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)
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.
No. The book is great. The story is great (when it picks up). And the recording is great. However, the book is meant to offer commentary on language, and I had to look at Wikipedia for reference to understand a lot of the written subtlety of it. Also, one alien species speaks a language with two separate speaking organs making different simultaneous sounds. Narrator Susan Duerden uses sound editing to handle this brilliantly. However, it makes for a very difficult listening experience. I enjoyed the book, but would rather re-read a text copy.
The examination of language not as communicating merely what is but what could be is a fascinating phenomena. The protagonist is a "simile"--a living extension of Language. She acts "like a girl who ate what she was given." Thus, she is able to introduce new ideas to an alien culture by comparing other existing ideas to her--the girl who ate what she was given. An addict consumes a drug "like the girl who ate what she was given." That whole idea--making people into similes, into extensions of language--is absolutely astounding!
This is difficult. A few scenes come to mind. One small scene was when someone's biomechanic prosthetic sprouted an ear to listen to an addictive linguistic drug being spoken. That small detail really intrigued me and served as a great metaphor for addiction and technology.
"In space, nobody can hear your two speaking organs scream!"China Mieville has many books worthy of movies. This one might be too smart for Hollywood to do.
China Mieville is an amazing author. Susan Duerden is a fantastic narrator!The story here is as captivating as the science fiction elements!However, this book is not always easy to listen to because of the complex nature of sometimes hearing two sounds spoken simultaneously for short monosyllabic names, greetings, and other moments.
Still, it was well worth the listen and I'm glad I purchased the book!
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.
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