Published in 2002-formally and reprinted in 2004-and penned by one of the well-spoken and well-educated writers of the current era(call it the Amalgamated era, the Post-postmodern era or the Whateverthefuckitis era), The Scar is a brilliant and very complicated work that serves as the second entry in the Bas Lag series. The Bas Lag series is a set of books, and a short story, set in the fictional Steampunk realm with a number of odd species, such as the remade, the cactus people, the mosquito people and the Khepri. Although it is set in a realm much unlike our own, the novel deals with many social and political issues and features characters that can easily be related to(if you are disillusioned with good triumphs over evil jazz).
Not much can be said about the plot without stepping all over the wonderfully constructed buildup of tension that continues all throughout the novel. Every event is a major revelation and it is not long before it becomes apparent just how much of an epic this novel is.The novel itself is divided into seven parts and, although Part II: Salt grows somewhat tiresome in the midsection, each part uses what was learned in the prior part and builds on top of it.
The name itself is very interesting as it represents a large plethora of concepts and events throughout the novel, making it more than a story about a journey to a mysterious location. Of course, The Scar is reference to the location as well as the scars on the lovers, but it also a reference to Bellis’ isolation from society, both in the grand yet despicable city of New Crobuzon and the mass of amalgamated ships that is Armada. It also represents the void between her and those of whom invest trust and interest in her throughout the course of the novel. It represents the schism that occurs within Armada once it becomes clear to the people where it is they are heading as well as the prior distrust that results from Simon Fench(also named Silas Fennec as well as other aliases)’s manipulation of the media. Finally, it represents what occurs during the resolution(if you have read it then you know what I am referring to).
The book has a tendency to switch focus from certain sets of characters to others as the story develops, but the following can be said to be central characters:
Bellis Coldwine-a later thirties/early forties female linguist/writer who writes under a pseudonym, B. Coldwine(Uther Doul mentions this and the sexism in New Crobuzon that forced her to do it). She is on the run from the authorities for alleged ties to events of Perdido Street Station when she and her fellow shipmates on the Trepsichora are forcefully brought to Armada. She is an intelligent and reserved woman who is able to hide her emotions(this, however, becomes an issue later on in the novel).
Tanner Sack-A remade, and possibly unjustly accused, criminal that was in the hold of the Trepsichora. He develops a bond with Shekel, despite not particularly liking Shekel’s love interest, Angevine, and becomes integral to the events and how they transpire throughout the novel. He is a thoroughly likable character, but he is not fond of Bellis(this creates an interesting situation as both characters are likable) and distrusts her increasingly as the novel progresses.
Uther Doul-A mysterious expert fighter and righthand man to the Lovers. His nemesis is the Broculac and the tensions between the two build throughout the novel. He is younger than Bellis, but old enough to have traveled extensively before becoming an Armadan. He is described to have a song like quality to his voice and as the novel progresses, he spends more time with Bellis.
The Lovers-Two individuals who scar themselves as a sort of love/sex ritual. Although the man was leader before the woman came to Armada, she is by far more tenacious and adamant about their mysterious mission. The two hire and dump people integral to their secret project often and without warning. They are the leaders of Garwater.
The Broculac-The abdead(vampir) leader of Dry Fall. He is the leader in direct opposition to the Lovers’ plan and causes a major event late in the novel.
Silas Fennec-Known by many aliases, but not his true name, Silas Fennec is at one point Bellis’ fuckbudy and throughout the novel a shady character that contributes to the deteriorating situation.
Despite the slow down during Part II, The Scar is a highly engaging work and is a must read for those who are interested in: fantasy, Stampunk, China Mieville, current day fiction and anything worth wasting their valuable moments of life on.
Licorice Lain gives this work a 5 out of 5.