Bas-Lag Reading Project- The Scar Part Six: Morning Walker

The penultimate part of The Scar, “Morning Walker,” references, obviously, the flagship of the New Crobuzon fleet that attacks Armada halfway through the part. “Morning Walker” actually has two battles- the Crobuzine attack and the capture of Silas Fennec.

Silas Fennec is a rat. He used whatever he stole from the Gengris (what everyone assumes to be the magus fin, and in reality in Fennec’s notebook) to entice, to blackmail New Crobuzon into mounting a rescue mission thousands of miles from home. And results in the loss of, allegedly, half the entire Crobuzine Navy.

What I find interesting about this whole thing is that the conflict did not need to happen. I understand why it happened, pirates never trust the authorities. And many of Armada’s Remade citizens would face brutality and renewed enslavement if New Crobuzon captured the city. Also, New Crobuzon has attacked Armada in the past when the two were on opposite sides in the Pirate Wars (which saw New Crobuzon completely annihilate the rival city state of Suroch (as mentioned in Perdido Street Station and here in The Scar). So, it is natural for Armada to distrust New Crobuzon intentions (even though the Pirate Wars occurred several centuries ago). And add to that the fact that the leaders of Armada (especially the Lovers) are highly aggressive. So a battle seems inevitable, and it creates a moment of tension that briefly threatens the completion of the Lover’s quest to the Scar.

About the battle itself, I am to a degree unsatisfied, unconvinced by it. I am not a military historian or any kind of expert, but I have a hard time seeing New Crobuzon actually losing the battle (as they do). It is clear that New Crobuzon has to lose the battle for the story to continue. But I don’t quite buy it. I can see that the cobbled together ship bombs would be effective, but that sudden introduction still does not satisfy me. And don’t even get me started on Uther Doul. Whenever he enters a battle, there is little chance of excitement because he always wins. And it gets rather boring.

But he does raise a question that struck my fancy. Was the fleet that attacked Armada really almost half their Navy? For the premiere power in Bas-Lag, the relative smallness of their fleet seems shocking. This raises more questions about New Crobuzon that I raised in my earlier series on Perdido Street Station– how powerful is New Crobuzon?

New Crobuzon is a city-state. And it seems that the city-state is the dominant political entity on Bas-Lag. When nations are mentioned, it is always uttered in terms of the core city. This may imply that all are city-states. A city-state has less resources than a larger state, but at the same time, the city-state does not have the same expenditures that a larger state would entail. So perhaps, my vision of a British comparable navy is off base.

Moving on from the battle, I want to focus more on Bellis Coldwine. Her confidence in herself, her comfort in her actions faces a devastating assault during the Crobuzine attack and the resulting events as she accepts her punishment for her unintentional treason (if you can even call her actions treasonous since she has no loyalty to Armada).

Coming so close to power in Armada, Bellis becomes “drunk” on her connections to Fennec, Doul, the project, and the Lovers. And she hopes to use those connections to foment dissent against the journey to the Scar. Her hopes are dashed as her usefulness is ended as Kruach Aum can understand Salt, Fennec’s betrayal, and Doul’s uncertain relationship.

Of course, as Bellis hopes to play Armada, she is played like a violin by Fennec and Doul. And she doesn’t even realize it until it is too late. That is Bellis’s sin though, her self importance and desire to see herself as special.



Posted on February 23, 2011, in Books and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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