It’s the end of Part Four, “Blood”, and our sojourn to the anophelii island is over; both missions (the public one of the Armadans, and Bellis’s private one) are complete. However, events are only just beginning to unravel; and the deeper plans hidden underneath those we know of are far from being revealed. Read ahead for my thoughts on these chapters. WHOLE BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD. [Intro and index]
(Art on left by Dominik Petr)
The first part of this chapter, where Bellis is discovered by Tanner, ends with her getting an idea. I wonder then if the next night, when she is caught crying by Tanner, is all to plan. Is she deciding right now that she can manipulate Tanner into doing the job for her? Cold, Bellis.
The period of history when the anophelii were widespread in Bas-Lag is referred to as the Malarial Queendom, or the Malarial Age. The association is obvious; but the adjective “malarial” refers to the mosquito-borne parasite, not mosquitoes themselves. I’m sure Miéville knows this, and just liked the phrase “Malarial Queendom” and used it anyway. It’s worth noting though that the disease’s name is from the Italian, meaning “bad air”, so it still could feasibly apply to an era where ravenous mosquito women fill the sky.
He’s only around for a handful of chapters, but I like Captain Sengka. I like all the cactacae characters, in fact, from all three novels. They’re such cool dudes, with a fascinating culture. I wish we could see more of the desert cultures (the garuda included) in future novels.
There’s a nice little fight scene where Uther Doul fucks up some Samheri pirates and some she-anophelii. It’s pretty gross, with mosquito women being split open and their contents smeared across the ground. Then, Doul pulls a goofy pose at the end, as his name is chanted by his fellows:
[He] bowed his head and raised his arms to the height of his shoulders, his palms outstretched. He stood immobile, lowering his eyes, as if adrift on the sound.
That… just seems dumb. Like some teenage geek trying to do an anime pose. I can’t picture it looking cool, sorry China.
Tanner is clued in on Bellis and Silas’s plan. He reads the (fake) invasion descriptions, and we get treated to some hints about Grindylow warfare: “kissing magi” (related to Silas’s stolen statue?), “wormtroopers”, “algae-bombs”. Some awesome imagery. In Tanner’s memory of New Crobuzon, Spiral Jacobs is mentioned. It’s one of those elusive inter-book connections! It was a nice treat to find when re-reading The Scar after reading Iron Council for the first time.
Why this counts as an interlude rather than a regular chapter, I have no idea. It’s a very tense race to the ships, and then a different kind of tension as Sengka looks over the letters.
While in the waters at Machinery Beach, the rust-tainted water tastes to Tanner like blood. How apt for this island, and of course for this Part of the book.
Interestingly, cactacae pirate ships are manned by chimps. I love that Bas-Lag has a seemingly arbitrary mix of weird wildlife and Earth animals.
The description of the ring and what the sea will do to it is beautiful. But why does Tanner throw it away? I thought Bellis was meant to keep it (although I can’t remember what for).
We end on Tanner thinking wistfully of the strange and wonderful sights in the sea he might never see. They all boggle the mind: what exactly are “melted ships”, how do waves become ossified, how do “steam-storms” form, what are the gessin and where are their homelands? The Scar itself is also mentioned, but not described. I’m not sure, it may be the first time the book’s titular location is named.
I don’t really get the point of the continuing Grindylow interludes. At this point they seem to just be “Hey, let’s check in with those crazy Grindylow!”. They were built up as enough of a threat in the prologue, and in Silas’s descriptions of them. We don’t really need to know how they track Silas down. Maybe I’m just bitching because I can’t think of anything else to write about this 2-page interlude. Oh well, that’s it for now. No ships to list this time. G’night!