China Miéville’s The Scar Chapter-By-Chapter: Ch. 18, Ch. 19, Ch. 20, Interlude

Statue by Jason Chalker

Statue by Jason Chalker


I bring you three chapters and an interlude tonight to finish off Part Three, “The Compass Factory”. They’re all quite short, and I don’t really have that much to say. These are pretty much bridging chapters: now that we know we’re going to the anophelii island, these chapters exist mainly to show the preparations. Here’s the link to the intro and index, a starting point for these posts if you just got here. Watch out for WHOLE BOOK SPOILERS BELOW!

(Art on left by Jason Chalker)

Chapter 18

More wonderful world-building tidbits here, as we hear about the various publications of the city. All media sources are printed on paper, recycled over and over. They probably have to hoard every little scrap of paper. Two chapters from now we hear about how the city doesn’t produce much rubbish, because nearly everything can be used again. I wonder if Armada has a force of garbage collectors or something.

Some info about the ridings is given, and one tidbit is quite interesting: Jhour is ruled by a “solar queendom”. I can’t remember exactly, but I think it’s a cactacae-populated riding, which I guess fits that description (what with the cactacae being able to photosynthesise and all). Other ridings have varying government styles. Thee-and-Thine also has a monarch (King Friedrich), Garwater has sort of a martial law system, Curhouse has its elected council, and so on.

Dry Fall’s flagship, the Uroc, is a lunar sailing ship, which is a cool concept. It belonged to the Brucolac when he joined Armada. I’d like to know how he first became a citizen of Armada, and how he came into power. Probably by creating an army of vampires, I’d say. The Brucolac reminds me a lot of the vampire character, Sarasti, from Peter Watts’ Blindsight, especially with the section describing how others can’t help but have certain behavioural reactions to him. The Brucolac is a bit more of a sympathetic character, though, considering how he stands against the ruthlessness of the Lovers. He also treats his subjects (the citizenry of Dry Fall) well, apart from that one rather gruesome demand he places upon them (the goretax).

We get some tasty hints about Uther Doul’s homeland, which will be explained in much more detail later. High Cromlech is a freaky place.

Chapter 19

More calendar stuff is mentioned, but I don’t want to bother keeping track of it anymore, since Wikipedia already does the job:

The novels name seven days — Dustday, Blueday, Fishday, Dockday, Chainday, Skullday and Shunday — which loosely imply a seven-day week. The year has twelve months, but only eleven are mentioned: Lunuary, Soluary, Swiven, Chet, Melluary, Tathis, Sinn, Octuary, Rinden, Arora and Dust. Lunuary is the first month of the year (it follows New Year Eve) Chet and Melluary seem to constitute some of New Crobuzon’s spring, Tathis, Sinn and Octuary are summer months, and Rinden and Arora are implied as falling within the bounds of late autumn.

That was easy. They are all cool names for months and days, and I’d like to know how Miéville came up with them (as well as the in-world explanation for them, although some are obvious like Lunuary and Soluary; and Octuary is probably the 8th month).

I keep wanting to think about the creatures and races in this book from an evolutionary biology standpoint. For instance, the Scabmettlers need to constantly drink a special anti-coagulant tea, otherwise their blood will harden in their veins. How on earth would they have evolved this? Then I have to remind myself that it’s fantasy. I’m used to reading science fiction, where everything is based in real science, even if it seems outlandish.

I was wrong, the shore party don’t take the Arrogance to the anophelii island; they take a newly constructed airship. The airship is described, in simile, as looking like a giant insect. How very thematically appropriate to what’s coming up soon.

Chapter 20

We get a little bit of comparison between Armada and New Crobuzon here. Armada basically has no homelessness or poverty, so it certainly contributes to the sense that this is the twisted, Bas-Lag version of a utopia. However, Bellis definitely had some points in favour of New Crobuzon to bring up during her argument with Tearfly, back in whatever chapter that was. So it’s hard to say which is the better city. Also, maybe it depends what riding you live in. I can’t say I’d be happy living in Dry Fall, with its goretax, for instance (no matter what Carianne thinks about it). I wonder how some of the other leaders treat their citizens. We don’t hear much about Thee-and-Thine’s King Friedrich, for instance. He barely features in this novel at all.

This chapter is short, and it’s mostly about Silas’s infiltration of the Grand Easterly. His identity as the thief is kept secret, but all the clues seem obvious to me, and I’m surprised I didn’t work it out the first time I read it. The grindylow statue is just revolting. It grosses me out every time, more than most things in this book. The trippy, geometry-bending magic it produces is unarguably cool, though. The mystery behind how Armada’s ships always find home is solved: magical compasses. Kind of disappointing, actually, but it’s useful for the plot. Silas takes one, and thus ends the quite-short third Part of The Scar, “The Compass Factory”.

Interlude IV

Poor whales. That’s all I have to say, really.

Ships

  • Barracuda (unknown riding) – One of Armada’s aerostats.
  • Custody (Jhour riding) – A steamer, where the aeroworks are located.
  • Badmark (Garwater riding) – A barge, linked by the Whiskey Bridge to the Darioch’s Concern.
  • Darioch’s Concern (Shaddler riding) – A clipper, linked by the Whiskey Bridge to the Badmark.
  • Surge Instigant (Garwater riding) – A ship covered with some of Armada’s back alleys, including the Wattlandaub Maze.
  • Cable’s Weft (Garwater riding) – A barquentine.
  • Plengant (Garwater riding) – A submersible, covered with trees, located next to the Grand Easterly.
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One comment

  1. Yeah, evolutionary biology is fun to think about here, but it probably comes down to stuff like “A weaver thought it would improve the world weave to make Scabmettlers a thing” or “Torque can very occasionally have a result that isn’t totally destructive on a creatures genetics”. We already have some examples of that with the Weaver, and Possibility Mining in general being implied as the reason for how the wildlife from the Fractured Land are so creepy. It wouldn’t shock me if China Mieville has basic answers to the questions of how most of these species came to thrive if only because it would fit into his pre-established habits.

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