China Miéville’s The Scar Chapter-By-Chapter: Ch. 27, Ch. 28

Artwork by Zdzislaw Beksinski

Artwork by Zdzislaw Beksinski

Oh crap, I missed a day again. It looks like I probably won’t get this finished in October. Oh well, it won’t kill me to spill a little over into next month. Tonight I’m sharing my thoughts on the first two chapters of Part Five, “Storms”. Our protagonists return to Armada with their message safely sent, and the city now has everything it needs to put its plan into action. Read more below, and BEWARE OF WHOLE BOOK SPOILERS. [Intro and index]

(Artwork unrelated; by Zdzislaw Beksinski)

Chapter 27

Part Five begins with another letter section from Bellis. In it we hear of Uther’s origins in High Cromlech. It’s hard to imagine this city. I picture something huge and ruinous out of Lovecraft, or the paintings of Zdzislaw Beksinski — hence why I’ve chosen to illustrate this post with one of Beksinski’s works. High Cromlech has various castes: the dead (known as thanati, which are somewhat like liches), the “ab-dead” (zombies and vampires), and the “quick” (living people). The city’s location is unclear. It may be either high in the mountains (this is more likely, considering the city’s name) or underground, because entering and leaving it involves riding a funicular. The whole concept of High Cromlech is so fascinating, yet given so few pages in The Scar. There could be whole novels written about this city, or about Uther Doul’s history. I’d also love to hear about all the remnants of the Ghosthead Empire scattered around the world. Miéville can’t return to writing about Bas-Lag soon enough!

Doul mentions something called the “Contumancy”, a piece of Bas-Lag history that happened more than three thousand years previously (before even the founding of New Crobuzon). Not much is mentioned about it, other than it may have something to do with the dead coming back to life.

When the Trident gets back to Armada, there’s a meeting of the rulers of each riding. We get to meet a few more: Jhour’s cactacae queen is named Braginod. I can’t put my finger on whether this is some kind of literary reference… Googling produces nothing of note. Bask has a monk as its leader, Shaddler has a scabmettler general.

The later confrontation between Doul and the Brucolac is chilling, as well as revealing — especially when we find out about the place of vampires in High Cromlech society. It’s a nice reversal on the archetype of vampires being wealthy nobility. However I’m a little confused right now, trying to remember the last scene between these two characters. Wasn’t there discussion of their shared history? I thought there was some kind of uneasy bond between them, and that they had been through a lot together. It seems whatever friendship they had is being torn apart now due to their differences over the plans of the Lovers (which is odd, because if Uther Doul is secretly trying to sabotage those plans, then wouldn’t he let the Brucolac in on it?)

Chapter 28

A short chapter, this one; just another of those everyone-prepares-for-the-next-big-thing chapters. It happens during a storm this time. It’s great to see that Miéville has given thought even to how weather affects Armada’s unique structure, and how expertly the citizens prepare for a storm.

No-one really knows what to expect of the Avanc (I have to say I like the suggestion of it being merely planktonic in size compared to other creatures from its dimension), so how does Aum know so much about how to proceed? All he did was find what was practically a fable, and translate it. Honestly, how confident are Armada’s leaders that this thing even exists? I’m interested to know about their research before the Terpsichoria was captured, as well as the efforts of Armadan leaders in the past — who, after all, put those chains under Armada to begin with? Tanner wonders the same thing, but we don’t ever get any answers… At least, not as far as I remember from the last time I read this book.

The last sentence of the chapter is great, drawing a comparison between the Sorghum‘s drilling and a mosquito feeding. It’s as if Miéville doesn’t want us to forget our unease from the events of the previous Part of the book. That creepy feeling lingers, making us perturbed about whether anything good can come of what Armada is about to do…


  • Saskital (Jhour riding) – One of the five ships the Avanc’s chains are anchored to.
  • Tailor’s Moan (Bask riding) – The flagship of Bask. One of the five ships the Avanc’s chains are anchored to.
  • Wordhoard* (the Haunted Quarter) – A big clipper. One of the five ships the Avanc’s chains are anchored to.

*NB: My copy of The Scar doesn’t name this ship, calling it “a nameless huge clipper at the outer edge of the haunted riding”. However, I’ve seen other versions of this passage that simply say “the Wordhoard in the haunted riding” instead. I don’t know what to think.

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