Monday, June 4, 2012

The Scar month: setting out

To celebrate the 10th birthday of The Scar by China Mieville, I'm re-reading it and posting about the experience. There will be spoilers! 
Currently at: chapter 2.

The Scar month started a little slowly for me. Partly that's because life got in the way, but it's also because I forgot about the effort I need to put in to getting started on door-stop fantasy novels. The Scar starts with the traditional descriptions of scenery and setting, and I've never found that hugely engaging. Early on, those details tend to slide straight out of my memory, and my focus wanders.

It's also a somewhat disorienting beginning, with a prelude in third-person present tense, then a third-person past tense opening chapter introducing the main character, broken up with a letter she's writing, and concluding with a first-person present tense narrative from a different, unnamed character. It feels a little rough, and the prose perhaps a bit forced.

Having said all that, I'm already seeing the thing that hooked me the first time around. The tone that Mieville sets in the opening chapters is dirty and industrial and chaotic. The structure may remind me of epic fantasies, but the mood is different, more like a horror novel. I think that's what grabbed me: the sense that something familiar had suddenly been made strange.

I also think it was a good choice to begin with a voyage away from New Crobuzon. That city was at the heart of the previous book in the series, Perdido Street Station, and by breaking with it so explicitly Mieville makes it very clear that The Scar is something completely new.

If you're reading along too, or have read it in the past, what are (or were) your opening impressions?

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