China Miéville’s The Scar Chapter-By-Chapter: Ch. 9, Ch. 10

Bellis Coldwine by Jim Grant

Bellis Coldwine by Jim Grant


Oh dear, I think I burnt myself out by writing such a massive essay of a post last night. Tonight I bring you a much shorter post, on two shorter chapters. They are still great chapters, with tons of world-building and character development and so on packed in, but I just don’t have as much to say about them. The index and introduction can be found by clicking this link, otherwise read on but beware that THERE MAY BE WHOLE-BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD.

(Art to the left by Jim Grant)

Chapter 9

Books and libraries are vital to the plot of The Scar, which I approve of. The adventure pretty much kicks off in a not-often used children’s section in the Grand Gears Library, with Bellis teaching Shekel to read. It makes me wonder, where are all the children in Armada? Surely there have to be some. Is there a population control policy of some kind? I can’t think of any mentions of children so far… although there are mentions of Armada-born citizens. I’ll have to look out for any youths. Imagine growing up in a city like this!

This chapter carries lots of historical and geographical information about the world. Periods of New Crobuzon history are named but not explained: the Money Circle, the Week of Dust. Surely there’s potential short stories or novels in each of these. We also hear about some explorers from Bas-Lag’s past: Seemly, who discovered Bered Kai Nev, the Eastern continent; and others. Jabber is even mentioned. Who is this Jabber that everyone talks about? Other than a Jesus parallel, that is. The geography we learn is mostly about Rohagi, and we get it from Silas Fennec. But more about him in a moment.

The book Bellis chooses for Shekel to read is The Courageous Egg. Fans of Miéville will notice that this book pops up in Un Lun Dun as well. It’s a lovely little easter egg (pun intended) when you read that book. Bellis signs it out on her own borrowing card, which is so sweet. There’s a true friendship growing here. Maybe one of the few in Bellis’s whole life.

Bellis spends her time writing in her letter, and reading Tearfly’s books. The letter this time is dated in the month of Dust, on the day Blueday. More for the list. Armada’s own calendar system is mentioned but it’s far more elusive. There are so many parts to a date like “4th Sepredi of Hawkbill Quarto, 6/317” that I don’t know how to break it up. But “Sepredi” sounds like a French day name, like Mercredi. Bellis writes that she is particularly fond of the book Predation in Iron Bay Rockpools, and I have to say I’d love to read it too. As a biology student I’ve done my share of mucking around rockpools, and they can be quite interesting microcosms. Predator/prey dynamics are one of my favourite topics in ecology too.

So, Silas Fennec shows up, and he and Bellis have a long chat. He mentions his journal nearly straight off, which is a huge flashing plot clue if you know to look for it. He tells a lot of stories about who he is, where he’s been and what he does. I wonder how much of it is true. I even wonder if Silas Fennec is his real name, or just another alias, like Simon Fench. Anyway, his stories about the Gengris are the beginnings of him manipulating her, I think. I’m trying to remember forward about his plans, and I wonder if he knows yet that he can use Bellis to get his information back to New Crobuzon. He knows she misses the city, but does he know the importance she’ll soon play in Armada’s plans, and thus that she has the opportunity to play out his schemes?

Silas has traveled in all sorts of Rohagi locales, including High Cromlech and the Cold Claws, and other northern regions. Since Miéville went out west in Iron Council, I hope one day he’ll write a book set in Rohagi’s cold north. It could be amazing. The Gengris is an awe-inspiring place, even though we only get slivers of descriptions. I remember the phrase “limb-farms” with terrifying clarity, but it doesn’t pop up in this chapter, so that must come later.

Chapter 10

This chapter was very short. Not much happens, to be honest. Our protagonists just reflect on their situations. Tanner is making his decision to be Remade once again, this time it will be almost transspecies. He goes to see a chirurgeon: what a wonderfully archaic word that is. Shekel is reflecting on his newfound ability to read words (in Ragamoll, at least), and I love his thoughts: “How come I wasn’t told? What fucker was it kept this from me?” I wonder what kind of public schooling New Crobuzon has, if any? The standards of education must be quite low there. Or maybe it’s just because Shekel had a childhood on the streets. That’s probably it.

The plot is speeding up now, with the delivery of the list of four names to Bellis. One is interestingly written in “lunar calligraphy” — this is apparently the script used in Khadoh, which is another of those places we hear about a few times but know next to nothing about. Shekel comes across the name Krüach only 4 pages after we’re told of its importance, which is like a big, juicy bone waved at the reader. But it will be some time before Bellis gets wind of it, and the reader is left wondering what could be so important about this Krüach Aum and his writings… China, you’re such a tease.

Ships

  • Corrosive Memory (Booktown riding) – Part of the Grand Gears Library, a galleon which houses the childrens’ books section.
  • Fervent Mantis – A ship from history, captained by Seemly across the Swollen Ocean ~650 years prior, when Bered Kai Nev was first discovered.
  • Dune Roller (Booktown riding) – A gunship where many scientists’ labs are located. Tanner goes here to get Remade.
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