Socialist Worker

The Scar by China Miéville

by Gareth Beniston
Issue No. 1802

There are a number of short stories and novels that shouldn't just be regarded as exceptional fantasy and science fiction, but should be considered amongst the best modern literature we have.

The list would include Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, M John Harrison's Viriconium, most of Philip K Dick's books, and Ursula le Guin's The Dispossessed. China Miéville's novels are part of this tradition. His new book, The Scar, is brilliant. These works are often politically subversive. Most importantly, like all good art, they help us to explore the personal and social contradictions inside capitalism.

The Scar addresses ideas of freedom, comradeship and change against a background of state intrigue, war, resistance and revolt. It is set around the seas of Bas Lag-the fictional world created in Miéville's last novel, Perdido Street Station. There are many important voices in the book, but there are perhaps two main characters.

Both begin their journey aboard a ship that is captured by pirates and taken to the floating city of Armada. One is a convict, given his freedom in the new city and the chance to transform his life.

Bellis Coldwine, however, is the main filter through which the story emerges. She is distrustful, bitter and desperate to return to her home city. It is this focus that gives the novel its questioning and unsettling atmosphere. You won't be able to stop yourself turning the pages, and not once does Miéville's imagination let you down.

The Scar is only out in hardback at the moment, which means it is a little expensive. But it's worth the read.

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Sat 1 Jun 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1802
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