The Scar (New Crobuzon Series #2)

( 36 )


A mythmaker of the highest order, China Miéville has emblazoned the fantasy novel with fresh language, startling images, and stunning originality. Set in the same sprawling world of Miéville’s Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning novel, Perdido Street Station, this latest epic introduces a whole new cast of intriguing characters and dazzling creations.

Aboard a vast seafaring vessel, a band of prisoners and slaves, their bodies remade into grotesque biological oddities, is being ...

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A mythmaker of the highest order, China Miéville has emblazoned the fantasy novel with fresh language, startling images, and stunning originality. Set in the same sprawling world of Miéville’s Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning novel, Perdido Street Station, this latest epic introduces a whole new cast of intriguing characters and dazzling creations.

Aboard a vast seafaring vessel, a band of prisoners and slaves, their bodies remade into grotesque biological oddities, is being transported to the fledgling colony of New Crobuzon. But the journey is not theirs alone. They are joined by a handful of travelers, each with a reason for fleeing the city. Among them is Bellis Coldwine, a renowned linguist whose services as an interpreter grant her passage—and escape from horrific punishment. For she is linked to Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, the brilliant renegade scientist who has unwittingly unleashed a nightmare upon New Crobuzon.

For Bellis, the plan is clear: live among the new frontiersmen of the colony until it is safe to return home. But when the ship is besieged by pirates on the Swollen Ocean, the senior officers are summarily executed. The surviving passengers are brought to Armada, a city constructed from the hulls of pirated ships, a floating, landless mass ruled by the bizarre duality called the Lovers. On Armada, everyone is given work, and even Remades live as equals to humans, Cactae, and Cray. Yet no one may ever leave.

Lonely and embittered in her captivity, Bellis knows that to show dissent is a death sentence. Instead, she must furtively seek information about Armada’s agenda. The answer lies in the dark, amorphous shapes that float undetected miles below the waters—terrifying entities with a singular, chilling mission. . . .

China Miéville is a writer for a new era—and The Scar is a luminous, brilliantly imagined novel that is nothing short of spectacular.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the British Fantasy Award by the age of 30, China Miéville has also been a World Fantasy Award and Bram Stoker finalist. The Scar, arguably his most ambitious novel yet, takes us on a bizarre voyage on a vast ship teeming with grotesquely re-engineered prisoners. Among them, biding her time for a peaceful landing, is the brilliant Bellis Coldwine, a linguist whose access to secrets protects her. But on the Swollen Oceans, pirates overrun this vessel of mutants, and Bellis, now doubly captive, confronts a death sentence that others call life…
Publishers Weekly
Forecast: Perdido Street Station won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the British Fantasy Award. A major publicity push including a six-city author tour should help win new readers in the U.S. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Even better than the author's Perdido Street Station (Del Rey, 2001), The Scar is also set in the alternate world of Bas-Lag, where linguist Bellis Coldwine is fleeing the city of New Crobuzon. On her journey, pirates capture her ship, and she and the slaves onboard are taken to the floating city of Armada, ruled by the twisted Lovers. The Lovers have a plan that will change the lives of more than the inhabitants of Armada forever, and the quest to find the mysterious reality-shifting place called the Scar begins. The world of Bas-Lag is dark and dangerous and its odd and macabre inhabitants are fully formed, however alien they seem. But even if the noir story and characters were merely ordinary, Mieville's writing would set this book apart. If poetry can have internal rhymes, the prose has an internal structure that uses sound and syllable repetitions, resulting in brilliant and biting word combinations that produce a style more analogous to music than to writing. The author's technique is something akin to Lewis Carroll's use of portmanteau. Sophisticated readers will be engrossed not only by the story but also by the very words used to detail the plot, and they will never think of the fantasy genre, or fantasy authors, in quite the same way again.-Jane Halsall, McHenry Public Library District, IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another beefy fantasy set in the same world as Mieville's landmark Perdido Street Station (2001), where recent upheavals in the city New Crobuzon have caused linguist Bellis Coldwine to fear for her life; she hopes to find sanctuary and anonymity in the colony Nova Esperium, a long ocean voyage distant. But before reaching the colony, her ship's intercepted by pirates from Armada, a huge floating city composed of the hulls of captured vessels. Armada's population, human and nonhuman, is governed by the Lovers, a sadomasochistic pair with momentous but arcane plans, and their assistant, Uther Doul, an unmatchable warrior with artifacts from the ancient, vanished, nonhuman Ghosthead Empire. Also aboard, and opposing the Lovers' plans, is the Brucolac, leader of a vampire cadre, and sinister New Crobuzon superspy Silas Fennec. In addition to the ships, Armada has captured a New Crobuzon drilling rig to extract oil and rockmilk, source of vast thaumaturgic power. The Lovers seek a book written in a language only Bellis can interpret: the book contains the knowledge they need to help them harness an avanc, a vast, half-unreal denizen of the abyssal oceans, strong enough to tow Armada across half the face of the world. But to what purpose? Uther Doul and the Brucolac know, but disagree. And amid the swirling plots, machinations, and secret agendas, Armada's being stalked by a group of shadowy, ocean-dwelling, utterly merciless beings. Again, panoramic and stunningly inventive, but awash with half-baked experimental passages, irritatingly manipulative, overstuffed, and hastily constructed: as frustrating as it is astonishing. Author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345460011
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/29/2004
  • Series: New Crobuzon Series, #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 608
  • Sales rank: 163,150
  • Product dimensions: 6.68 (w) x 4.26 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

