To Scar the Armada

China Mieville's The Scar

The Scar is a novel that grows on you. I’ve read this a few days before but I wanted the layers and layers of stories to grow on me before I write about it, so I’ve since let it simmer down ( but not without moving on to other books: The Metabarons series and Roland Barthes’ Mourning Diary).

The Scar is a fantastic adventure book and Miéville has this way of letting you feel an initial gut reaction to the concepts he presents encased in a wild ride, but leaves you on your own to ponder on the book’s complexities. It is a very weird book – very unusual in its plotting, in its story-telling but very brilliant. Miéville is not afraid of telling the story he wants to tell and he respects our intelligence and writes accordingly.  If you want fluff entertainment – he can give you that, but he also makes (or forces) you to think. About mercantilism, suspicion of authorities, and the “game of thrones”, where people are played as pawns in the game of power. It is very deep, layered and labyrinthine but it is so much fun.

And I love this kind of writing. I mentioned when I talked about Perdido Street Station about the lack of spelled-out resolution. And The Scar is the same way. They’re written as grand slices of life – China chooses not to tie up every loose end and detail to us the fates of every characters into some ride-into-the-sunset kind of credit roll chapter. Those kinds of books can be great too but this – this is memorable. This is Real Life – the kind with no real endings apart from death.  The Scar is like chancing upon some people in your time, travel with them for a while, and part ways without knowing what will happen to them.

Which leads us to the aftermath. There is always an aftermath – a potent hangover that hangs above you like a dark cloud. A weird mixture of joy, sadness and loneliness. I’ve noticed this after reading Perdido Street Station, and again with The Scar. A very coherent Miévillian describes this phenomenon thusly:

“Sometimes a book ends and leaves you feeling hollowed out, yet with a feeling that your chest is under a great pressure. This is what happens when a book builds tension and engrosses you so fully that by the end of the book you are physically responding.

Most authors release this tension during a climax, and you achieve some sort of completion and end the book sated and satisfied. But occasionally the author denies you a climax. This is not the same as an anticlimax, as the author has not made obvious and deliberate attempts to dodge your expectations. Instead the book more or less stops.

I’ve come to see this as a great artistic achievement, because done correctly it leaves you with a memorable and haunting sensation.”

You’re godsdamn right.

The Scar is a great book – a masterpiece of fiction. It is more tightly controlled than the very verbose Perdido Street Station with its long-winded sentences and pages and pages of fantastical computer calculations.  This is more restrained and less staggering and I would highly recommend this to people as the gateway book to Miéville’s works.

Wild sea battles; creatures a mile wide; possibilities that could be mined; possibilities that could be harnessed (in a SWORD!); and a chasm at the end of the world, jagging accross the face of the Hidden Ocean – teeming with the ways things weren’t and aren’t but could be. The Scar was definitely another great Miéville book. I can’t wait for Iron Council!


Author: Dar @ thebookexperience

3 thoughts on “To Scar the Armada”

    1. I haven’t read any of his political writings but I’ve always wanted to check out Marxism and Fantasy and his thesis. His fiction has all been great so far, and I’m a big fan of how he gracefully embeds some of his political influences in cool worlds with weird monsters and horror stories and strange situations, without trying to force his ideologies down our throats. Pretty great guy overall. (I’m a big fan, obviously hahaha)

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