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“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

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"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

The Scar (New Crobuzon, #2) - China Miéville Say goodbye to the festering filth of New Crobuzon! Welcome to a floating pirate city chock-full of mysteries, lies, betrayals, photophobic haemophages, and merciless manipulation. Now, where do I apply for its citizenship??? A pirate city is every child's dream. Including, apparently, my own inner child, desperately in need of inner babysitter.Before I say anything else in my review, I want to confess - I absolutely, wholeheartedly loved Armada. I loved its tolerance, its camaraderie, its stubbornness, its unbelievable spirit and tenacity. I loved the harmony, the creation of a whole out of so many varying bits, pieces, cultures, races, nations. I loved the respect for knowledge. I loved the concept of creating a habitable place in the midst of unwelcoming ocean. Basically, I embraced it with the same fierce loyalty that Tanner Sack did, and it pained me to see it threatened.**************************************************“A scar is not an injury, Tanner Sack. A scar is a healing. After an injury, a scar is what makes you whole.” The titular Scar has many meanings, multilayered just like Miéville's prose and storytelling. We see the literal ones - on the faces of the Lovers and on the backs of Tanner and Bellis. We hear about the mythical one, a splitting wound in the fabric of reality. Scars become the symbols of fight, survival, love, unity, pain, remembrance, and healing. They can be seen in many ways, in the light of many endless possibilities. "Scars are memory. Like sutures. They stitch the past to me."**********************************************Miéville's imagination remains truly amazing and boundless. I don't think there is anything that this man cannot conjure out of the depths of his prodigious mind. He takes the existing concepts - cities, piracy, monstrous sea creatures - and turns them onto their heads, brings along new and unexpected angles, creates unbelievable depths, and in the process reveals so much about human nature that it is almost unsettling. His grasp of language continues to astonish me. He plays with his astounding trademark dictionary-heavy vocabulary, spinning magical tales with SAT-style words, not talking down to the reader, not simplifying for the sake of reaching the masses, but taking the beauty of the language and running with it to create the unexpected and alluring musical prose that at times almost borders on poetry. As I said before, Miéville was likely born clutching a dictionary, and should be required reading in the SAT prep courses. Flotsam. Puissance. Susurrus. Pusillanimous. Assiduous. Thank you for my ever expanding vocabulary, Mr. Miéville. ******************************************THE STORY ITSELF: Don't be fooled by the designation of "New Crobuzon #2" for The Scar. The huge poisonous filthy city is a constant presence weighing on the minds of our ex-Crobuzoner characters, but we are spared its suffocating bulk and do not meet any of the familiar characters from Perdido Street Station. Our link to New Crobuzon is Bellis Coldwine, a reserved and disillusioned linguist sailing away in the self-imposed exile to New Crobuzon colonies. On her ship, below decks, destined to be a slave, is Tanner Sack, a Remade - a victim of the cruel body-altering Crobuzonian system of punishment. Bellis is an exile hoping to return someday; Tanner is little more than worthless cargo. No wonder they react in polarly opposite ways when their ship is taken over by pirates and they find themselves new "press-ganged" citizens of a floating pirate city, a huge melting pot, which, like the Hotel California, "you can never leave". "That, after all, was what Armada was - a colony of the lost, the renegade, the absent-without-leave, the defeated."For Tanner and other Remade it's a paradise to which you cannot help but be fiercely loyal. For Bellis, it's a place that dared to take her choice away from her, and she's not happy. "And if it comes to weighing up your desire to return against the desires, for example, of the several hundred "Terpsichoria" Remade who are now allowed to live as something more than animals, then I'm afraid I find your need less than pressing."Suddenly the newcomers find themselves drawn into an ambitious conspiracy that can bring greatness to Armada - that is, unless it brings its destruction first. And, as one can expect, when existing powers in search of even more power collide with the lives of regular people, it can bring little but brokenness, pain, and despair.Miéville expands on the horror shown in Perdido Street Station - the terrible punishment that the Remade have to endure. For their crimes they are marked for life, horrifically modified, and permanently reduced to the miserable existence of 'freaks', nightmarish slaves. left with nothing, no chances, no possibilities. That's why I instantly loved Armada - for dispensing away with the cruelty, for accepting them and admitting what New Crobuzon denies - that they are who they are, with rights and possibilities, with chance for love and respect. “She was Remade she was (Remade scum), he knew it, he saw it, and still he felt incessantly what was inside him, and he felt a great scab of habit and prejudice split from him, part from his skin where his homeland had inscribed him deep. [...]There was a caustic pain as he peeled off a clot of old life and exposed himself open and unsure to her, to new air. [...] His feelings welled out and bled together (their festering ceased) and they began to resolve, to heal in a new form, to scar.” ***********************************Characterization remains Miéville's strong point. With just few words and sentences he creates memorable and vivid characters that feel alive and real, ready to step out of the page. "Everything has changed. I cannot be used anymore. Those days are over. I know too much. What I do now, I do for me."Our main viewpoint character Bellis Coldwine is amazingly written. She is an unusual female character - middle-aged, chain-smoking, cold and cynical, stubborn and strong-willed, in full control of her emotions, with walls of reserve surrounding her - and she is not waiting for anyone to take these walls down. She is smart and resilient; she is a survivor. Beautifully written, she is fully realized, relatable without being always likable, making you root for her while being angry at her at the same time - a lifelike love-hate relationship, ultimately culminating in understanding and respect. Likewise, the rest of the characters - Tanner, Uther Doul, Brucolac, Shekel, Carrianne - all have these lifelike multilayered personalities that cannot help but captivate the reader, which is a true testament to Miéville's writing skills.********************************************And an unexpected bonus - there are GRINDYLOWS in this book! Up until now, my sole exposure to them was though Harry Potter universe, in a shrill Hermione voice:********Amazing, beautifully written, multilayered book with excellent characters and masterfully crafted setting. 5 stars without any hesitation. Thank you, Mr. Miéville, for this amazing read that kept me engrossed in your fantastic world for so many days. And special thanks to Catie for embarking on this awesome Miéville journey with me. It was great!“In time, in time they tell me, I'll not feel so bad. I don't want time to heal me. There's a reason I'm like this. I want time to set me ugly and knotted with loss of you, marking me. I won't smooth you away. I can't say goodbye.”