China Mieville

China Miéville was born in London in 1972. When he was eighteen, he lived and taught English in Egypt, where he developed an interest in Arab culture and Middle Eastern politics. Miéville has a B.A. in social anthropology from Cambridge and a master’s with distinction from the London School of Economics. His first novel, King Rat, was nominated for both an International Horror Guild Award and the Bram Stoker Prize. Perdido Street Station won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and was nominated for a British Science Fiction Association Award. He lives in England.

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Read an Excerpt

It is only ten miles beyond the city that the river loses its momentum, drooling into the brackish estuary that feeds Iron Bay.

The boats that make the eastward journey out of New Crobuzon enter a lower landscape. To the south there are huts and rotten little jetties, from where rural laborers fish to supplement monotonous diets. Their children wave at travelers, warily. Occasionally there is a knoll of rock or a small copse of darkwood trees, places that defy cultivation, but mostly the land is clear of stones.

From the decks, sailors can see over the fringe of hedgerow and trees and bramble to a tract of fields. This is the stubby end of the Grain Spiral, the long curl of farmland that feeds the city. Men and women can be seen among the crops, or plowing the black earth, or burning the stubble—depending on the season. Barges putter weirdly between fields, on canals hidden by banks of earth and vegetation. They go endlessly between the metropolis and the estates. They bring chymicals and fuel, stone and cement and luxuries to the country. They return to the city past acres of cultivation studded with hamlets, great houses, and mills, with sack upon sack of grain and meat.

The transport never stops. New Crobuzon is insatiable.

The north bank of the Gross Tar is wilder.

It is a long expanse of scrub and marsh. It stretches out for more than eighty miles, till the foothills and low mountains that creep at it from the west cover it completely. Ringed by the river, the mountains, and the sea, the rocky scrubland is an empty place. If there are inhabitants other than the birds, they stay out of sight.

Bellis Coldwine took her passage on an east-bound boat in the last quarter of the year, at a time of constant rain. The fields she saw were cold mud. The half-bare trees dripped. Their silhouettes looked wetly inked onto the clouds.

Later, when she thought back to that miserable time, Bellis was shaken by the detail of her memories. She could recall the formation of a flock of geese that passed over the boat, barking; the stench of sap and earth; the slate shade of the sky. She remembered searching the hedgerow with her eyes but seeing no one. Only threads of woodsmoke in the soaking air, and squat houses shuttered against weather.

