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Old 2nd January 2007, 10:23 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

A thread for discussion of January's Book Club pick: Scar Night, by Alan Campbell.

If you've finished the book, remember that some of us might still be reading (and some of us might still be trying to find the book) so please use spoiler warnings where relevant.
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Old 4th January 2007, 07:03 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

A trailer for the book, for those interested....

YouTube - Scar Night book trailer
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Old 4th January 2007, 09:17 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

Well, I've now read the first chapter, courtesy of the good people at Spectra:

Bantam Dell Publishing Group: Scar Night by Alan Campbell

I must say that it was quite intriguing. Certainly by no means the greatest writing I have ever come across, but it was engaging. Campbell does a good job of setting the scene, creating in only a few pages the sense of a place unlike any I've come across in the genre. I love the idea of battle archons (angels) - for some reason that thought particularly drew me. From the looks of it, with any luck, that will be further explored as the novel progresses. All in all, a good start. I'll keep looking, and hopefully pick it up before January ends...
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Old 4th January 2007, 05:39 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

They didn't have the book at my local Borders (where I could have bought it with a gift card), so I ended up ordering it from amazon this week. It should arrive early next week.

In the meantime, I, too, read the online chapter (thanks for the link, Culhwch). It is intriguing. But then I have a weakness for books about dark, decaying cities. I'm eager to see if the rest of the book measures up to that first impression.
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Old 4th January 2007, 08:48 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

Thanks for the link, Culhwch! My copy of the book should be here in a few days, so it was fun to read the first chapter ahead of time. I really like the book so far- Dill seems like a very interesting character!
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Old 6th January 2007, 01:34 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

The book arrived much quicker than I would have dreamed possible (quicker than Amazon dreamed possible, too, since they gave me an estimated delivery date of January 9th).

After three chapters and a prologue, I'm a bit miffed by the degree of intentional obscurity (meant, no doubt, to pique the reader's curiosity), but I'm loving the setting and as much as I'm able to fathom of the characters and their situation seems quite interesting.

OK, it should be obvious that I'm not a fan of artful mystification, but in spite of that this looks like it is going to be a very good book.
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Old 6th January 2007, 02:01 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

Teresa,

Don't expect much clarity for a while. The world building keeps going right to the end, but with increasing clarity.
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Old 6th January 2007, 08:59 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

I'm about 200 pages through so far. Been busy with Xmas and preparing to go away for two months (I leave tonight). But I will have time at the airport and when I arrive where I'm staying. I think I should have it finished soon. I will have internet access where I am, so I'll still be able to participate!

I actually found it a little slow-going at first, especially the first chapter with Mr Nettle, but that could possibly have been because of my mood and not the actualy book. Or it could have been all those street names that confused me!
Now I'm pretty engrossed, there's some great ideas in there, even though I do agree with Teresa's "intentional obscurity" comment. The setting is very interesting, I like the mix of old and new sensibilities, with swords but also airships etc. I'm also hopeful about some big battles in this book or the subsequent ones!
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Old 6th January 2007, 09:52 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

Dangit all! My copy should have arrived long before this. I wanted to read the whole thing before everyone and say 'Nyah, nyah!' I've lost my chance for a silly childish gloat! Hopefully it will arrive soon enough for me to at least join in on the discussion. If not, I'll just have to revive the thread long after it is dead and confuse everyone :-P
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Old 6th January 2007, 11:42 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

Got my copy for Christmas! Not started yet as I have to finish my off-line book club book by Tuesday next and still got a long way to go.

My one concern is that the book seems a little on the thick side to get finished in January with all my other reading commitments. Still, I'll give it a go.
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Old 7th January 2007, 04:46 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

Quote:
Originally Posted by dwndrgn View Post
If not, I'll just have to revive the thread long after it is dead and confuse everyone :-P
Don't worry, DD, I'll join you. I'm still hunting it down. So help me I'll find it if it's the last thing I bloody do....
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Old 7th January 2007, 07:56 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

I'm about halfway through. I find it interesting the way my perspective on each character keeps altering (a neat trick on the part of the author), but I can't help feeling that at this point I should know what I'm supposed to be hoping for and/or dreading for the main characters. As it is, I'm feeling a little detached.

(Still loving the worldbuilding and the descriptions, though.)
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Old 8th January 2007, 02:33 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

I'm up to part 2 now, and I'm still a bit confused about everything, but I am enjoying the book because of the interesting world and fascinating characters.
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Old 8th January 2007, 05:38 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

I finished the book last night. I've tried to avoid spoilers here, but in some cases, even though I speak in generalities, you might be able to infer certain events from what I say, so I will mark those spots with "spoiler alert."

