China Miéville doesn’t follow trends, he sets them. Relentlessly pushing his own boundaries as a writer—and in the process expanding the boundaries of the entire field—with Embassytown, Miéville has crafted an extraordinary novel that is not only a moving personal drama but a gripping adventure of alien contact and war.
In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak. Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.
When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties—to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.
©2011 China Mieville (P)2011 Random House
"I cannot emphasize enough how terrific this novel is. It's definitely one of the best books I've read in the past year, perfectly balanced between escapism and otherworldly philosophizing.” (Io9.com)
I read, I write; I listen
Embassytown is a very original and thought provoking story that truly needs the audio touch to be fully appreciated.
Set in an alien world in which humans and the indigenous species of evolved insects called Ariekei coexist; the story centers around language.
Few humans can speak the Ariekei language, those that can have been genetically altered and are called ambassadors.
For reasons that are explained the "ambassador" is always two separate people that share the single title.
Hearing the Ariekei language spoken, by the ambassador and the Ariekeis, is one of the main reasons the audio version of this story is needed to fully appreciate what China Mi??ville has created.
In my opinion most books are enhanced in the audio format but still can be enjoyed as a read; for this story audio is a must.
This listen is truly amazing on several different levels. The mind expanding sci fi imagery is accessible and believable. It is an achievement because there is none of the explanation of the technology like most hard sci fi fans demand, but is well integrated in the plot, above and is satisfying.
The exploration of language as a main theme would generally not draw me in when I want to listen to sci-fi, but in this novel, it is brilliantly done.
Finally, it is almost an evolution of the literary sci-fi of Dan Simmons, but not as dependant on reworking older styles and themes, although there are plenty of allusions.
Before I listened to this I liked but didn't love China Mieville, but after this ....wow!
And don't get the impression the this will be an ethereal, high brow, listen. It's not. But the fact that it is so multi layered is what makes what will be a sci-fi classic.
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 like this kind of sci-fi: re-write the rules and setting for what is possible, yet keep us "mere humans" engaged with the parallels to our own reality (politics, community, transcending barriers, etc.). This audible book was "work" for me...a few times I thought about canceling the book and taking a credit, but there was an underlying draw to the subject matter ("language") that permeated my waking hours and I'd check in for "just a bit more" and it would lead me further down the rabbit hole. You have to pay attention! I've heard China Mieville's books could be challenging, and now I know what that means. Near the beginning of the book, I actually downloaded a sample of the Kindle book and read it the old(new) fashioned way which rekindled (yup, pun) my interest in the audible book. Something about reading it slowed down my intake of info and I enjoyed lingering on the images and style of the writer. My son told me about it and I first suggested he read it, not listen...but the narrator is so darn good (I'm now a fan). I persevered and felt very much rewarded for my "efforts". Had to go back several times if, I were listening while driving, or other hands-busy-mind-free task, I didn't pay enough attention to the story. I loved the concept and the audible reward when "language" was referred to with dual sounds--first time I heard it, it game me mental goosebumps. Grand scope of a book that covers a basic problem: communication between sentient beings. Will rest my brain and perhaps check out some of China's other books.
Not a mainstream reader.
If this is the future of science fiction authors, I hope that I live long enough to see the next next millennium. "Embassytown" is the best sci fi book that I've read all year. I cannot thank my friend enough for introducing me to this author. China Mieville is one the best upcoming authors that I've ever read. I dug every minute of Embassytown. Finished the book over the weekend and I couldn't wait to listen to more. Excellent sci-fi. It could not be much better. I'm hook at Mieville's madness. Like an addict, walking the streets to get another fixed, I cannot get enough of Mieville.
His style of storytelling is a cross between of Neal Stephenson and the Japanese author, Haruki Murakami. They write straight to the point and present themselves at being bizarre, which always been the norm.
This was one of the best credits that I've spent in a long time on Audible.
Susan Duerden did an absolutely brilliant job of narrating this exceptional novel! I am certain that my enjoyment of "Embassytown" was significantly enhanced by her performance.
This is my first exposure to the writing of China Mieville and I am so blown away. This is best scifi I have read in a very long time. A mesmerizing story populated with fascinating characters - human, alien and machine - set (mostly) on a planet at the very edge of the known universe.
I just can't find the words to express how amazing this novel is. Highly recommended for any SciFi fan and for anyone with an interest in language.
Sci-fi tends to explore either the extrapolation of the existing boundaries of science or wholly new directions in human imagination. Fertile areas include physics, cosmology, or biology. In Embassytown, Mieville, has chosen to explore a biological consequence, language, from a truly alien perspective. The story is told from the point of view of a human who grew up on this planet, left for a time and has now returned as things are beginning to fall apart. The alien species is intelligent, but their biology has evolved a form of language that is unique and greatly limiting: they are unable to lie. As a result we are entertained with a story of a species struggling to overcome their evolutionary history, while their human guests struggle to understand and survive. This is erudite hardcore sci-fi at its best.
Like all of Mieville's works, this book is incredibly imaginative. You don't have to worry about finding recycled plots or concepts here. There have been a few reviews stating that you have to spend too much time at the beginning trying to figure out what is happening, but I didn't think this was a problem. The things you need to know are made clear. The book is written as if you were a contemporary of the main character. If I were relating a tale of my life, I'd just say I made a call. I wouldn't spend two pages explaining how a cell phone works.
Susan Duerden does an amazing job narrating. This would be a very difficult text to read aloud and she appears to do so effortlessly. The minor "special effect" that is used when someone speaks Language was not distracting.
If you need everything spelled out for you, this will be a very unsatisfying read, but if you're ok not knowing every detail this story is amazing.
With this book, China Mieville proves he has one of the most original voices in modern American literature. Of course, to the casual observer, the weird aliens, strange technology and bizarre geography that form the surface of most science fiction seem original, but the truth is that a lot of scifi is hackneyed and repetitive. There are no new stories, only retreads of a few standard plots that regularly make the rounds. Humanity is always right, the bad guy will get his comeuppance, and the hero will get the girl. And not to nit pick, but the linguist in me often wonders why every alien we encounter magically speaks American English, or has a translator gizmo that has no problem figuring out a new lexicon in a matter of hours (and this is worse on TV or in the movies, where the Magic Translator often figures things out within minutes or even seconds).
Not so in Embassytown. The humans living on this backwater world at the far edge of the galaxy know they are only there at the sufferance of the native beings, but due to a language barrier, they don’t know much more than that. The aliens of the planet Ariekei are so different from humans, think so differently, see life from such a different angle, that communication with them is nearly impossible, even after many generations. Mieville unfolds his story bit by bit, so that the reader has an impartial understanding of what is actually going on, just as do all of the characters in the book. The true depth of the misunderstanding unfolds slowly, but each revelation is fascinating and makes the reader yearn to learn more about the mysterious Hosts.
I don’t want to say more because it might give away too much. I want to acknowledge that I listened to this as an audio book read by Susan Duerden. Her narration was wonderful, and included some excellent sound effects that helped me “hear” what the Ariekei Language *might* sound like.
Complex, original, and as the best speculative fiction does, this book immerses a reader in a world they never imagined. A stunningly creative and original writer. It had me wishing this world were real and at the same time dreading the dangers the characters faced. The answers to those dangers were truly haunting. The narration was a perfect match to the story. This is fiction operating way at the top of the curve and a writer like no other. I'd be happy to see a sequel, another adventure in this world, or anything else Mr. Mieville wants to write. I've read three of his novels and will be reading all of them.
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