The subdued movement of greenery in the wind.

She had stood on the deck enveloped in her shawl and watched and listened for children’s games or anglers, or for someone tending one of the battered kitchen gardens she saw. But she heard only feral birds. The only human forms she saw were scarecrows, their rudimentary features impassive.

It had not been a long journey, but the memory of it filled her like infection. She had felt tethered by time to the city behind her, so that the minutes stretched out taut as she moved away, and slowed the farther she got, dragging out her little voyage.

And then they had snapped, and she had found herself catapulted here, now, alone and away from home.

Much later, when she was miles from everything she knew, Bellis would wake, astonished that it was not the city itself, her home for more than forty years, that she dreamed of. It was that little stretch of river, that weatherbeaten corridor of country that had surrounded her for less than half a day.

In a quiet stretch of water, a few hundred feet from the rocky shore of Iron Bay, three decrepit ships were moored. Their anchors were rooted deep in silt. The chains that attached them were scabbed with years of barnacles.

They were unseaworthy, smeared bitumen-black, with big wooden structures built precariously at the stern and bow. Their masts were stumps. Their chimneys were cold and crusted with old guano.

The ships were close together. They were ringed with buoys strung together with barbed chain, above and below the water. The three old vessels were enclosed in their own patch of sea, unmoved by any currents.

They drew the eye. They were watched.

In another ship some distance away, Bellis raised herself to her porthole and looked out at them, as she had done several times over the previous hours. She folded her arms tight below her breasts and bent forward toward the glass.

Her berth seemed quite still. The movement of the sea beneath her was slow and slight enough to be imperceptible.

The sky was flint-grey and sodden. The shoreline and the rock hills that ringed Iron Bay looked worn and very cold, patched with crabgrass and pale saline ferns.

Those wooden hulks on the water were the darkest things visible.

Bellis sat slowly back on her bunk and picked up her letter. It was written like a diary; lines or paragraphs separated by dates. As she read over what she had last written she opened a tin box of prerolled cigarillos and matches. She lit up and inhaled deeply, pulling a fountain pen from her pocket and adding several words in a terse hand before she breathed the smoke away.

Skullday 26th Rinden 1779. Aboard the Terpsichoria It is nearly a week since we left the mooring in Tarmuth, and I am glad to have gone. It is an ugly, violent town.

I spent my nights in my lodgings, as advised, but my days were my own. I saw what there was to the place. It is ribbon-thin, a strip of industry that juts a mile or so north and south of the estuary, split by the water. Every day, the few thousand residents are joined by huge numbers who come from the city at dawn, making their way from New Crobuzon in boat- and cartloads to work. Every night the bars and bordellos are full of foreign sailors on brief shore leave.

Most reputable ships, I am told, travel the extra miles to New Crobuzon itself, to unload in the Kelltree docks. Tarmuth docks have not worked at more than half-capacity for two hundred years. It is only tramp steamers and freebooters that unload there—their cargoes will end up in the city just the same, but they have neither the time nor the money for the extra miles and the higher duty imposed by official channels.

There are always ships. Iron Bay is full of ships—breaking off from long journeys, sheltering from the sea. Merchant boats from Gnurr Kett and Khadoh and Shankell, on their way to or from New Crobuzon, moored near enough Tarmuth for their crews to relax. Sometimes, far out in the middle of the bay, I saw seawyrms released from the bridles of chariot-ships, playing and hunting.

The economy of Tarmuth is more than prostitution and piracy. The town is full of industrial yards and sidings. It lives as it has for centuries, on the building of ships. The shoreline is punctuated with scores of shipyards, building slipways like weird forests of vertical girders. In some loom ghostly half-completed vessels. The work is ceaseless, loud, and filthy.

The streets are crisscrossed with little private railways that take timber or fuel or whatever from one side of Tarmuth to the other. Each different company has built its own line to link its various concerns, and each is jealously guarded. The town is an idiotic tangle of railways, all replicating each other’s journeys.

