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)
Takes me a year to read a paper book, three pages a night before I crash. Audible has increased my reading by an unknowable percentage.
My wife always asks me what I'm reading (listening) and I'm usually not at a loss to tell her what a book is about. This has been the case with all of Mr. Mieville's books so far, and the more so with Embassytown. One good thing about his work is that he doesn't spend any time with set-up. He doesn't go out of his way to explain things... you have to get it from context as the book moves along. Embassytown was rough going at first, but well worth the effort to keep at it.
Having said that, Mieville is one of the most imaginative authors I've read. His command of English is remarkable and he spins a great yarn. This author has a big vocabulary and he's sent me to the dictionary more than once. One small negative: He beats the heck out of the word "palimpsest" in "Perdido Street Station".... but palimpsest is a good word and Mieville uses it very well, every time.
Like all of his books, there is no explanation for what is happening, but the story is so cleverly constructed that partial understanding soon follows. His stories never end with complete explanations and the lack of full understanding is, in my view, one of the hallmarks of his brand of speculative fiction. The prose quality is excellent and the reader is clear and articulate. Mr Mieville's mind and imagination are, as always, outstanding. This is almost as good as the Scar which I believe to be his best. Great listen, well worth the credit and probably essential to read a couple of times.
I have listened to this book, rapt, within 48 hours. Wonderful, flourished descriptions and practically made for an audiobook experience. Such gorgeous language, narration, and narrative...
2 stars for 3 reasons. Though not one of China's best books, the story plot/theme is interesting enough, but it feels like a short story stretched out. Then, for me, the reading is ruined by over-dramatization. I got tired of the dramatic tone she constantly uses for almost every sentence and dialog. And finally, I don't mind a British accent, as I thoroughly enjoyed the reading of The City and the City and even liked Perdido Street Station but the accent of the reader in this story is too far from mainstream and distracting.
This would have been a better book to read.
The City and the City is absolutely brilliant - one of my all time favorite reads. Perdido Station was unrelenting and pointless grotesquerie and I regret reading it deeply - but I recognize the originality and intelligence of it. This one I can't seem to keep my mind on. I've listened to perhaps a third of it and it's getting kind of painful trying to find any meaning in it. The main character is involved in a marriage with a man she really loves but the sex was so bad they no longer bother with it and get good sex elsewhere and hardly have anything to do with each other. Um, doesn't that make them just friends? She is supposedly an actual piece of another species' language. Um. This should be explained in the beginning. I've read too far into the book and don't understand what that's all about and I no longer care. I guess that's the problem. I don't care about the characters, they don't seem interesting or particularly deserving.
So, I gave this 3 stars, and that's not very good. That said, I think this book is probably amazing, but it's just so complicated. Mieville bit off a lot with this exploration of language using aliens. You need to be a reader/listener who can listen to an audiobook attentively enough that you do not miss details. Because I promise you, if you zone out or lose focus, you will have to rewind! For that reason, I feel like this is not a good choice to listen to as an audiobook as opposed to reading as text.
The performance is a little tough for me. The reader is British. I am not British, but I've certainly listened to plenty of audiobooks narrated by British people and enjoyed them. However, in this case, the performance seemed a bit of a British accented drone to me, which made the complex material all that much more difficult to follow in audio format.
My husband and I had long talks after both listening to this book, so despite my negativity here, it is an intellectually stimulating book. If you like Mieville in general you may enjoy this book, but it's not an easy listen.
The author could have showed up in the first 18 chapters.
The Art of War.
I think she was even confused for the first 18 chapters.
The author of the book. Oh, that's right he is not a homonym!
Dry reading. This book should be used as ..... Whom ever thought, "This author thinks out of the box"; sorry. If young readers were to have to read this book in school; no one would ever want to read another book...ever. Tragic.
Very engaging and challenging. The way the author kept the reader in the dark with the use of Language and language. Similes versus metaphors. It's like a puzzle for the reader to solve while being immersed in a story about a human colony on a alien planet. I listened to this as an audiobook. I can't imagine reading this because of terms. After a slow start, it picked up speed because I wanted to learn about the terms that drove the plot. This was a true production for an audiobook and the narrator was superb.
Some need to have everything explained to them with alot of action and movement. This book is like stepping into a real, working culture. It doesnt explain itself, doesnt define its idiomatic expressions or its history to the visitor like a museam exhibit, It just IS and you are left to figure it out. It is like dropping yourself into a foreign country and getting to know it without an interpreter. I loved it.
As you would expect from the China Mieville book, there are some unique and original concepts being presented here alongside the life story of Avice Benner Cho who has a profound and compelling arc. It's excellently narrated by Susan Duerden.
You'll be forgiven for thinking it has a slow start - I only realised about halfway through that Mieville had been subtly exposing me to all the information I'd need later in the book. He's an expert at presenting the reader with the complex concepts surrounding his storytelling without you even realising it. You just find yourself swept along with the story.
This one won't be for everyone - it's much heavier going than something like Kraken - but is well worth it. This is fine example of hard science fiction!
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