The city-in-chains setting intrigued me; it's unique and atmospheric.

Dill and Rachel are interesting characters. Their problems (low self-esteem, physically oppressive environments, and in Rachel's case, a desire to turn off her emotions in order to deal with her death-dealing profession) made me sympathetic to both of them at the beginning of the novel. I would have liked to see more scenes of the two of them interacting and helping one another deal with these problems.

**SPOILER ALERT**
Carnival also interests me and engages my sympathy: after reading the prologue, I wanted to know more about her, and I'm glad that the book contains scenes from her point of view and that she plays a role in the main plot.
**END ALERT**

Each of the other characters has something that makes him (yes, "him," because all the other important characters are male) entertaining or interesting, and Campbell has taken care to ensure that no character is one-dimensional: all contain an often quirky mixture of admirable and undesireable traits. But I was increasingly frustrated by the amount of time the book spends focusing on these other characters--Devon the Poisoner in particular. I wanted to watch Rachel and Dill interact with one another, so I had to resist the urge to skim chapters in which they do not appear.

**SPOILER ALERT**
It felt to me like Campbell is setting up Devon to be a recurring character in later books, and that's why Devon's point of view takes up so much space. The same may be true of Mr. Nettle. But some of the other point-of-view characters certainly cannot be continuing.
**END ALERT**

Overall, I ended up feeling less connected to the characters--less in fear for their safety or involved in the emotions or caring about what happens to them--than I would have liked. I felt somewhat removed from them. Perhaps that is in part because there are so many point-of-view characters. But that can't be the only reason, because I've felt tightly connected to characters in other books with multiple POV characters.

Maybe I was removed from the characters because I sometimes felt as if the author was standing back and making fun of them--well, no, "fun" is too strong a word; Campbell doesn't make fun of them . . . but there's an "aren't these people quirky" distance at times, an impression that the characters are the way they are because that makes them cleverly entertaining. Theoretically, Campbell gives each character depth and complex emotions, but I ended up too often watching Campbell rather than being thoroughly engrossed and truly believing in the characters' reality.
(In comparison, Terry Pratchett writes clever characters and winks at contemporary understanding, but I still become engrossed by his characters. Is that only because Pratchett doesn't switch POV so often? I don't know. I'm at loss to explain my reaction.)

I didn't mind the delay in finding out what was going on in the city and below the city; putting together clues can be fun. I did make wrong guesses, which is no big deal; that's part of the fun. But . . .

**SPOILER ALERT**
Parts of the ending fell flat. After all the buildup, I expected a war between the abyss and the city, and that's not what we get. Instead, we focus on Devon's machinations with the tribesman. And Ulcis--well, he is rather easily dispatched, I think, even though it is appropriate and satisfying that Carnival is his undoing.
**END ALERT**

Which is not to say that I regret reading Scar Night. I am glad that I read it, glad that I met Carnival and Dill and Rachel. I think Campbell does a deft job of offering description: not too much, not too little; he connects description to the action, offering the reader evocative images that enhance rather than interfere with what the characters are doing.

But what in the heck happens to all those snails?


(Oh, one other thing: as I read, I kept thinking about Philip Reeve's The Mortal Engines. Both give me somewhat the same feeling. That's not a bad thing. I just wonder if any of you thought the same.)
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Old 10th January 2007, 06:17 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Scar Night: January Book Club Discussion

I thought of Mortal Engines, too.

Now I'm a little more than 3/4 through it, and I'm pretty much in agreement with everything you've said. Maybe if I wasn't reading it in bits and snatches -- if I had time to read it all the way through in a few long sittings which is my usual way with something I'm really enjoying -- I would feel more involved with the characters. Although I can't help thinking that if the plot and characters were more involving I'd be more impatient and unhappy about my limited reading time.

I'm not sure that the number of viewpoint characters is the problem, or even how much time he spends with each one. Those I find genuinely sympathetic, there doesn't seem to be that much to tell. Dill is so guileless and inexperienced, it makes him likeable, but that doesn't provide much fodder for in depth exploration of his psyche. Other characters don't seem to have much going on beneath an engaging, quirky surface, either. Carnival is someone I would like to know much more about, but since so much of her history is a blank even to her ...

It seems like the most interesting character of all is the city of Deepgate itself, and fortunately I do find that one sufficiently fascinating to keep on reading those bits and snatches.
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