I don’t know if you know this. I don’t know if you have visited this town.

The people here have an ambivalent relationship with New Crobuzon. Tarmuth could not exist a solitary day without the patronage of the capital. They know it and resent it. Their surly independence is an affectation.

I had to stay there almost three weeks. The captain of the Terpsichoria was shocked when I told him I would join him in Tarmuth itself, rather than sailing with him from New Crobuzon, but I insisted, as I had to. My position on this ship was conditional on a knowledge of Salkrikaltor Cray, which I falsely claimed. I had less than a month until we sailed, to make my lie a truth.

I made arrangements. I spent my days in Tarmuth in the company of one Marikkatch, an elderly he-cray who had agreed to act as my tutor. Every day I would walk to the salt canals of the cray quarter. I would sit on the low balcony that circled his room, and he would settle his armored underbody on some submerged furnishing and scratch and twitch his scrawny human chest, haranguing me from the water.

It was hard. He does not read. He is not a trained teacher. He stays in the town only because some accident or predator has maimed him, tearing off all but one leg from his left side, so that he can no longer hunt even the sluggish fish of Iron Bay. It might make a better story to claim that I had affection for him, that he is a lovable, cantankerous old gentleman, but he is a shit and a bore. I could make no complaints, however. I had no choice but to concentrate, to effect a few focus hexes, will myself into the language trance (and oh! how hard that was! I have left it so long my mind has grown fat and disgusting!) and drink in every word he gave me.

It was hurried and unsystematic—it was a mess, a bloody mess—but by the time the Terpsichoria tied up in the harbor I had a working understanding of his clicking tongue.

I left the embittered old bastard to his stagnant water, quit my lodgings there, and came to my cabin—this cabin from where I write.

We sailed away from Tarmuth port on the morning of Dustday, heading slowly toward the deserted southern shores of Iron Bay, twenty miles from town. In careful formation at strategic points around the edge of the bay, in quiet spots by rugged land and pine forests, I spotted ships. No one will speak of them. I know they are the ships of the New Crobuzon government. Privateers and others.

It is now Skullday.

On Chainday I was able to persuade the captain to let me disembark, and I spent the morning on the shore. Iron Bay is drab, but anything is better than the damned ship. I am beginning to doubt that it is an improvement on Tarmuth. I am driven to bedlam by the incessant, moronic slap of waves.

Two taciturn crewmen rowed me ashore, watching without pity as I stepped over the edge of the little boat and walked the last few feet through freezing surf. My boots are still stiff and salt-stained.

I sat on the pebbles and threw stones into the water. I read some of the long, bad novel I found on board. I watched the ship. It is moored close to the prisons, so that our captain can easily entertain and converse with the lieutenant-gaolers. I watched the prison-ships themselves. There was no movement from their decks, from behind their portholes. There is never any movement.

I swear, I do not know if I can do this. I miss you, and New Crobuzon.

I remember my journey.

It is hard to believe that it is only ten miles from the city to the godsforsaken sea.

There was a knocking at the door of the tiny cabin. Bellis’ lips pursed, and she waved her sheaf of paper to dry it. Unhurriedly she folded it and replaced it in the chest containing her belongings. She drew her knees up a little higher and played with her pen, watching as the door opened.

A nun stood in the threshold, her arms braced at either side of the doorway.

“Miss Coldwine,” she said uncertainly. “May I come in?”

“It’s your cabin too, Sister,” said Bellis quietly. Her pen spun over and around her thumb. It was a neurotic little trick she had perfected at university.

Sister Meriope shuffled forward a little and sat on the solitary chair. She smoothed her dark russet habit around her, fiddled with her wimple.

