Monday, 23 February 2009

Seafaring fantasy #1: The Scar

For some reason fantasy and high seas adventure seem to go well together. In The Scar, China Mieville's sequel to Perdido Street Station, linguist Bellis Coldwine goes on the run from the New Crobuzon militia. Typically for Mieville, the scale of events increases exponentially from chapter to chapter. Bellis takes passage on a ship, the Terpsichoria, that turns out to be on a secret, spying mission, but this is only the beginning - just as the captain orders it back to New Crobuzon, to Bellis' disappointment, the ship is overrun by pirates and Bellis and her fellow passengers are taken to the floating pirate city of Armada. They are given their freedom - including the Remade convicts locked in the ship's hull for whom this is a welcome change from the New Crobuzon apartheid - but may not leave.

Like New Crobuzon, although necessarily smaller, Armada is a joy to explore, with different districts built from ship hulls, each with their own rulers, factions and eccentricities. The uneasy truce is held by current rulers The Lovers, whose history is itself a fascinating subplot. Being populated by pirates it's a brutal society and Bellis has to find herself a niche, adapt and survive. Armada itself is changing. Historically it has drifted from secret location to secret location, surviving (naturally) by piracy - but now there's a power struggle going on, and new factions have ambitious plans to summon a powerful force from the depths of the ocean, which itself will be just the start of an even more audacious plan.
As with the first Bas-Lag novel, The Scar overflows with colourful descriptive prose and equally colourful characterization. The restrained but resourceful Bellis carries the story although many of the other characters, human, Remade or otherwise, are also memorable.


Anonymous said...

This story was so colorful in detail and so adventurist. I truly enjoyed the experience. I hope that there is another book that takes places after the ending. I wanted more to continued. If you have a love of early civilization, sprinkled with exotic cultures and interesting characters, you will enjoy this book. I did.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comment. There is a third book set in this universe - Iron Council - and you've reminded me I still need to finish my review of it.