Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Scar, by China Mieville

Today I'm looking at another book by China Mieville, The Scar, which is set in the same universe as Perdido Street Station but focuses on events outside the city of New Crobuzon. Specifically the book follows linguist Bellis Coldwine, a former lover of Grimnebulin from the last book who is now wanted by New Crobuzon's Militia for questioning. Bellis decides it would be an extremely wise decision for her to flee to a distant colony halfway around the globe for a few years until the Militia's interest wears off. However the ship she's travelling on, containing a significant number of criminal transportees, gets attacked by pirates and brought back to the floating pirate city of Armada as press-ganged who are never allowed to leave. It looks like Bellis will spend the rest of her life in exile on Armada, but very soon she discovers that the leaders known only as the Lovers have extensive plans for Armada, which she can only begin to guess at.

As I mentioned in my review of Perdido Street Station, there was a lot of Mieville's writing style that just didn't work for me in that book, and unfortunately this seems to remain true. I suspect this is partly because of the narrator, Gildart Jackson; I found his reading of the book to have a downright soporific effect on me making the book that much more difficult to get through. However, Mieville's incredibly Dickens-like writing probably doesn't help much on that score either. I felt like the plot meandered through the book, mostly because our perspective characters had no idea what was truly going on, and at one point we have two connected plots running at once. The result for me was this book felt really bloated and it could have used some editing to make the pace a little more enjoyable.

Obviously there are people who think otherwise, and to Mieville's credit he works on creating an extremely complex world. The problem is I don't know if his bouts of exposition always help develop the plot of the book. I definitely got the feeling that we had long, almost tedious explanations of things that were mostly to show off how neat his world was without advancing the story at all. So personally I think that's a bit of a flaw in his writing, but there are people who greatly enjoy this sort of thing so they probably liked it a lot better than me.

Honestly that's really my big criticism of the book, it's long, it meanders, and as a result it feels boring to me. I think I truly enjoy something with a more direct pace and manages to get to the plot. The world truly is interesting and has a lot of potential, but Mieville's style just fails to grab my interest. If you like the slower, pokier type of book then you might enjoy this, but it certainly takes its time getting to where it's going.

- Kalpar

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