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)
I read, I write; I listen
Embassytown is a very original and thought provoking story that truly needs the audio touch to be fully appreciated.
Set in an alien world in which humans and the indigenous species of evolved insects called Ariekei coexist; the story centers around language.
Few humans can speak the Ariekei language, those that can have been genetically altered and are called ambassadors.
For reasons that are explained the "ambassador" is always two separate people that share the single title.
Hearing the Ariekei language spoken, by the ambassador and the Ariekeis, is one of the main reasons the audio version of this story is needed to fully appreciate what China Mi??ville has created.
In my opinion most books are enhanced in the audio format but still can be enjoyed as a read; for this story audio is a must.
This listen is truly amazing on several different levels. The mind expanding sci fi imagery is accessible and believable. It is an achievement because there is none of the explanation of the technology like most hard sci fi fans demand, but is well integrated in the plot, above and is satisfying.
The exploration of language as a main theme would generally not draw me in when I want to listen to sci-fi, but in this novel, it is brilliantly done.
Finally, it is almost an evolution of the literary sci-fi of Dan Simmons, but not as dependant on reworking older styles and themes, although there are plenty of allusions.
Before I listened to this I liked but didn't love China Mieville, but after this ....wow!
And don't get the impression the this will be an ethereal, high brow, listen. It's not. But the fact that it is so multi layered is what makes what will be a sci-fi classic.
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.
Like all of Mieville's works, this book is incredibly imaginative. You don't have to worry about finding recycled plots or concepts here. There have been a few reviews stating that you have to spend too much time at the beginning trying to figure out what is happening, but I didn't think this was a problem. The things you need to know are made clear. The book is written as if you were a contemporary of the main character. If I were relating a tale of my life, I'd just say I made a call. I wouldn't spend two pages explaining how a cell phone works.
Susan Duerden does an amazing job narrating. This would be a very difficult text to read aloud and she appears to do so effortlessly. The minor "special effect" that is used when someone speaks Language was not distracting.
If you need everything spelled out for you, this will be a very unsatisfying read, but if you're ok not knowing every detail this story is amazing.
Sci-fi tends to explore either the extrapolation of the existing boundaries of science or wholly new directions in human imagination. Fertile areas include physics, cosmology, or biology. In Embassytown, Mieville, has chosen to explore a biological consequence, language, from a truly alien perspective. The story is told from the point of view of a human who grew up on this planet, left for a time and has now returned as things are beginning to fall apart. The alien species is intelligent, but their biology has evolved a form of language that is unique and greatly limiting: they are unable to lie. As a result we are entertained with a story of a species struggling to overcome their evolutionary history, while their human guests struggle to understand and survive. This is erudite hardcore sci-fi at its best.
Complex, original, and as the best speculative fiction does, this book immerses a reader in a world they never imagined. A stunningly creative and original writer. It had me wishing this world were real and at the same time dreading the dangers the characters faced. The answers to those dangers were truly haunting. The narration was a perfect match to the story. This is fiction operating way at the top of the curve and a writer like no other. I'd be happy to see a sequel, another adventure in this world, or anything else Mr. Mieville wants to write. I've read three of his novels and will be reading all of them.
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.
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.
I like this kind of sci-fi: re-write the rules and setting for what is possible, yet keep us "mere humans" engaged with the parallels to our own reality (politics, community, transcending barriers, etc.). This audible book was "work" for me...a few times I thought about canceling the book and taking a credit, but there was an underlying draw to the subject matter ("language") that permeated my waking hours and I'd check in for "just a bit more" and it would lead me further down the rabbit hole. You have to pay attention! I've heard China Mieville's books could be challenging, and now I know what that means. Near the beginning of the book, I actually downloaded a sample of the Kindle book and read it the old(new) fashioned way which rekindled (yup, pun) my interest in the audible book. Something about reading it slowed down my intake of info and I enjoyed lingering on the images and style of the writer. My son told me about it and I first suggested he read it, not listen...but the narrator is so darn good (I'm now a fan). I persevered and felt very much rewarded for my "efforts". Had to go back several times if, I were listening while driving, or other hands-busy-mind-free task, I didn't pay enough attention to the story. I loved the concept and the audible reward when "language" was referred to with dual sounds--first time I heard it, it game me mental goosebumps. Grand scope of a book that covers a basic problem: communication between sentient beings. Will rest my brain and perhaps check out some of China's other books.
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