This is going to be difficult to review.
China Miéville is one of my favourite writers.
The book is a very short one, 168 pages or so, and is set in Paris, France (just to be clear) during the years 1941 and 1950. Both years Paris is occupied by the Germans, Nazi era. The main character is a Resistance fighter and all of the other members of his particular cell have been killed. He meets someone else who seems to want the same thing that he does but turns out to be his mortal enemy. Now, this is the hard bit, the Germans are working towards controlling what's called in the book a manif. This is short for manifestation and means that the Germans are trying to control a piece of art (i.e. figure from a painting) that they have somehow managed to bring to life. There are many manifs around, all out of control and some more deadly than others. There are also Devils and Demons on the loose and out of control. The main character has, and can control to a certain extent, something called an exquisite corpse, of which there is more than one scattered around. This is made up of weird things that shouldn't work at all, let alone together and comes in very useful when the two main characters are being shot at.
I got lost somewhere in the middle of the story - but I don't mind that - so it's not a straightforward summary of the storyline. If you look at the attached photo of the cover of the book, the picture is of the main character's exquisite corpse and then you'll see the difficulty in describing it (and the other manifs).
China does provide an afterword to say how he came to write the book and a list of the manifs at the back and from which art they came. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I'd recommend it but I think really to only people who are familiar with China's work.
The Scar is the second book in a trilogy known as Bas-Lag. The first is Perdido Street Station and the third is The Iron Council.
I enjoyed this book very much indeed. China Miéville is fast becoming one of my favourite writers. Unfortunately I thought that this book lacked the sparkle that was in PST. Something I can't quite put my finger on.
The story centres around people who live in New Crobuzon and who were on a sea journey to get away from it for their own reasons. They were then attacked by pirates and taken to the floating city of boats, Armada. Naturally the press-ganged want to go home, in spite of the fact that they were journeying away from home when they were captured. This forms the basis of the story.
The remade are there and now a familiar concept, pirates are there and there are also vampires. A few new species are also introduced, some of them don't have names. As I've come to expect from CM the characters are well rounded and believable even although the reader knows that they canoot possibly exist and the story, whilst long - this book is over 800 pages so not for the feint hearted - there is not a spare word in it. It just didn't delight me quite as much as PST.
It isn't necessary to have read the first book in order to make sense of the second but for those who have there is a small connection between the two.
I will read the next one and I'm looking forward to it but I am hoping to get a bit more of the sparkle that I experienced with PST. Nevertheless, I highly recommend The Scar.
I was shocked to find out that it's been nearly three years since I read this novel. It's still having an impact.
China's prose is unique and wonderful but difficult to categorise. This matters not to me except when I'm posting a review, so since Perdido Street Station is reviewed here I thought that I'd keep them both together but that's not to say that The City and The City is anything at all like Perdido Street Station, far from it. Nor, I'd venture, is it in the same category.
Since this is totally unique it's difficult to describe. It is a murder mystery, although the setting and the characters are all totally original and nothing I've ever encountered before. So reading this book is a total experience. Not only is the reader encountering a murder mystery but an entirely different world of China's making. It's so well written, imho, that it was easy for me to become totally immersed in his world, alien although it is, with ease. I did struggle with the constant swearing in the dialogue that he wrote and decided for myself that said swearing wasn't necessary but it did occur and it didn't put me off reading the book. Nor has it put me off reading any of his other work.
It's difficult for me to say any more about this book, and I am aware that this is a somewhat vague review. There is just nothing that The City and The City can be compared to. How can you tell if you'll like it? As far as I can see you'd need to read a sample of it or borrow it from the library. I jumped straight in following a recommendation from Grammath and did not regret it one iota.
I was not sure what I would think of this book as I have not read any of China Miéville’s other books. This is his first book for young adults and is a story based around the idea of two girls from London, who find themselves in the parallel city (the abcity) of Un Lun Dun with the responsibility of saving it from being overtaken by the sinister Smog.
The basic plot is one of young people finding themselves on a quest to save the day, with the help from characters they meet along the way. In this book though, the formula is given so many twists and is populated by the most outlandish and cleverly thought out fantasy characters - ‘Skool’ a character that is actually a school of fish and other sea creatures all sealed inside an old fashioned diving suit and working as one; ‘unbrellas’ are broken umbrellas that have found their way down from London, into the abcity and have become animate objects – under the control of Brokkenbroll the Unbrellissimo. The Smog is actually all the smoke and pollution from the real world that has found its way into the abcity and has become a thinking entity, intent on growing and spreading.
The book definitely has a feel of a modern day Alice in Wonderland and indeed, Miéville does acknowledge the inspiration of Lewis Carroll and several other fantasy authors. I enjoyed it and will definitely give it another read sometime as there was so much to take in I know I will find something new on a return visit.