emotionally complex, the protagonist is fully human and truly credible. The language is stunning, which made this book an even greater pleasure to share with my love as a book we read aloud to one another.

(NOTE: While considered the second book in the Bas-Lag series, it is not necessary to have read the first book to fully appreciate it as the novels are not dependent upon one another.) ( )
  Zoes_Human | Oct 9, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 117 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miéville, Chinaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lynch, DamianNarratorsecondary authorsome 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.
Quotations
I am the Brucolac, and your sword won't save you. You think you can face me?
Last words
Disambiguation notice
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Wikipedia in English (1)

A colossal fantasy of incredible diversity and spellbinding imagination. Damian Lynch narrates China Mieville's British Fantasy Award-winning novel of human cargo bound for servitude in exile. A pirate city hauled across the oceans... A hidden miracle about be revealed... These are the ingredients of an astonishing story. It is the story of a prisoner's journey. Of the search for the island of a forgotten people, for the most astonishing beast in the seas, and ultimately for a fabled place - a massive wound in reality, a source of unthinkable power and danger.

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Book description
Haiku summary
New Weird pirate yarn:
Floating collectivist state/
Sea-beast chariot!
(Longshanks)

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