The Scar is the third novel written by China Miéville, a self-described "weird fiction" writer from London, England. The Scar was shortlisted for the 2003 Arthur C. Clarke Award. Miéville won this award in 2001 for his previous novel, Perdido Street Station.
Although set in the same universe as Perdido Street Station, The Scar is not a sequel to that novel, and the characters and settings are very different. If anything, the two books are complementary, and extend the borders of the stories beyond the page and into the reader's imagination.
The Scar opens with the introduction of Bellis Coldwine, a cold, reserved writer from New Crobuzon, the setting of Perdido Street Station. Bellis is attempting to reach Nova Esperium safely before agents of New Crobuzon can find her. The only other passenger Bellis speaks at any length with is the bookish Johannes Tearfly, a scientist whose interests lie in megafauna and underwater sealife.
During this time aboard the ship, the reader is also introduced to another two important characters aboard the ship. Shekel, a cabin boy, befriends Tanner Sack, a Remade (an individual whose body was modified through science or magic, usually as punishment for a crime) who is to be sold into slavery once the ship reaches Nova Esperium.
Before that can happen, Bellis, Shekel, Tanner and the rest of the crew are captured by pirates. After killing the captain and first-mate, a mysterious figure in grey announces that the raiding party is from the floating city called Armada. All the captives are faced with a choice: return with the pirates to Armada and become equal citizens of the city, or die.
Bellis and Tanner each react to their new surroundings in very different ways. Bellis finds herself longing for New Crobuzon, though ironically she was fleeing it for her life. Tanner, on the other hand, takes to his new home like a Remade duck to water. Facing a life of slavery, prison or worse, Tanner realizes that Armada provides him a new chance at life. He collects his savings and undergoes further augmentation of his body, remaking himself into an amphibious sea-creature.
Many critics agree that Miéville's characters in The Scar mark the most significant improvement over his previous works, as they express and relate the more subtle characteristics of fear, boredom, companionship, betrayal and lust. Caught up in all its symbolism and entendre, a reader might forget that this novel is set in a fantastic universe.
A number of themes are interwoven throughout the novel. The most obvious is the imagery and meaning of the title, The Scar. In the story it is both a place and a destination, a wound and a healing, a mistake and a reminder.
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: