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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Scar
Format: Kindle Edition|Change

on 25 May 2017
Second book in the New Crobuzon "series". It works quite well as a standalone novel, there are a few references to Perdido Street Station but nothing essential. While I would always recommend to start with Perdido Street Station (a great book as well in my opinion), The Scar is probably my favorite Mieville's book. I simply can not fathom the depths of this man's imagination. The weird, the wonderful, the outright incredible and amazing...it's all there. This was one of those books I simply did not want to end and I can not give greater praise than that.
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on 11 September 2013
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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on 2 June 2017
China Miéville is a master at creating fantastically bizarre and complex worlds which are at the same time gritty and real. The plot was generally excellent too - though I have to say (slight spoiler?) that the ending was not as satisfying as I'd hoped, seemed rather anti climatic after all the lead up, but maybe that's just me.
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on 10 December 2011
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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on 14 August 2014
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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VINE VOICEon 18 January 2016
This is the first China Mieville novel I have read. It will not be the last. If the literary world did not have its fatuous aversion to genre novels, this would be winning literary as well as science fiction awards. The scope is breathtaking, the language sublime and the ideas are woven so deeply in the text rite that they give themselves up slowly and are a delight. I loved this book read it!
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on 19 June 2009
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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on 21 March 2013
One of my main feelings having finished this book is a little bit of sadness that there's only a limited number of China Mieville books left that I haven't read yet.

This is another book powered by his frighteningly inventive imagination.

I think the only thing I'd disagree with the book is that it did inject some classic fantasy ideas into his universe - slightly disappointed that vampires came along. I haven't noticed any other books where he didn't invent something completely new.
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on 3 September 2016
I finished this book. It's pace is slow, and I had no sympathy for the main character. Amazingly, the whole story builds up to the culmination of a plan and journey that have been decades in the making, taking us to a new and exciting place... Which we don't actually get to visit because the whole thing gets called off at the last minute.it still kept me going though, because the world it describes is grotesque and fascinating. The author obviously likes scary fish, and I'm with him on that.
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VINE VOICEon 9 August 2012
I'm not going to examine the plot, others have done it and you can always read it.

Good concept and nice and unpredictable.

However the ending wasn't there - it just fizzled out and after all those pages was a huge disappointment.

I've read other books by China and this is a new occurrence - needs a decent ending.
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