Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

The Scar USA cover The Scar (2002)
2003 British Fantasy Award winner
2003 Hugo Award nominee

Del Rey USA trade paperback
cover art by Ashley Wood
638 pages (left)

Pan Macmillan UK hardback
604 pages (right)
The Scar UK cover

From the inside cover of the USA trade paperback:
       Aboard a vast seafaring vessel, a band of prisoners and slaves, their bodies remade into grotesque biological oddities, is being transported to a fledgling colony of New Crobuzon.  But the journey is not theirs alone.  They are joined by a handful of travelers, each with a reason for fleeing the city.  Among them is Bellis Coldwine, a talented linguist whose services as an interpreter grant her passage -- and escape from horrific punishment.  For she is linked to Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, the brilliant renegade scientist who has unwittingly unleashed a nightmare upon New Crobuzon.
      For Bellis, the plan is clear: live among the new frontiersmen of the colony until it is safe to return home.  But when the ship is besieged by pirates on the Swollen Ocean, the senior officers are summarily executed.  The surviving passengers are brought to Armada, a city constructed from the hulls of pirated ships, a floating, landless mass ruled by the bizarre duality called the Lovers.  On Armada, everyone is given work, and even Remades live as equals to humans, Cactacae, and Cray.  Yet no one may ever leave.
       Lonely and embittered in her captivity, Bellis knows that to show dissent is a death sentence.  Instead, she must furtively seek information about Armada's agenda.  The answer lies in the dark, amorphous shapes that float undetected miles below the waters -- terrifying entities with a singular, chilling mission. . . .

Read for group discussion on January 12, 2005

Amy's summary  China Miéville - The Scar
(Warning! Some spoilers)

The Scar is a gritty, epic fantasy.  The book takes you to the complex, floating city of Armada, which is on an imaginatively weird quest across the oceans of Bas-Lag.

Bellis Coldwine, a linguist, left the city of New Crobuzon.  She was afraid the militia would take her and question her about the strange events in the book Perdido Street Station, for which her former lover, Isaac der Grimnebulin, is being blamed, and about which Bellis knows nothing.

The Crobuzoner merchant vessel Terpsichoria is sailing from Iron Bay across the Swollen Ocean to the colony of Nova Esperium.  Bellis is hired on as a translator of Salkrikator Cray, a language spoken by sea dwelling demi-humans.  Aboard ship she develops a friendship with passenger Dr.  Johannes Tearfly, a stuffy naturalist.  Below decks are prisoners being shipped to the colony as workers.  Among them is Tanner Sack, a Remade man who, for punishment, had tentacles attached to his chest.  Tanner befriends Shekel, a cabin boy, by sharing stories with him.

In Salkrikaltor City, which is situated both above and below the ocean, Bellis translates for the Captain and his Lieutenant in a clandestine meeting.  She learns that New Crobuzon is missing a mobile marine drilling platform.

Once at sea again, The Captain informs everyone that Terpsichoria is returning to New Crobuzon.  He offers no explanation to the disgruntled passengers, but Bellis knows this is the doing of newcomer Silas Fennec, a man who boarded in Salkrikaltor.

Pirates attack Terpsichoria in open seas.  The crew is no match for the pirates.  Leading the attackers is a swordsman so dangerous it's unreal.  He's named Uther Doul.  Many die.  Terpsichoria surrenders and is taken to Armada, a floating city built on a conglomerate of tied together ships of all sizes and types.  New Crobuzon's stolen rig is incorporated into Armada.  The survivors, including the prisoners, are interviewed to determine their skills and to see if they can become new citizens of the city of Armada.

Bellis is uncomfortable with the idea of spending the rest of her life on Armada.  She takes an offered job at the library.  Others from Terpsichoria are adjusting better.  Tanner becomes a respected underwater engineer.  Shekel has a Remade girlfriend.  Johannes is proud to be part of a confidential project of The Lovers, the eccentric rulers of Garwater, the most powerful riding, or district, of Armada.  The only person that shares Bellis' secret hope to escape is Silas Fennec, now known as Simon Fench, who turns out to be a Crobuzoner spy.

