the Little Red Reviewer

Even Better This Time

Posted on: July 23, 2018


Yep,  The Scar by China Mieville is still in my top five list.  Top Five Favorite Books, EVER. Yes, this book is that fucking amazing!


You know, sometimes you don’t read a book for years, and then you go back to it, and it’s not as good as you remember, and you wonder why you squeed so much over it in the first place, because yeah it’s a good book, but it ain’t great?


Yeah, so, The Scar was the opposite of that.  I saw a ton more this time. I know the plot, I know what happens, I know the big reveals, I even know some of the tiny intimate scenes that really don’t matter. I know all of that stuff, I’ve seen it five or six times already. This read tho, this time I was able to see everything else.


I saw the creation of physical scars in the plot. I saw how those scars change people – sometimes it is a reminder of pain, sometimes a reminder of rebirth and positive change.

I saw every time Bellis was used. I saw that sometimes she knew when she was being used. I saw what that did to her.

I saw Tanner gain his freedom, and then gain it again.

I saw how language can give a culture freedom, and can also be used as a prison.

I saw what people are willing to do to get what they want.

I saw the mistakes I’d made in my previous reads of this book.

I saw that while I only wanted to look at Doul through splayed fingers, that I could listen to him with no fear. I found that I desperately wanted to be his audience.


Welcome to a spoilerific discussion of China Mieville’s The Scar. This book came out in 2002, so not only do I not feel bad about giving minor spoilers, I’m confident enough in my vaguebook abilities that if you’ve never read this book, none of this post will make any sense to you.  And hey, if it makes you interested in reading The Scar or any other China Mieville? bonus!


Johannes confides in Bellis that Armada attacked the Terpsichoria because he, a famous scientist, was aboard, and they wanted his knowledge.  Getting Johannes was just one step in the plans of The Lovers, we don’t even see their plans before Bellis and Johannes get to Armada.  What did they do before? Did The Lovers know, or have an inkling that they’d need a High Kettai speaker? Could they have been on the look out for the woman who wrote High Kettai grammar books? Could they have orchestrated what happened in New Crobuzon to get her on a ship, with Johannes being just a bonus? And used Johannes to lure her to their side?


In my previous reads of this book, I made the same mistake every time. It’s the same mistake Bellis makes, and this time I saw my mistake.  Bellis thinks this is a story about her, and the mistake that I always mirrored before was that I also thought The Scar was a story about her.


She might be the protagonist, we might see most of what happens through her experiences, but this story is not about her, making her a literal translator and a metaphorical interpreter.


Uther Doul still scares me. I am equally scared and fascinated by him. He’s a train wreck I can’t look away from. No, that’s not right, he is most certainly not a train wreck, he is the opposite of a train wreck. I stare at him when he’s not watching, I want him to bring me into his confidences, because more than anything, I want to hear him talk.  My god, am I turning in Bellis, sharing her obsessions, making the same mistakes she made, a-fucking-gain? Jesus, what I would give to read this book from Doul’s point of view. Screw Bellis and her privileged whining.


Because seriously, how can you not be obsessed with Doul’s Mightblade? Yes, it is a mighty blade, but that is the wrong use of the word might (in fact, this entire novel is about Words that can used to mean many different things, and the interpreters always choosing the wrong definition). It is a strong blade, but far more important than that, it might be here, or it might be there, it might slit your throat, it might cut your arm off. It is a Possibility Sword it can do all those things all at the same time.


Bellis might read High Kettai, but Doul knows how to mine possibilities.  It’s no wonder The Lovers, the ad-hoc rulers of Armada, keep him on a short leash. What did they trade for his knowledge? What did they promise him?  Maybe they gave him the one thing he wanted – the promise that Armada would never go to a particular part of the world. Maybe they promised him that being alive was worth something after all.


Next time I read this book, it will be Doul’s scenes that I tease out, looking for as much meaning as possible in every word.


The Scar is a story about desperate people who do desperate things to get what they want. And the scars they leave in their wake.


4 Responses to "Even Better This Time"

Hell yes!! This is such an awesome book. I think I love it slightly more than Perdido Street Station, which is pretty good too. I need to do a reread!!!


which reminds that I need to reread Perdido pretty soon! Reading these books in backwards publishing order, I wonder what names/references in Perdido I’ll recognize from showing up in one of the other books!


I’ve always been sad to miss out on the Mieville hysteria. I read a big chunk of Perdido (40%, maybe?), but gave up. It seemed derivative, uneventful, and not particularly well-written, not to mention far too wordy (in that a lot of words seem to be spilled to no clear effect). Never had the willpower to go back to it. I guess I must be missing something, because everyone else seems to adore everything he’s written – even though, on (or, more accurately, NOT on) paper, he seems like my sort of writer.


Man, I need to read this immediately!!

Perdido Street Station is my absolute favourite Mieville book – if you guys think The Scar may actually be better … well, I need to get on this thing!! 😀

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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