The Scar is the third novel written by China Miéville, a self-described "weird fiction" writer from London, England. The Scar won the 2003 British Fantasy Award and was shortlisted for the 2003 Arthur C. Clarke Award. Miéville won both these awards in 2001 for his previous novel, Perdido Street Station, and won the Arthur C. Clarke Award again in 2005 for Iron Council.
Although set in the same universe as Perdido Street Station, The Scar is not a sequel to that novel, though it is set directly after the events described in Perdido Street Station. The Scar features different characters and settings, and can be read independently of Perdido Street Station.
The Scar opens with the journey of a small ship which has set out from the city New Crobuzon (the setting of Perdido Street Station). It is heading to the city's new colony, Nova Esperium, which lies across the Swollen Ocean of Bas-Lag. On board the ship are:
Before the ship reaches Nova Esperium, it is captured by pirates, and the passengers, crew and prisoners are all press-ganged into being citizens of Armada, a floating city made of thousands of ships. Tanner uses his newfound freedom to embrace his remaking. He has his body further remade and the earlier, rough work perfected, becoming an amphibious sea-creature. Treated now as an equal citizen rather than a prisoner or slave, Tanner's loyalties fiercely lie in Armada.
Bellis meanwhile despises her new life as a librarian for the city's vast collection of stolen books, and yearns for home (somewhat ironically, as she was originally fleeing it). She gains the attention of the powerful Uther Doul, bodyguard to the Lovers, the mysterious, scarred leaders of Armada. Doul, for his own reasons, involves Bellis much more closely in the city's matters. She soon becomes privy to a plan formulated by the Lovers to raise a mythical sea creature known as the avanc. Simultaneously, she meets a New Crobuzonian spy named Silas Fennec, who reveals that the grindylow of the Cold Claw Sea are planning war on New Crobuzon. Silas was on his way home to warn his leaders of this war (thus saving the millions of innocents who might be slaughtered by the grindylow) when he was captured by Armada. Bellis and Silas find romantic interest in each other, and commiserate that they are powerless to save their home city.
Soon enough Bellis, in Armada's library, stumbles across the information that the Lovers need to raise the avanc. Knowing that she must get a message home, Bellis destroys that information. This forces the Lovers to seek Krüach Aum, now the only person who knows how to summon the mythical creature. Armada mounts an expedition to his unnamed island home, which is the island of the dreaded Anophelii (a horrific and deadly race of mosquito-people). The Lovers find Aum and the information they need, while Bellis uses their time out of Armada to get a message home, to warn of the impending grindylow invasion. Armada then successfully raises the avanc and captures it – no mean feat, as the avanc is an immense creature, several miles long. The Lovers' true plan is finally revealed: to use the great speed and pulling power of the avanc to find the fabled Scar, a place in the world where reality breaks down and anything is possible. The Lovers see this as a source of ultimate power.
On the journey far into unmapped waters, numerous matters threaten the city. Silas Fennec's actions, which have been far from honest all along, single-handedly bring down the fury of the New Crobuzon navy and the inhuman wrath of the grindylows. Following this a civil war breaks out within the city. Then, terribly wounded, Armada finally nears the Scar, and faces the unsettling horrors that accompany the breakdown of possibility.
The Scar features several small ties to the other Bas-Lag novels, even though its plot is independent of the others. Firstly, Bellis is fleeing New Crobuzon as a direct result of the events of the first novel, Perdido Street Station. She has a personal connection to the main protagonist of that novel, Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin (PSS also mentions Bellis briefly, as Isaac's earlier lover).
Tanner Sack at one point mentions he knows Spiral Jacobs, an important character in Iron Council.
Although it is not a Bas-Lag novel, Un Lun Dun also features a connection to The Scar. The book that Bellis uses to teach Shekel how to read, The Courageous Egg, is spotted by Deeba in the library stacks of UnLondon.
Below is a list of titles that influenced the writing of The Scar. Many are referenced in the book, the most obvious through the names of characters, ships and locations:
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