The Scar

April 13th, 2005 Comments Off on The Scar

Last week, I finished reading The Scar, another stunning book by China Miéville, the second in his series taking placing on the world of Bas-Lag, specifically connected to the city or people belonging to the City State of New Crobuzon.

Like the first book — Perdido Street Station — this second book is hard to describe. Once more, Miéville takes the reader in an impressive voyage around a magnificently built world, inhabited by characters that vary from the fascinating to the repellent, but all of them interesting.

Although related to Perdido Street Station by way of a character and the mention of some events, the book tells a substantially different story and takes place entirely outside of New Crobuzon.

The book begins with Bellis Coldwine, a New Crobuzon linguist, fleeing the city because she’s being sought after by the militia that believes she’s somehow involved or at least knows something about the events described in the first book — it later turns out she a former love of Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, the brilliant scientist whose insatiable curiosity brought about the chaos depicted in Perdido Street Station. She then gets on a ship heading to a remote colony hoping to survive enough time there until she can return to the city.

She never gets there, however, as the ship in which she’s traveling is captured by pirates; the ship’s superior officers executed; and the rest of the passengers, prisoners, and crew taken as captives to Armada, a huge, floating pirate city built with the hulls of captured ships, and divided in sections ruled by different powers, the most prominent of those being the mysterious Lovers. In the city, all captives are set free, given work, and integrated to the city, made equal regardless of their previous lives. But they will never leave, and to show disloyalty is death. Bellis, however, won’t accept the thought of never returning to her home again, and will embark on a long attempt to flee the city that will expose her to deep secrets and risks beyond imagining.

Once again, Miéville tackles on profound themes, some previously explored, new ones being aptly exposed in the characters used and the situations created. Also, much as New Crobuzon, Armada is a character by itself, with its own mesmerizing and complex. Miéville dominates the genre’s stylistic traditions, immersing the reader in a literary experience few times achieved in recent fantasy. The only problem with the book is the slight exaggeration in the language used by some characters, where Miéville voice overrides the characters’ voices, although that doesn’t managed to cripple the passages in which it happens.

After those two books, Miéville has gained a permanent place among my favorite fiction writers, rivaling Stephen R. Donaldson and Neal Stephenson in sheer literally vigor. As soon as I finish the books I accumulated in the past few weeks, I’ll buy his next book, Iron Council, which returns to New Crobuzon decades later. Judging from the first two, Iron Council will be another excellent book.

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