“It has been some days now since we became cabin-mates, Miss Coldwine,” Sister Meriope began, “and I do not feel . . . as if I yet know you at all. And this is not a situation I would wish to continue. As we are to be traveling and living together for many weeks . . . some companionship, some closeness, could only make those days easier . . .” Her voice failed, and she knotted her hands.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 36 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Enthralling Seaborne Fantasy

    This book is a work of fantasy art. It features cinematic descriptions, haunting aquatic imagery, intricate passages of prose and a thoroughly engrossing story. The main characters are complex, three-dimensional individuals. The plot encompasses themes of desperation, intrigue, betrayal, terror, love and loss. The narrative primarily follows the experiences of Bellis Coldwine, an appealing, sarcastic, cigarillo-smoking linguist. Bellis is reluctantly fleeing New Crobuzon when her vessel is attacked and boarded by militarized pirates. She, (along with her fellow passengers, the surviving crew and remade prisoners), are press-ganged into the floating city of the "Armada." The stories of Tanner Sack, (a gratefully liberated remade prisoner), Shekel, (a street-wise cabin-boy), and, to a lesser extent, Professor Johannes Tearfly, (a marine biologist converted to the Armada's cause), round-out the captives' perspectives. The plot involves Bellis' discovery that the Armada's leaders seek to capture an immense denizen of the abysmal plane for the purposes of powering the Armada through unnavigable waters to an inter-dimensional chasm called "the Scar". Highlights include a foray into a deadly colony of mosquito people, a devastating naval assault, betrayal by a New Crobuzon spy, a rebellion championed by a 300 year old vampire, and sabotage by merciless, deep-sea hunters. Despite virtually incomprehensible metaphysical explanations and an impossibly farfetched closing manipulation, this book is unbelievably good. The prose and descriptions are wondrous, and the story is engrossing. If you like fantasy fiction, then I suggest that you read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2002

    Mieville's imagination knows no bounds!

    China Mieville, the author who astonished me with his vision with Perdido Street Station has wowed me again with this equally unforgettable masterpiece:The Scar. The author who could had taken the easy route and just write a sequel to his first instead takes us back to his world of Bas-lag but in a different place. Bellis Coldwine, a linguist is escaping her city of New Crobuzon because of her brief relationship with a certain scientist named Isaac Dan der Grimmnebulin.If you want to know why read Perdido Street station. Bellis's ship that she is traveling on is attacked by pirates and she and the survivors are taken to Armanda, a city constructed from the hull of pirates ships. While Bellis is there she finds out that rulers of this strange shipcity: a S&M couple called Lovers are planning on a epic project that will change the face of this world forever! Mievielle's epic masterpiece is filled with scenes of terror and wonder as his obvious love of the sea shows on every page. This novel can be described as combination of Herman Mieville and H.P. Lovecraft in design. The characters of this epic novel come alive in these pages. Bellis Coldwine, the unlikely heroine who is manipulated by the various forces upon Armanda. Silas Fennac-the spy and Bellis sometime lover who's agenda no one can fanthom and who holds a deadly secret that will threaten everyone on the Armada. Uther Doul-the Lover's powerful warrior henchman with a incredible weapon at his command.Tanner Sacks-the sailor who becomes less than human and who's loyality to the Armada is set in stone. Brucolac, the sinister vampire who rebels against the power of the Lovers. I mentioned earlier that this book is combination of Herman Mieville and Lovecraft. Like Mieville's moby dick the Lovers obsession with their endeavor it will threaten the lives of all of the inhabitants of this city and the menace of a group of terrifying aquatic demons called grindylow who seek something stolen from them by one of the inhabitants of the city chilled the blood.Mieville's skills as a world-builder are more evident in this book than in perdido street station as he creates alien beings like a race of mosquito people who feast upon blood and raising of giant ancient creature called Avanc from it's resting place under the ocean.This novel is the one to beat as best fantasy novel of 2002 and further cements China Mieville place as one of the premier fantacist of this generation and century!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2005

