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Claude Lalumiere's Fantastic Fiction
The Scar

by China Miéville

(Macmillan, £17.99, hardcover, 608 pages, 26 April 2002; ISBN: 0333781740.)

In The Scar, China Miéville returns to the bizarre cover scanworld 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
of Bas-Lag's ancient and frightening secrets.

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.

Originally published in The Montreal Gazette,
Saturday, 27 July 2002.

Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction is a series of
capsule reviews first published in the Saturday Books
section of The Montreal Gazette.

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