The title of the book is also the main theme of the story - scars, and what they represent. The title is a bit heavy-handed, because scars are mentioned throughout the entire story with very little subtlety, always pointing back towards the title, always reminding you that today, class, we will be discussing scars. However, the story and the characters - all damaged, scarred, if you will - are written so well that this is completely forgiveable. I'm not really sure how the author carries this off, but it's a good trick (well, he carries it off with good writing, I suppose, but beyond that I've got nothing).
Miéville refers to his style as "weird fiction" after the style of Lovecraft, which would suggest that we are in for some strange and nightmarish creatures, and he does not disappoint. Sea monsters! Human prisoners punished by being remade into half-creature, or half-machine! A lot of different words that mean "vampire" (oupyr, loango, katalkana, haemophage, and ab-dead - I'll bet Buffy never knew all that)! As scary as these creatures are, however, none of them are two dimensional, merely evil and murderous without motivation (this same respect extends to the protagonists as well - he relies very little on cliches and archetypes). Also, like his fellow creator of "weird fiction" Guillermo del Toro in Pan's Labyrinth, Miéville explores the notion that storytelling helps us to persevere.
Above all, Miéville creates a world that is fully engrossing. The story takes place in a city that is constructed of a massive number of ships, and governed by pirates. The moving city travels slowly around the ocean, occasionally sending out invaders to claim other ships. The ships become part of the landscape, their crew becomes prisoner citizens - unable to leave the city, but now free and equal regardless of race or class, whether human, un-human, or remade. While reading, I found it very easy to imagine this world and immerse myself into it. The feeling of living in the story is possibly the part that I liked best.
Next up is Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite. In celebration of Halloween, I'm reading a vampire story. Last year I read Dracula to celebrate the holiday, and this year's selection is far more modern. Brite's novel is about vampires who gather in a club in North Carolina, and then go on a road trip to New Orleans, because that's where any American vampire really ought to be (for some unfathomable reason I started to write their road trip destination as South Carolina - which would make these vamps really lame). The comparisons to Anne Rice seem so obvious that I've decided to ignore them. I've heard good things about Brite, so I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt.