China Miéville’s The Scar Chapter-By-Chapter: Ch. 21, Ch. 22

Anophelius by Shaarel

Anophelius by Shaarel

Tonight I begin Part Four, “Blood”. There’s a lot of it in this section of the book. Blood, and gore. There’s also a song in this post to accompany the creepiness of these chapters! Let’s begin our sojourn to the anophelii island… (intro & index, whole-book spoilers ahead, blah blah blah etc)

(Art on left by Shaarel)

Chapter 21

This entire chapter is epistolary. Such sections provide a nice change of perspective, and flesh out Bellis’s character a little, but plot-wise they don’t really have a purpose. After all, the identity of the recipient turns out to be a bit of a red-herring, and the letter remains an unfinished work at the end of the book. I guess Miéville just used it as a narrative technique to facilitate jumps in time. This is one of those jumps: at the beginning of “Blood” we are well on our way to the anophelii island, on board the Trident.

There’s mention of some of Bas-Lag’s smaller, independent nautical powers: Dreer Samher (a cactacae nation), Perrick Nigh, and the Mandrake Islands — the latter two of which we know little about. All of these powers fight amongst themselves, but they recognise New Crobuzon as the big bully of the seas, so they keep a low profile when that nation’s navy is around.

Bellis has taken to calling each of the individual Lovers “the Lover” as well, which is as confusing as always. Again, we need to look for pronouns to tell which Lover is along for the island expedition, and a pronoun doesn’t come until more than a page later.

Bellis describes the items Silas has sent along with her. The letters are full of incentives for any prospective message-bearer, but doesn’t the secret letter hidden inside the jewellery box instruct Silas’s employers to just murder whoever brings the message to them? I can’t remember, but if so, it’s a pretty cruel twist of fate for the pirates who’ll be enlisted for this task.

Silas provides pages of semi-encoded descriptions of, supposedly, the Grindylow invasion plan. Based on the snippet we get to read, I’m pretty sure that this could just as easily be instructions for New Crobuzon’s own upcoming invasion of Armada. Pretty sneaky that he could leave such instructions in plain sight for Bellis to see and not realise the true meaning of.

Then Bellis describes her interactions with Doul, and he gives her the history of the Lovers. It’s not really explained how in just three years, the male Lover became the ruler of Garwater. But that’s easily left to the imagination. Their scars, of course, are discussed in detail, letting Miéville toy further with the layers of meaning behind his book’s title.

I have to wonder if this is the beginning of Doul’s manipulation of Bellis; that is, if he already has his plan formed. His intention for her, as far as we know, is to get her to be a witness to the ruthless, dangerous drive that fuels the Lovers (especially the female Lover), and to contribute to the ruin of their plan. By telling her how passionate and intense the Lovers are, Doul may be placing distrust in her mind right now. Not that Bellis really needed another reason to distrust the Lovers. I may need to revisit this at the end of the book when the manipulation by Doul has played out fully.

Chapter 22

This chapter is scary as hell. It’s one of the most defining moments of the novel, in my opinion, along with Hedrigall’s story at the end. In this chapter, the Trident lands on the anophelii island, and we get to finally see what’s only been hinted at so far.

The eerily empty skies over the island are the first sign of something strange. But then, disembarking from the Trident, Bellis is distracted by Machinery Beach. It’s a bizarre locale, even for Bas-Lag. Only vague explanations or theories are given to its formation. I wonder if Torque could be involved, or some weird force like it? Also, I always got the impression that Bas-Lag was once, maybe millennia ago, far more technologically advanced than it is now: perhaps even futuristic by our standards. This beach is a clue to that, as are the broken weather machines in New Crobuzon. Just another reason Miéville needs to write a history book about this world.

The entire beach attack is pure horror, the best and most terrifying Miéville has ever written (with the Inchmen scene in Iron Council coming in second). Perhaps the worst part is the description of the she-anophelii feeding. They swell up, their bellies and breasts looking “tumorous: taut, gore-swelled and pendulous growths”. It’s just vile. There isn’t enough cool fan-art of this scene out there on the internet, sadly.

One final note today: For years and years the music of the rock band Queens Of The Stone Age has been linked in my mind, somewhat synesthesiastically, with the Bas-Lag books. And I’m pretty sure the reason for that is that when I first read The Scar (my first Miéville book), I had just gotten the album Songs For The Deaf and listened to it constantly. And one particular track on that album, “Mosquito Song”, fits this part of The Scar perfectly. Here’s the song. It’s creepy and eerie.

And the lyrics:

I know, I know the sun is hot
Mosquitos come suck your blood
Leave you there all alone
Just skin and bone
When you walk among the trees
Listening to the leaves
The further I go the less I know
The less I know

Where will you run?
Where will you hide?
To paralyze

Fat and soft, pink and weak
Foot and thigh, tongue and cheek
You know I’m told they swallow you whole
Skin and bone
Cutting boards and hanging hooks
Bloody knives, cooking books
Promising you won’t feel a thing
At all

Swallow and chew
Eat you alive
All of us food that hasn’t died
And the light says

Somehow they pick and pluck
Tenderize bone to dust
The sweetest grease, finest meat you’ll ever taste
Taste, taste
So you scream, whine, and yell
Supple sounds of dinner bells
We all will feed the worms and trees
So don’t be shy

Swallow and chew
Eat you alive
All of us food that hasn’t died


Trident – The new airship built for the expedition to the anophelii island.


One comment

  1. Cool. I’m going to need to check out the other posts in this sequence. My only quibble is the journal Silas gave to Bellis actually details intelligence for New Crobuzon’s invasion of the Gengris. Bellis never sees the information on Armada (or the compass).

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