Diamond Age 75 (68)
June 28, 2020
One in a series of posts about the 75 best science fiction novels published during the genre’s Diamond Age era (from 1984–2003, according to HILOBROW’s periodization schema). For Josh Glenn’s complete Diamond Age Sci-Fi 75 list, click here.
China Miéville‘s New Crobuzon science fantasy adventure The Scar (2002).
After the events recounted in Perdido Street Station (2000), linguist Bellis Coldwine flees New Crobuzon by ship… only to be captured by pirates and relocated to Armada, a vast floating city populated by exiles, criminals, and runaways — including the surgically “Remade.” In giving us this cold protagonist — who despises Armada, and who actively works to subvert the city’s great endeavor — Miéville suppresses our own instinctive resistance to the allure of an anarchist utopia. Which is exactly what this filthy, leaky, confusing, collection of hundreds of lashed-together ships is. What’s more, the The Scar is a mashup of the utopian sci-fi travelogue with Lovecraftian horror. It seems that Armada’s leaders wish to summon and capture a leviathan from the bottom of the ocean… as phase one of a plan to harness transdimensional, reality-warping forces located at the planet’s “Scar,” which will be unleashed against imperialistic New Crobuzon! The plot develops shambolically; there are vampiric mosquito-people, Scabmettlers, the underwater Cray people, and murderous “Grindylows” to contend with, not to mention the story of Tanner Sack, an escaped Remade slave who finds liberation and fulfillment in Armada. Uther Doul, the city’s mercenary enforcer, turns out to be one of the more important figures; Bellis Coldwine, in the end, not so much. The prose is purple, the action thrilling, and the politics fascinating… but what keeps you coming back to Miéville is the wildly imaginative, overwhelmingly atmospheric world-building.
Fun facts: Winner of the British Fantasy Award and Locus Award.
DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI at HILOBROW: William Gibson | Bruce Sterling | Margaret Atwood | Ann Nocenti | Frank Miller | Alan Moore | Octavia E. Butler | Iain M. Banks | Grant Morrison | Neal Stephenson | Jonathan Lethem | Charles Burns | China Miéville.
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