(Macmillan, £17.99, hardcover, 608 pages, 26 April 2002; ISBN: 0333781740.)
In The Scar, China Miéville returns to the bizarreworld of Bas-Lag, introduced in his multiple award-wining novel Perdido Street Station, where humans share dominance of the planet with the vampiric Brucolac, the plant-like Cactacae, the water-breathing Cray, and many others. At the heart of Bas-Lag is the city of New Crobuzon, where criminals are punished by being "Remade," that is, by undergoing grotesque body modifications at the hands of "chirurgeons."
In the aftermath of the horrific events of the previous book, Bellis
Coldwine flees New Crobuzon, intending to relocate temporarily to a
far colony. The boat on which she travels is hijacked by highly organized
pirates. She is transported to Armada, a utopia she never wanted, where
the political machinations of the megalomaniac Lovers will uncover some
For Tanner Sack, one of the Remade being held prisoner in the bowels of the ship on the way to a life of slavery in the colonies, the pirates are liberators. In Armada, he finds a sense of purpose and a dignity he never thought possible. Working at cross-purposes, he and Bellis must unite to save from destruction everything they each care for.
The Scar is a baroque and picaresque odyssey, peopled by strange species and ambiguous characters. Miéville's use of language is distinguished by a compellingly dissonant marriage of punkish brashness and ornate neologisms borrowing from other languages and Old English.
Less plot- and character-driven than its predecessor, The Scar is nevertheless dense with ideas and inventions, unfolding at a pace that leaves readers in breathless awe, gasping with wonder.
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© Claude Lalumière 27 July 2002, 12 April 2003