China Miéville’s The Scar Chapter-By-Chapter: Ch. 3, Ch. 4

Chapters 3 and 4 of The Scar continue to lead us along a false path, in this introductory section before the true plot of the book begins; but there are clues to future events woven in amongst the descriptions of the journey. My thoughts are below the link to the intro and index. WARNING: WHOLE BOOK SPOILERS MAY BE PRESENT!!!

Introduction & Index

The Scar - US cover art

The Scar - US cover art

Chapter 3

One of the most awesome parts of each Bas-Lag book is when Miéville describes the Remade. This time around we have a freaky bunch, of which Tanner, with his chest tentacles (chesticles?), seems to be one of the more normal ones. I’m particularly disturbed by the “woman with a skein of spasming arms”. There are xenian prisoners too. Do the non-human races get remade as well? I can’t tell from this section. Bellis is viewing the prisoners from a hidey hole in a cupboard. Bellis seems to do a lot of watching in this book. She’s mostly a rather passive protagonist, somewhat like Avice for the early half of Embassytown: just watching, observing events happening out of her control.

I love Tearfly boasting about his battlewounds as a naturalist. It lets us hear about some of the biota of Bas-Lag… albeit, mostly just animal names. I wonder what a sardula or a chalkydri looks like. Bellis briefly wonders if Tearfly is an invert. I like that Bas-Lag has its own term for homosexuality. Or does it? I’m not sure if invert was ever a euphemism for homosexuality in our world’s history.

Aaaaand I was going to wonder on what “Marichonians” are but then I googled and found this brilliant glossary of The Scar (there’s also a corresponding list for Perdido Street Station)… Holy crap that is a well-researched list. I may have to refer to it while I continue reading this book. Everyone check them out.

“Men coupling in consent or rape” is such a brilliant… I don’t know, what’s the word, juxtaposition? Anyway it’s a really succinct and evocative way to describe the ambiguity and opaqueness of prisoner relationships to an outside observer.

More islands, each apparently with their own folktales, but we don’t hear about them. Dammit China, write more Bas-Lag books! Please please pleeeease. Also there are plesiauri. Which I assume are like plesiosaurs. A brief mention of the 25-mile long Cyrhussine Bridge, which sounds incredible. Then we detour past the oil rigs. I absolutely love this part of the story, and I think it would look astonishing in a movie adaptation. Here we are in this fantasy world and suddenly there are gigantic industrial constructions towering above the water. Expectations shattered. On a side note, for more Miéville/oil-rig weirdness, check out his brilliant short story “Covehithe”.

Bellis’s next letter section is dated in the month of Arora. So that’s two so far, along with Rinden. Let’s see how many I can collect! Another day name, too: Shunday.

Finally, we get to Salkrikaltor, and the city description is pretty cool. I… don’t have anything else to say about it! Oh well.

Chapter 4

The Cray’s carts are pulled by sea-snails eight feet high. How adorable is that! We learn little chunks of information about Cray culture as Bellis goes through the underwater city to the embassy. I like the tattoos/carvings the Crays have on their carapaces. They are permanent adornments, in contrast to the temporary scab patterns we’ll see on the Scabmettlers later on.

Why does Bellis become furious when the captain insinuates that Bellis is not a guest in Salkrikaltor, she is just there to do her job (that is, translating)? I hardly thought she cared about the business of the Terpsichoria‘s officers. Anyway, after a skipped-over trade meeting between ambassadors, a little bit of mystery pokes up its head: the missing oil rig. The mystery is answered in just a few chapters, but it’s the first hint we get about Armada, and it’s a nice moment when the captain asks where the third rig is. I like the rig names: Manikin, Trashstar and Sorghum. I can’t think of a connection between the names, but I’m not good with linguistic references. We also get a hint of the rigs’ purpose in that the Sorghum had a “geo-empath” on its crew. A very curious job title.

Silas Fennec pops up here. He’s so charming. The slime-ball.

I’m wondering why Bellis is so keen to post her letter now, as we find out later she has no idea who it’s meant for. What was she going to do, just decide on an addressee on the spot? Or am I remembering it wrong, and she’s actually writing with someone else in mind at the moment, but she changes her mind later?

Lastly, we check back in with Shekel and Tanner. They’re becoming such bros, it’s sweet.


Manikin, Trashstar and Sorghum – New Crobuzon’s oil rigs. Sorghum is mobile, the others are not. It’s also missing.


  1. Chalkydri are apparently archangels mentioned in the book of Enoch and Sardula is a mythological lion from India.

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