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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Mieville I've read
My relationship with China Mieville's work is somewhat complicated. I detested Kraken with every fibre of my being, because it was an excellent idea poorly executed. Despite that, I still read the first of his Bas-Lag novels, Perdido Street Station, which I enjoyed much more, even though I still believed it had many of the same infuriating faults of Kraken and Mieville...
Published on 27 Dec. 2011 by Joanne Sheppard

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointed - if only it was as good as it as it could have been
This book has some fantastic (in every sense) writing. At its best, there is vivid prose and stunning imagination.

Sadly, this can't sustain an entire novel - especially not one this long - and, in other respects, Mieville's writing isn't anything like as good. His characterisation is sometimes rather weak. For a writer with a natural gift at describing a sense...
Published on 18 Mar. 2010 by wolf


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best, 10 July 2012
I've loved his other books and there is a lot to enjoy about this one too. Sure its a bit long but its full of good storylines so I've no complaints about that.

However the ending did disappoint massively, another review described it as fizzling out which seems a bit right.

However in addition to fizzling out it was a bit annoying that the contradictory and confusing behavior of some of the characters was not elaborated on. In particular one of the main characters, who seems to be discretely directing events, remains an enigma right to the end of the book. You never know for sure what he did, but you also never understand why he behaved in such and odd an contradictory manner.

That would be fine if you felt these characters were going to appear in future books, where the reasons for there enigmatic behavior was explored, but I doubt that is the case.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unbelievable simply more than fantasy, 8 July 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Scar (Paperback)
Let me start by saying I am not really a reader of fantasy novels. I have never been inspired by Tolkein or the whole elves, quest, ring, giants, dragons, dwarves, good verses evil plot. I accept that Tolkein did it better than most but I just don't get it. Mieville, on the other hand, is a revelation. This is fantasy as I understand it. A believable world populated by characters who behave with all the venality and fear and occasional heroism of people in real life. An anti-hero who manages to be sympathetic in his worst moments and a heroine who would never dream of asking for the reader's sympathy stand out in a beautifully paced voyage through a world that is crying out to be filmed. This is an imagination run riot, a world which leaps off the page, every character, no matter how minor, seems real and believable. More than that Mieville breaks with convention - in the same way that Dorothy Dunnett was far more than a writer of historical fiction so Mieville can not be simply described as a fantasy writer. His books are compassionate, witty, violent and bleak at times, filled with both sacrifice and redemption. Having enjoyed Perdito Street Station I fell in love with The Scar - at once a vision of a socialist utopia and a disection of why that utopia and dreams overall may not work. A wonderful book and one that deserves more than to be hidden away in the science fiction section and ignored by those who, like myself, might previously have foolishly mocked the genre. I can not recommend this book enough.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dark & Wonderful Story, 14 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: The Scar (Kindle Edition)
This is the second book in the Bas-Lag series. It's not like other fantasy series where the setting and characters are the same in all the books. Mieville always likes to do things differently. So in this series, all of the books are set in the same world, Bas-Lag, but the setting and characters are completely different. So personally, I don't think it matters too much which order you read them in. The events in The Scar happen after that in Perdido Street Station but you don't need to have read Perdido in order to understand the goings on in The Scar.

I loved Perdido so much. I think I rated it 4.5 stars and the only reason it didn't get the 5 was because it was very very descriptive and took an age to read. So I was expecting more of the same with this book but I was pleasantly surprised. This book could easily have been very wordy especially because we had new characters, a new setting and several new alien races introduced. Mieville really hit the right balance with descriptiveness in this one. Or maybe I'm just more used to his writing style now. Either way, I was gripped by the story straight away, I couldn't put it down and I read it much quicker than the first one (this one is much shorter though).

The story focuses on Bellis Coldwine, who has fled New Crobuzon on a ship destined for one of its colonies. Bellis has been recruited as an interpreter as she is able to speak various different languages. The ship she is on is full of a real mix of people, including a large number of Remade. While on route, their ship is commandeered by an agent of New Crobuzon and then quite quickly besieged by pirates. The ship and its crew are taken to Armada, a huge floating pirate city in the middle of the ocean. It's dark, seedy, unsettling and dangerous for the newly arrived. This city was described beautifully and I have a great imagining of what it looked like and what it must have been like to live there. It was great being there during the book but it's a place I'd definitely stay clear of in reality!

So on Armada, those who are still loyal to New Crobuzon are locked up while the others are given jobs and a wage to help grow the society. Everyone is equal. While they are free, they cannot leave Armada. Ever!