    Solid Read but over estimated

    Well I just recently finished reading The Scar by China Mieville. I must admit I was disappointed by this book. Not to say it wasn¿t good just that I heard such rave reviews from trusted critics that I expected so much more. While the story and plot paced well there just weren¿t enough characters and relationships that I truly cared about. The one that I actually wished developed more, between Uther Dohl and Brucolac was touched upon early in the novel but then abandoned in exchanged for other characters and relationships which never truly compelled i.e. Shekel & Tanner Sack, The Lovers, Bellis & Shekel, Bellis and Uther, Bellis and Silas. I kept waiting for it to become great. It always seemed that it was on the brink of something great but just lacked the ability to go over it. IMHO it is a very well written, solid ¿good¿ book. However it lacks that something that makes one finish a book in 2-3 days. I finished it in approximately a week while reading about 2 hrs a day.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2004

    Utterly Magnificent

    In our review of Perdido, we mentioned some kinship with the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever. It is actually more appropriate here, for Bellis Coldwine is the sort of anti-hero first envisioned by Donaldson though here even more brilliantly written. We feel this work will have similar impact making it a force in the genre for at least a generation or two and possibly more. Miéville has opened the floodgates of his imagination and his scientific speculations about remade, about possible futures, and about even the undead, will have influence over many future writers. WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS This book is a must read for any devotee of speculative fiction¿it is one of its very best examples. For any one who has been awed by the finale of Conrad¿s Heart of Darkness, The Scar will reverberate for a lifetime. WHY YOU SHOULD PASS For Perdido, we said this is ¿not an easy read and not for the squeamish.¿ The same ugliness exists here. This book is not for children and only for serious readers. If you¿re looking to pass some time with the sci-fi equivalent of a soap opera, you¿ll be served better by the inferior works of Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan, and Terry Goodkind.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2002

    Could have been great, except...

    I ordered "The Scar" after using this web site. It sounded very interesting, and it was. The imagery and characters were vivid, and the concepts of the floating city were well drawn out. My only problem is the payoff. It seemed that Mr. Mieville could not quite figure out how to end the story, so he grasped at something too big for him to put together as well as the first seven eighths of the book. I recommend this book, just for the scope of the world Mieville has painted. It just dissappoints at the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2002

    Fantastic read - even if you're not a fan of fantasy novels

    The Scar may start out a little slow and tedious, but gains momentum quickly and relentlessly. I'm not going to give another synopsis of the story-line, because there are plenty here for the interested, but I will say that the characters in this book, Bellis Coldwine especially, are the most vivid and engaging I have ever encountered. I would like to suggest that anyone considering reading this book first read Perdido Street Station, as it establishes a vital understanding of the history and sociopolitical background of New Crobuzon. Personally, I am not usually a fan of fantasy novels, but I LOVED both books (The Scar and Perdido Street Station) However, (and I can't stress this strongly enough) stay away from Mieville's other novel, King Rat. Plowing my way through that novel was akin to a painful trip to the dentist.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    may be the fantasy tale of the year

    The Terpsichoria leaves New Crobuzon bound for a colony with convicts, slaves, and a few paying customers needing to leave the city by any means possible on board. Among the passengers is desolate Bellis Coldwine. The astringent woman has been exiled from the great city. <P>The seafaring voyage turns nasty when pirates board the ship. Most of those sailing on the Terpsichoria are worthless to the pirates and killed. However, some including Bellis are taken prisoner to the corsair¿s haven, the floating island of ships, Armada. There they will either die or help the evil leadership with magic that could destroy all humanity. However, Bellis finds allies and tries to develop a third option. <P>THE SCAR may be the fantasy tale of the year as the dark story line makes the reader feel as if he or she has entered Armada, so graphically described that the weird civilization seems real. The plot consists of plenty of action, but it is the leagues and depths of the water world and its strange yet authentic feeling populous that makes the novel so entertaining. Award winning China Mieville (see Perdido Street Station) is bound to more than just receive nominations; she is going to win many trophies for this strong story. <P>Harriet Klausner

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    Posted October 25, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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