When China Mieville wrote “The Scar,” it was a big damn deal. No one had ever read anything quite like it. It won piles of awards. It earned a spot in every study of fantasy literature. It was a big damn deal.
So, to say the least, expectations were high when I started the novel. And any novel that begins with expectations that high is bound to disappoint.
That’s what I thought. But what I didn’t realize was the Mieville has managed to do something amazing: he’s incorporated the readers’ expectations into the novel. A fantasy novel is about questing, romance, etc. Mieville knows that that’s what the reader will expect of a fantasy novel. So he deliberatly scatters hints of those ideas in various plots, all in order to subvert them later on.
Mieville’s novel really is nothing like anything else. It’s an anti-romance, and anti-heroic, an anti-quest novel. Antiheroic novels are a dime a dozen with GRR’s success these days, but this is something special. This novel isn’t really about politics, and it’s about people inasmuch as it’s about how we react to one another, how we use and manipulate one another. The characters themselves are far less important than their relationships to each other.
As with any Mieville novel, the world he creates seethes with life, with creatures both human and inhuman, with strangeness and horror.
In the end, what Mieville’s novel does is create expectations solely in order to subvert them, to change them. Mieville has made something rare: something new.