Then the craziness begins and I can't even begin to explain what went on. It's all good though. If you like pirates, mythical sea creatures, alien races, strange magical/technological machines, double crossing, and sea battles then you'll love this book. I did! And I have to say that I enjoyed it much more than the first book in the series. I can't wait for the third, Iron Council, which I have just bought.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb, Haunting Work of Dark Fantasy, 11 Sept. 2013
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China Mieville is perhaps better-known for The City and the City and Perdido Street Station, but if you read only one book of his, make it The Scar. It is, quite simply, a masterpiece of dark fantasy.

Set in the same steampunk world as Perdido Street Station, The Scar could only loosely be considered a sequel; sharing neither its setting nor any of its characters. Bellis Coldwine, the book's protagonist, begins the book fleeing the events of Perdido, unwillingly bound for New Crobuzon's colony of Nova Esperium. She is soon pressganged and brought aboard Armada, a floating pirate city comprised of hundreds of captured ships. Coldwine finds herself caught up in a web of intrigue surrounding the Armandans' plan to harness the power of the Scar, a mysterious fissure in reality.

The Scar can be a challenging book. It is lengthy, densely-written, and demands attention to the details of its richly-imagined world. Mieville has not set out to write a thriller in the vein of Perdido here. Whilst his riotous imagination is as active as ever, and there are spectacular setpieces aplenty as the plot gathers pace in The Scar's latter third, this is largely a calmer and more introspective book than its predecessor.

What makes The Scar a triumph is the strength of its characters and themes. From Silas Fennec, a manipulative agent of the New Crobuzon government, to the Lovers, the visionary, deranged leaders of Armada's most powerful faction, The Scar's principal players are a substantial and engaging cast. Their conspiracies, uneasy alliances and betrayals keep the plot moving at a fair clip, but also feel entirely authentic; the natural product of their competing interests. Our heroes here are unhappily bound together on an expedition for which few have great enthusiasm; motivated instead by self-interest or fear. In this darkest of fantasies, the alternative to despair is not heroism but hubris. The novel's genius is that it provides a gripping account of grand adventure, even as it critiques such Utopian folly.

Coldwine herself is no hero, but a self-interested and single-minded protagonist. Initially difficult to like, she is nevertheless beautifully-drawn and entirely believable. And as she feels pangs of homesickness and powerlessness in the face of the Armandans' machinations, it would take a cold-hearted reader not to end up rooting for her. The Scar's ending, too, has attracted a degree of opprobrium. Without wishing to give anything away, I will simply say that I thought it was a master stroke; a perfect conclusion to the book's exploration of the ways in which we are wounded and then made whole, however imperfectly.

In short, The Scar may not always be an easy read, but it is a hugely rewarding one. Powerful and melancholy, it takes Mieville's characteristic flare for spectacle and inventiveness, and harnesses them in the service of a rich human drama. A unique, brilliant work. Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Epic!, 6 Sept. 2010
This review is from: The Scar (Paperback)
The Scar follows the adventures of Bellis Coldwine, a linguist on the run who happens to pick the wrong ship on which to try to escape. The ship is a prison vessel and when it gets captured by pirates the mass of convicts in the hold are more than ready to swap a lifetime of penal servitude for freedom on the open sea while Bellis finds herself a prisoner of sorts, faced with the prospect of never being allowed to leave the pirate community.

But these pirates aren't aimless plunderers; they have a very definite objective...

This is a terrifically imaginative book. Miéville has created a world astounding in its depth, richness and quirkiness, from sentient aquatic life to the mosquito people where the males need to hide from the females and their immense probosces. But the greatest of all, and clearly the star of the book, is the pirate city of Armada, a square mile of vessels stolen over the centuries lashed together to make a giant raft.

We also get to meet a rich and well-defined group of characters; a long way from the two-dimensional caricatures common in fantasy literature, we get to know a number of the lead players, their characters and backgrounds, in great detail - sometimes too much detail for the squeamish! Few, if any, of these characters are particularly pleasant or sympathetic but you nonetheless get drawn into the narrative.

The book's not without its shortcomings though. The pacing felt a somewhat irregular with the main storyline taking around a hundred pages to actually get going (though this wasn't entirely wasted time as a couple of the characters are well developed at the start) and I found the end to be somewhat anticlimactic, though that's just personal preference. What did begin to grate by the end was Miéville's predilection for showing off verbally. There are some people with large vocabularies who are able to wear their learning lightly and just happen to use more obscure words. In Miéville's narrative they sometimes feel a bit contrived, deliberately placed there to show off.

Utimately, though, these are small niggles when compared to the scale of the work. For 800 pages you are immersed in this terrific world of imagination and it feels a little disappointing to have to emerge back into real life when you put the book down!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Sorry, no., 5 Mar. 2015
No, no, no! I appreciate the ending reflects quite well the title of the book but the ending loses this book a star.

Here we are on this journey, a fantastical adventure and then... Oh let's all just go home. It opens you up, eats at you: Mieville's world is a wonderful place to lose yourself in, the story a marvellous melange of incredible worlds and flights of stellar imagination. And then... Oh look how smart China is: everyone in the book is scarred and now the reader is too.

Bah! Humbug, say I!

For some, the journey is the greater part of storytelling. An ending can be very like a death. But, dammit, I want an ending. Godspit! This novel feels almost like one of those freemium games: Turn now and go home, or unlock the final chapter for only £xxx. You get the dull ending because you haven't coughed up for the extras. Boo!

I'm not going to say this is lazy writing or smart, or that Mieville got 700 pages into his story and thought "oh drek... have to wrap this up!" I'll just say, it's a great journey: floating city, mosquito-men, cacti, New Crobouzon at war, that Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean: freaks and fantasy galore. It builds excitingly, plot layered over plot, action and variety and interesting characters... All ruined by the ending.

Hey! Fellow John O'Groatee, let's drive to Land's End for an adventure. YAY! Where are we now? Plymouth. Oh, let's just go home then...
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3.0 out of 5 stars Has the imagination of "Perdido Street Station", but not the gripping plot, 10 Dec. 2011
By 
S. J. King "zh84" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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I loved Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon 1), and have left a review of it there. This book is set in the same "universe", but it is not about New Crobuzon, the rich and sinister city in the earlier story. We have the same mixture of magic and technology, the same multitude of intelligent races, and the same sinister and brilliant imagination - the mosquito-folk are my favourite invention. What we do not have is an overarching story. Instead there are several subplots which vaguely intersect but are not parts of each other. The story of the New Crobuzon agent Silas Fennec and his machinations is independent of the story of the floating city's journey to the Scar: each could be excised from the book without affecting the other. Even more worryingly, the book ends on an anti-climax. The suspense motive of the last third or so - will the city of Armada reach the Scar, and what will they find there? - simply drains away as they decide not to go after all. A vision from an alternate universe of what /might/ have happened if they went there doesn't really make up for it. I look forward to rereading "Perdido Street Station", but having read this book once I will be giving it away to charity. I hope that the third Bas-Lag story, Iron Council (New Crobuzon 3), is more like the first.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars maybe his best?, 21 Jun. 2012
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S Meadows (Tayside, Scotland) - See all my reviews
The Scar is a long book and contains the usual long descriptive passages which may annoy some readers but it is well worth the 'effort' of reading. Superb creations, great characters and a really good story in an intriguing setting. Some key events leave you wondering what exactly happened and I think Mieville is deliberately teasing us there - he never explains everything nor spells it out. The reader has to work a bit. I loved the book and was left wanting more despite it's great length.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A little bit of thaumaturgy....., 19 Jun. 2009
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This review is from: The Scar (Paperback)
O for half stars or a rating scale stretching from 1 to 7! I feel a little mean only allocating 4 stars for this engaging piece, however, 5 implies a perfection this book doesn't achieve. I found the first few chapters a little tiresome.... Then the sheer inventiveness of Mieville snared me good and proper. How he manages to eek so many ideas out of something so seemingly bland as a wide flat ocean ( compared to the rich seam you'd expect with a city like Perdido Street Station's (PSS) New Crobuzon ) is beyond me. The main set of characters are brought to life deftly.

My only real complaints are that 1. Mieville demands a little bit more of your attention than may be available when you're trying to sneak in a quick read before your eyes fail to sleep; 2. he sometimes treats auxialliary characters in a manner which suggests that I haven't been paying attention - all of a sudden someone not very interesting seems to abruptly take centre stage e.g. Jack Half-a-Prayer in PSS or Hedrigal in this novel.

Despite the negative comments above, overall a wonderful blend of sci-fi, fantasy and horror which I'd just give the edge over PSS. Go buy it, you won't regret it!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good read with plenty of plot twists and manipulation., 5 Dec. 2007
By 
plot hound (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Scar (Paperback)
The main character, Bellis, is an unpleasant person and not in the "heart of gold" sort of way, she is cold and arrogant and although she does become a little more likeable as the book progresses there is no real attempt to make her sympathetic.

This should hurt the book but doesn't, it instead makes her viewpoint of events quite objective and allows us to see things without too much baggage and, since we are always aware of her flaws, the other characters come across as much more likeable.

There are a few other main characters are given believable motivations and personalities and even the bit players are interesting.

The plot seems to be pointing in one direction and then changes and changes again leaving you with no idea of what will happen next or who is playing who and you simply ride it out until the end.

The ending is good with a few surprises thrown in at the last moment and nothing seems forced or unbelievable.

The plot and writing deserve 5 stars but for me the fact that you never empathise with the main character weakened the book.
Not quite as good as Perdido Station but still a good book.
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The Scar
The Scar by China Mieville (Paperback - 4 April 2003)
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