China Miéville turns his fiendish powers of invention to a tale of the high seas. Reserved, incisive Bellis Coldwine, expert linguist, must flee New Crobuzon due to her associations with political dissidents. When pirates board her ship, Bellis and her fellow passengers are press-ganged into citizenship on Armada, a floating city cobbled together from hundreds of stolen vessels. On Armada, the refugees can shed their second-class status and make a fresh start with homes and jobs. But they must demonstrate loyalty to Armada’s capricious, megalomaniacal rulers, The Lovers. And they can never leave. How will they cope with their new identities? What dangers lurk at Armada’s core?
Just like its predecessor Perdido Street Station, The Scar seethes with gritty political machinations and masterful poetry. Miéville holds a doctorate in international relations from the London School of Economics, and it shows. Through the eyes of his characters, we grasp a sense of the broad political factions and conflicts within each city. Where New Crobuzon offers unchecked capitalism plus totalitarianism, Armada is an imperialist military regime enforcing corrupt socialism. Miéville also explores scars from every angle: as memories, sources of pain, sigils, signs of identity, sites from which something new can grow. Overall, this is a layered, meaty, feverishly creative novel to sink your teeth into.
The 214 in 2014 series chronicles every book I read in 2014. Each review contains exactly 214 words, because 2014 words is too long and 2014 characters is too dang short.