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)
This is a solid, slow pace, well thought out novel. It deals with how language and the brain interact to produce culture, and how alien cultures will have alien languages and will have motivations and desires completely alien to us. It's a first contact novel that takes place hundreds of years later when forces conspire to tilt the careful balance of Embassytown off kilter.
However, it is both dense with ideas and not an engaging writing style. Very interesting; many ideas that you must pay attention to. However, it's narrative didn't carry me away with it. But China Miéville paid good attention to the society and characters of the Embassytown compared to the rest of the galaxy, as well as the alienness of the Hosts and their unique language.
Rated: PG13 for violence, strong despairing situations
Static or Dynamic: Relatively static story; there are strong plot arcs but for the most part the story has a localized concept; it's not an adventure book.
1st or 3rd Person: 1st person female
Abstract or Concrete: Leans more towards abstract. Most of the intrigue of the book is what is hypothesized about the actions that happen. The content is intellectually challenging and thrilling. You really have to think about some of the events to get a real appreciation for the book. large chunks of it are hard science but it's not the purpose of the story.
Linear or Non-Linear: Linear; the story progresses firmly down a timeline and tells a story.
Narrator: The story telling is done quite well. At parts I was a little out of touch with the reader but it's a long book and so that should be expected. Her inflections can become emotional though a lot of the story is her internal dialogue which is "cool".
Plot Outline: In a distant space port on the edge of known hyper-space, a race of creatures has a very unique way of communicating that has shaped the culture and epistemology of the local earthen colony. The story progresses as the unique barriers of the communication become more and more complicated.
Embassytown is a rich, vivid imagining; everything one would expect of China Mieville. It's an intelligent medidation on isolation, and on the power of language to break through (or appear to break through, with many side-effects and consequences) that isolation.
I very much wish I had just picked up the text rather than the audiobook, though. The narrator's overly-dramatic rendering of voices and emotions makes several pivotal moments in the audiobook nearly un-listenable. Her 'Posh Spice' rendering of the protagonist's voice destroys any credibility that character might have had. The narrator also reads certain dialogue with a spitting, acerbic, anger that is completely inappropriate to the text, and has one repeatedly wishing that there were a button to move the track *forward* 30 seconds.
In Embassytown, Mieville once again slips your brain into realms it never could have imagined. Stupendous ideas brilliantly developed. Duerden's narration could not be improved upon.
It's very original, interesting and even suspenseful but the author seems to be obsessed with his treatment of the "language" and the story gets to almost becoming an academic essay in the field of linguistics.
I am not sure who is to blame for this low rating, the author or editor. What this book lacks is a prolog & glossary to 'set the stage', or world.... you will waste 50% of the book trying to figure out what is happening and the last 50% wondering if it's worth your time to continue..... you make the choice
As fascinating as the world created by the author is...I became bored with the endless detail and lack of a gripping storyline. A disappointing read/listen after "The City and the City".
Several hours in to this book, essentially nothing had happened. Note that I'm an avid reader/listener of sci-fi, mystery, and literary fiction, and I don't mind a book that eases in to a story gently, but this book was boring beyond belief. It goes on and on about the main character being a "simile," part of the "hosts" language. Great, very clever. Now what is the point please, is anything going to actually happen.
It just didn't hold my interest, though I gave it several hours.
I spent three hours listening and now I give up. Shouldn't a novel have a plot? This is, without question, the worst book I have ever downloaded. Don't waste your time or money.
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