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Embassytown | [China Mieville]

Embassytown

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 sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak....
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (513 )
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3.8 (391 )
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4.1 (388 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Durham, NC USA 08-16-11
    Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Durham, NC USA 08-16-11 Member Since 2013

    I'm a voracious audiobibliophile, mainly interested in speculative fiction, with the occasional mimetic fiction or non-fiction title sneaking in.

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    "Best of Audible SFF, May 2011"

    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.

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margit D. Morawietz Albuquerque, NM United States 06-10-12
    Margit D. Morawietz Albuquerque, NM United States 06-10-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I tried"

    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.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Avondale, AZ, United States 06-07-11
    Amazon Customer Avondale, AZ, United States 06-07-11
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    "Creative but Mind Numbing"

    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.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    shamus b. woltz 04-12-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Good plot - poor story."

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Samuel 02-22-15
    Samuel 02-22-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Fantastic"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    bookgurl 11-24-14
    bookgurl 11-24-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Smart Humans-and-Aliens Story"
    Any additional comments?

    Excellent story of two cultures colliding: humans and fascinatingly strange aliens. This story is more focused and tighter than China Mieville's earlier (also excellent) work. Truly great.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin Herndon, VA, United States 06-26-14
    Kevin Herndon, VA, United States 06-26-14 Member Since 2011

    Checking out Brandon Sanderson's work

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    "Not a fan - but not entirely disappointed"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ecohippie United States 10-28-13
    Ecohippie United States 10-28-13 Member Since 2013
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    "A moving, thought-provoking, unique tale"
    What did you love best about Embassytown?

    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.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    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.


    What does Susan Duerden bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    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.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Only lies can set you free.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt Boston, MA, United States 04-01-13
    Matt Boston, MA, United States 04-01-13
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    "Thought provoking, good, not what I was expecting"
    What made the experience of listening to Embassytown the most enjoyable?

    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.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Embassytown?

    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


    Which character – as performed by Susan Duerden – was your favorite?

    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


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Reflections of a rogue simile


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Los Angeles, CA 09-24-12
    Amazon Customer Los Angeles, CA 09-24-12 Member Since 2011
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    "A Meditation on Language and the Mind"
    If you could sum up Embassytown in three words, what would they be?

    Challenging, thought-provoking


    Any additional comments?

    Once again China Mieville has put down a thought-provoking and totally unique story, one that takes on what it means to have a mind and to use language. Susan Duerden's narration was top of the line; as with the best in her profession, she brings something to the story rather than simply reading it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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