China Miéville’s The Scar Chapter-By-Chapter: Ch. 16, Ch. 17

Propaganda poster by Steve Thomas

Propaganda poster by Steve Thomas

In these chapters of The Scar, plans are formed and a clear destination is decided upon, setting up the most exciting shore leave the crew of Armada will have ever seen. Also, the plan involving the Avanc is made public, hence why I’ve chosen the awesome propaganda poster as the accompanying art for this post. I’m also running low on great fan-art to include each time, so I’m not sure what I’ll do for posts further down the line. In the meantime, read on, or start at the intro and index, and as usual BEWARE OF SPOILERS FOR THE REST OF THE BOOK.

(Artwork on left by Steve Thomas)

Chapter 16

Bellis is now under a sort of deadline to come up with a plan—any plan—before it’s discovered that she has Aum’s book. At first escape is on her and Silas’s minds, and they trace the trade routes of the Bas-Lag seas. So many interesting places are mentioned; a novel about the merchant navies of this world would be just as fascinating as one about its pirates, in my opinion.

When escaping doesn’t seem to be an option, they instead focus on getting a message to New Crobuzon. The burning of the appendix pages is pretty much the fulcrum of the novel: nearly everything that comes afterwards is due to this one moment. The scientist in me was cringing at the destruction of this information. But it’s too late, and now Armada’s leaders have no choice but to seek out Aum to find out how to raise the Avanc. (I keep wanting to write “Krum” instead of “Aum”. Too much Harry Potter, I think.)

Bellis and Tearfly get together so she can reveal what she knows, and how she found it out. She then begins to plants the idea of going to the anophelii island in Tearfly’s head. It’s quite ironic that she thinks she’s manipulating Tearfly, when she herself is being manipulated in turn by Silas. And she’ll be used by Uther Doul later on. There are so many layers of deceit in this book!

Chapter 17

This chapter begins with a passage describing the seasonal and climatic changes coming over the city; there have been several like this before. I really like these passages, they add even more flavour to the world, allowing us to appreciate Armada as a changing and dynamic environment, not just a fixed backdrop like the settings of so many other fantasy novels.

So, now that we know the secret plans of the leaders of Armada, we’re finally allowed into one of their secret meetings on board the Castor. There are some cool minor characters here that I just thought I’d point out: Turgan, a llorgis whose function is unknown, but who is notable because (I think) he’s the only llorgis in the entire trilogy to have a speaking part. We still know nothing about their biology though, other than their trilateral symmetry. Also, there’s Breyatt, a cactacae mathematician. It’s nice to see the cactus men in roles other than just hired muscle.

The Lovers of course are present, and we start to see a bit of their differing personalities (a difference which will become so much more important later). Individually, each of them is referred to as “The Lover”, which is cool but sometimes confusing, as we have to rely on pronouns in context to figure out which of them is speaking.

Bellis is then summoned to the Grand Easterly for interrogation (interestingly, this is done only by the male Lover). I see the Grand Easterly sort of as the Perdido Street Station of Armada. It’s huge, grandly designed, central to the city, and is the hub of government. We are told some of its history: it was built in New Crobuzon’s decadent years, around the late 1400s, known as the Full Years. It was then used in the Second Pirate Wars, which were fought against Suroch and Jheshull. I think this is the war in which Suroch was colour-bombed. Armada wasn’t involved in those wars, by the way, other than as a force sneaking around stealing ships and crew from both sides, which is how the Grand Easterly came into the possession of Garwater. Since then, Garwater has been the dominant riding in Armada: so they’ve basically been in control for over 250 years. I wonder how the Lovers ended up in command of Garwater. Uther might explain this later, I can’t remember.

Some other random notes: I really like the notion of there being a world-wide grammar of children’s street games. Also, I think rambunctious street-youths are common to most of Miéville’s work. He does write about cities, mostly, after all.

China’s love of cephalopods comes up in the word “cuttlegod”, which is one of the sea monsters that Tintinnabulum and co. have enthused about in the past.

Tanner’s kindness to Angevine has plot value: it earns him a place on the Arrogance to go to the anophelii island. Unfortunately for Tanner, it will end up involving him in Silas’s manipulations as well.

Next time I’m covering 3 chapters and an interlude, because they’re all very short!


  • Shadeskinner (Garwater riding) – A big clipper, residential, with people housed in its cabins. A quiet area of Garwater where Bellis and Tearfly meet.
  • Gigue (Garwater riding?) – A ship with foundries and chymical plants on its deck.

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