Bellis figures out the Garwater's secret project is to summon a humungous sea creature called an avanc.  Bellis' knowledge of the language High Kettai allows her translate a sought after book by Krüach Aum detailing the summoning an avanc.  When Armada seeks out Aum, a mosquito man, Bellis is a member of the group that goes ashore on the deadly anophelii island.  She translates between Aum and the Armada scientists.  Bellis, with the help of Tanner, gets a secret message to the captain of the cactacae men guarding the island.  Silas convinced Bellis of the importance of getting this message back to New Crobozon.  Bellis takes the risk for her former home, more than for Silas, who has become a seldom seen political agitator.

An avanc is called from the depths at a deadeye in the ocean and using technology and thaumaturgy.  It's captured in a huge underwater bridle attached to the city by chains.  The Lovers, rulers of Garwater, control the avanc using a rockmilk engine.  Rockmilk was drilled for using the stolen rig.  The avanc pulls Armada faster than it has traveled before.  But where is it going?  Three out of eight ridings of the city were initially opposed to the scheme, and are questioning Garwater's unknown plans.

Meanwhile Uther Doul, bodyguard of The Lovers, has taken to talking to Bellis.  His attention confounds her, but apparently Doul considers her a friend.  He shows her around the Garwater flagship Grand Easterly, and tells her about himself and his lethal Possible Sword, a sword of possible strikes.

Warships of the New Crobuzon navy locate Armada, and a sea battle ensues.  Armada desperately fights for its life against superior firepower, and sustains many casualties and many ships are lost.  How could the Crobuzoner Navy find Armada?

The avanc drags Armada through the unexplored Hidden Ocean, which ordinary vessels can't cross because of strange currents and engines becoming untrustworthy.  Eventually the Lovers tell the citizens of Armada they are going to the Scar, to tap the power of possibilities.  Unsettling problems soon impede them.  The avanc is sick.  The Brucolac, the disgruntled "vampir" ruler of the riding of Dry Water, leads a mutiny in which nasty creatures, long searching for Armada for their own reasons, attack.  But it is mysterious occurrences involving the cactacae man Hedrigall that inspire Armadans to rethink what it means to go to the Scar.

summary written by

How we each rated this book
Dan - Amy 9 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 9 Barb -
Aaron - Cynthia -
Jackie 8 Ron u
Christine - Deb 5
Mike - Stephanie -
Gary 5 Natalie 4

Our book group has also read the following books by China Miéville
-- Perdido Street Station   in May 2003
-- The City & The City   in June 2010

China Miéville (1972-    ) is a UK fantasy writer living in England.   He has written in the New Weird subgenre.

2001 August Derleth Award (British Fantasy) for Perdido Street Station
2001 Arthur C. Clarke Award for Perdido Street Station
2003 August Derleth Award (British Fantasy) for The Scar
2005 Arthur C. Clarke Award for Iron Council
2010 Arthur C. Clarke Award for The City & The City

Bas-Lag universe books
-- Perdido Street Station (2000)
-- The Scar (2002)
-- Iron Council (2004)

Other novels
-- King Rat (1998), his first novel, dark fantasy or horror
-- The City & The City (2009), mystery science fantasy
-- Kraken (2010), a dark comedy fantasy

Novellas or short novels
--The Tain (2002), post-apocalypse story reprinted in the anthology Cities (2004)

Young Adult books
-- Un Lun Dun (2007), fantasy

Short story collections
-- Looking for Jake (2005), fourteen stories including The Tain

Aaron's review of The Tain on Fantastic Reviews
Our book club's page for Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
Our book club's page for The City & The City by China Miéville
China Miéville - Wikipedia
Locus Online: China Miéville interview excerpts (2002)
The Scar by China Mieville - an infinity plus review
January Magazine Review | The Scar by China Miéville
dragonsworn book review - The Scar, China Mieville
SF The Scar / China Miéville
China Miéville interviewed - infinity plus non-fiction (2001)
China Mieville interviewed - infinity plus non-fiction (2003)

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This page was last updated July 31, 2010