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)
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 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.
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.
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.
Yes, because it is so unusual...and interesting.
The greatest new sci-fi since "Aliens".
Incredibly different story. Very involving. The characters were always surprising. I enjoyed the first person perspective in this story.
The author comes up with premise that is very imaginative, and therefore thought provoking
The double voices were a nice touch
I would love to be an editor in the audio world.
This book is disjointed and you spend most of your time trying to figure out where the story is going. This is my first China Mieville book and will be my last.
I have listened to The City and the City and The Kraken and have got used to John Lee. That said, given the fantastic reviews for Susan Duerden, I really wanted to give her a chance. I could not get used to her monotonous, deadpan narration. I could barely distinguish between narration and dialogue for the most part. The double voice was really interesting, but beyond that, not so much. I don't think John Lee would have been the right narrator for this story, but I did not like Susan much. So much so, I moved to the print book to finish it. I couldn't bear the thought of having to slog through 8 more hours of this monotonous rendition to get to the end of the story.
The story was a bit dark for me. The other Mievilles I've read have seemed almost farcical, this one just seemed to get dark. I was reminded of The Mote in God's Eye in the second half of the book. I did not enjoy this as much as the others I've read. The premise of the story was interesting, I unfortunately guessed what was to come before the reveal so it was a bit spoiled for me. In the end - a lot happened in a very short period. All in all, meh!
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