Bas-Lag Reading Project- The Scar Part Three: The Compass Factory
An avanc. Or should that be a fucking avanc? The third part of The Scar is entitled “The Compass Factory.” The title refers to an event at the end of the section in which a mysterious individual (Silas) breaks in and steals a compass. But this section also deals, mainly, with Bellis’s maneuverings to escape and get a message to New Crobuzon.
“The Compass Factory” is a rather short section and is high on political intrigue. Bellis discovers more of what the Lovers intend to do, Uther Doul and the Brucolac make more sustained appearances, and Tanner and Shekel get character development.
I have debated with myself whether I want to continue my discussion of Armada’s politics or focus a bit more on Bellis.
The most interesting aspect of this section is the presence of Uther Doul. Uther Doul is clearly the most mysterious and supposedly interesting character in the whole novel. He gets more scene time later in the novel, but for the moment, he is a cypher. What is he, personally, after? Is he as loyal to the Lovers as he appears, or is the Brucolac correct in assuming, insinuating that he is as opposed to the final leg of the Lovers’ plan as the Brucolac himself?
For the moment, all we know is that Uther Doul is one hell of a fighter, a scholar, and a cypher.
The Brucolac is another interesting character. A vampir or ab-dead in a position of authority, who rules the freest and most secure riding in the city. He is as hard core as Uther Doul, but not as hard. He knows that the Lovers’ plan goes beyond just raising the avanc, the god whale.
While there are indications that there is more to the plan than just raising an avanc, it is not until after the raising that the full plan is revealed.
But that does not mean that one cannot speculate on the opposition to the raising itself. Using the avanc in much the same way as a seawyrm is bridled to a chariot ship, Armada will be able to increase its ability to move from one location to another at a remarkable rate. At the present, Armada can only go a few miles an hour, but with the avanc, that rate could increase to perhaps twenty or more. With this increase in speed comes the temptation to be ever more assertive. This new assertiveness could, potentially, lead to aggression and a confrontation with another power, like New Crobuzon. There is an encounter between the Militia and Armada later in the book, but a full scale war would most likely have a far different conclusion.
Perhaps this plays into the fact that Armada seems to be in a similar state of decline as New Crobuzon. While the Grand Easterly symbolically ended the period of New Crobuzon’s golden age, the acquisition of the ship may have signaled a similar weakening for the pirate city that the Lovers wish to restore.
But I will deal with their wider plans later.