Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
I tend not to write much about books I did not care for or totally understand. This book qualifies for both. Rather than any kind of rational or critical analysis I can only offer here feelings and opinion. Actually, this is the second of three books of Mieville that I pretty much felt that way about. But this was a book I really wanted to like and appreciate. It is a book about language and few things in the world fascinate me more than the subject of language.
I was part of a Goodreads group that read this piece together. I thought that would help. What I believe I did glean was that I was not the only one who struggled with this book. The fact is I generally enjoy tough books. Something I can really sink my teeth into. But the result of all this reader's intellectual mastication was mostly pretty bland. For the life of me I kept getting the feeling that one of Mieville's intentions was to make for a difficult read and not because the story called for it but just to be a pain in the ass.
I had to step back before writing anything about this book. I read five or six other books since finishing Embassytown. I thought maybe it would give me a more favorable perspective... 'didn't work.
I'm actually a bit angry still so I'm going to leave it at that before I get in too deeply. BTW, I'm not angry with CM. I get angry with me when I force myself to finish a book that I'm totally bored with most of the way through. My time is precious and this book just took too much of it.
I'm a voracious audiobibliophile, mainly interested in speculative fiction, with the occasional mimetic fiction or non-fiction title sneaking in.
Narrated by Susan Duerden, whose previous titles include Android Karenina, China Mieville???s Embassytown is my pick for the best science fiction and fantasy title to be released at Audible.com in May 2011. Duerden ably pilots us through the dense linguistic plot, and nice production touches give listeners a flavor of the Ariekei tongue of which readers can only be jealous, mashing words on top of each other to create a truly alien effect. (Here is a short, low-fi clip of me saying ???Jeff??? and ???Chi??? overtop each other in a similar way to give ???JeffChi???.) Meanwhile the book never devolves into pointless and expansive background and detail, without leaving us truly in the dark. In short, Mieville creates an alien world and lets it breathe, with the sometimes horrific suffocation this can imply. That said, the book opens with an intimidating series of undefined terminology, and alternates chronology from ???formerly??? to the present, and is a challenging book to unravel ??? to the point of, at times, an exasperated ???what is going on???? Sticking it out, however, is plenty rewarding.
Got to about 3/4 and gave up. Now that will say something; I'm normally feeling obligated to finish a book, if I can. I've really tried to like Mieville. The synopsis always sound so fascinating. I blamed part of my problems with 'Perdido Station' on Lee's narration [ I experience Lee as undigestible] This one was a different narrator, who did okay, a different story from 'Perdito Station', but so bleak, so confusing that I could not find it in me to finish this one. The aliens are just too mysterious and I did not get anywhere with their description and all the humans seemed to have been beamed over from '1984', they are depressed, scared furtive. Maybe I'm just not artistic enough to get it.
I'm all for creativity in a story, which Mieville does superb, but this story meanders aimlessly. I'm almost halfway through and just hanging on hoping it will get better. Aside from nonexistent action in the vague plot, the author insist on throwing in so much "Embassytown" techno jargon, that I'm often left hoping that eventually the author will reveal things, that usually are left for you to figure out or decipher yourself. The narrator doesn't help much, nor does the fact that it is read with a British accent, making it feel more like a Dr. Who episode.
I finished only because I felt like the uncomprehending alien characters: sure that something worthwhile must be about to happen because of all the energy that was wasted up to that point. Beating my head against a wall or my office chair helped to pass the time while these words happened to me.
The binary voices were presented well and the reader was quite pleasant. I have no complaint with the Audible production.
The author didn't excellent job of world building and character development. The idea or plot behind the story was very good too. Unfortunately the way the author told the story the reader /listener could often get lost. The author did not put enough detail and explanation at the beginning of a story or a new element in the story for the reader to fully understand and visualize what was happening or what was going on. The narrator did an excellent job of making sense of the story for the listener. The voice characterization was done very.
I can really only say that this was done ingeniously. I had thought this was a premise that would be hard to pull off in audio book, with so many unpronounceable words and difficult ideas you have to go back with, but if anything that all adds to this books accessibility. Having listened to this I feel like I know so much more about how Language worked than I did just reading the book.
Checking out Brandon Sanderson's work
I am glad I listened to this as an audiobook. I would never have survived the paperback. This story takes a long time to get going and requires you to learn a new set of coloquialisms including a double speech ability. The story does become more interesting, but it hard to get into it at the beginning.
There are some interesting ideas - the houses, vehicles, weapons are all organic plants/animals that are taught to form certain objects. The idea that the native creatures can never lie is also intriguing. I was never sold on the "addiction" to a particular human pair of speakers - humans that communicate with the natives must talk at the same time which requires special brain communication.
But overall, this was work. The performance is great and made the book bareable.
This is a big ideas story. Sometimes I had to pause the book so I could just spend a while with all the thoughts it had provoked. This, to me, is the best measure of a book: if it changes the way you see the world.
Spanish Dancer! That's one of the Ariekei, the aliens in this book. I really liked the narrator, Avice, but in the end I admired Spanish Dancer the most, because ultimately it had to show the most courage.
This is a book you really must experience as an audiobook. She and the production team really bring to life the strange jargon and alien linguistics of the world of Embassytown.
Only lies can set you free.
The performance of the work is excellent; both the tone and the voice of the reader seem both appropriate for the story and flexible enough to carry multiple characters. The use of the doubled phrases for "Language" made it all the more compelling.
The time spent in Immer... I wish there were more of that, or perhaps a sequel that further explores what lies beyond Arieki in the Immer
Avice is an excellent, believable character... though I get great pleasure from hearing her work with the unusual, double-threaded voices of the ambassadors and Hosts
Reflections of a rogue simile
Very good book. Not quite what I expected, and did not go at all where I expected it to go - but I like that. More deeply thoughtful on the nature of language, thought and alien-ness than I was prepared for, and very well thought out.