Embassytown

345 pages

English language

Published April 16, 2011 by Ballantine Books.

ISBN:
978-0-345-52449-2
Copied ISBN!
OCLC Number:
659766009

View on OpenLibrary

4 stars (90 reviews)

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.

3 editions

Embassytown is Memorable

3 stars

Embassytown is an interesting concept: both in the central role language plays in the story, and in the way how our protagonist is mostly an observer rather than an active figure in what feels like all but the last few chapters.

There are plenty of other interesting bits: the concept of floaking, a timeless commentary on AI, and a really cool fresh universe.

Unfortunately, the storytelling method also means the book is not very gripping: why should I read what Avice hears about or remembers, when I could read a different book where the protagonist has more agency? I'm happy I read a book told on this way, because at least now I know it's not for me.

However, the conflict resolution leading to the books ending is contrived. The writing is unbearable in the first chapter and pretentious for the first few after that. The timeline split is not …

Review of 'Embassytown' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

I, a non-zionist anarchist Israeli, read this book in English because Mieville, a marxist-leninist Brit, refuses to let his books be translated to Hebrew. I found this to be a rather silly affair, but, cutting to the crux of the matter: Embassytown is a story about colonialism, imperialism and early modern day capitalism, cleverly disguised as a story about two-mouthed, experts in bio-engineering and "bio-rigging", well - aliens. While Mieville's writing is lacking, in my opinion, a good amount of emotional force and is, unfortunely, tiring at times, his observations on the connection between socio-political oppression and the usage of language, which form the main axis around which the entire narrative is composed around, are illuminating and extremely valuable. To sum things up, this is a good educational and exciting book.

Review of 'Embassytown' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

A very thoughtful book about language and how aliens' language might be so truly alien from our own that we can't even begin to understand it.

Embassytown is a trading outpost on the world of the Ariekei (also known as The Hosts). The world is very foreign, but the Hosts have allowed the establishment of the town and attempts at communication and trade. The Ariekei language is impossible for normal humans to speak at all, however; their language must be spoken by two simultaneous voices and one single mind, all three working together to deliver the same message. As a result, only very specially trained sets of identical twins have been able to converse, and only very carefully. Also as a result, lying or even hypothetical imaginings are impossible among the Ariekei; they rely on examples as they can only refer to literal truths, and need to actually create real …

Review of 'Embassytown' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

I've said it before (admittedly, after having read only one of his books), and I'll say it again (now that I've read two): China Miéville is a master of gradually and surreptitiously introducing the reader to a new world, so that they don't notice the transition from not knowing about this world, to being immersed and engaged in its history.

Embassytown has a few parts, and in each one we see either a completely separate part of its unique world, or a completely new era of one we already know.

Language (sic) is used in such a way that the entire text feels otherworldly. This is achieved by carefully picked obscure words, the author's own neologisms, and a certain atmosphere and style that the author manages to imbue the text with. This is combined with passing references to varied cultures of a future human race that has expanded to many …

Review of 'Embassytown' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

Hmm I feel like I need to re-read this one. I'm surprised by my own rating!

I've thought back on this book from time to time, remembered it fondly, and had happy exchanges with other readers about it. I read it years ago before I had a goodreads account though... why the 3 stars, past-me? Did I have reservations that time and memory loss have sanded away? Or was I still in the "star-hoarding" phase, so concerned about a fantasy internal rating consistency that I clutched those 4 or 5 star ratings too tightly?

I have questions, and only I have the answers. Damn.

Review of 'Embassytown' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

I think China Mieville is tremendously inventive. In Embassytown (and a few others, really) he struggles to give his imaginings a structure in which I can really commit and invest. In a good portion of this one, I couldn't even conjure up mental images of what was going on, who the actors were, why any of these tribulations mattered. The ineffable remains un-effed.

That sounds a bit like what I would say about a one- or two-star novel, but this is worth more than that. I feel a bit inadequate to the work, really - like listening to a physicist talk about a few more dimensions than the one (three? four?) than I'm used to experiencing and just having to take her word for it. Physics and New Weird fiction - beyond my grasp.

Review of 'Embassytown' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

China Mieville does it again: an excellent book! This may be the best I've read from him yet (or best ever), though at the moment I can't decide if I like it more than [b:The City & The City|4703581|The City and the City|China Miéville|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320475957s/4703581.jpg|4767909].
The first ~third of the book is absolutely awesome. It's classic sci-fi like something you would expect from Asimov or Clarke.
The next ~third drags a bit, but only because the focus shifts a bit from being about the concepts to being about the plot/characters.
The final ~third is great and shines new light on that middle third that makes it quite exciting.
The ending is quite satisfying and the story overall doesn't feel as dark as some of his other works (I'm looking at you, [b:Perdido Street Station|68494|Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon, #1)|China Miéville|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1327891688s/68494.jpg|3221410]).
I love the way he expresses the Hosts' Language. It looks …

Review of 'Embassytown' on 'Storygraph'

4 stars

It takes a while to sink into this, to stop being vaguely confused and no longer need to reread sentences to see if you missed some context that would make sense of the whole thing. Similar to Gene Wolfe's SF, Miéville just throws the reader into the middle of this world and leaves them to muddle things out. Which on the one hand, sort of makes sense... Though on the other hand, not, because it leaves me to wonder who the narrator's intended audience is. Other Embassytowners? Off-worlders? Is it a private journal?

Otherwise, this is a brilliant book, exploring the role of language and figure of speech in psychology, and speculating on the role it might play in the lives and interactions of extraterrestrial sentient species.
The characters, even the only briefy-mentioned or wholly alien, are extremely well-fleshed, interesting, relateable. I got teary during a certain speech at the …

Review of 'Embassytown' on 'Storygraph'

3 stars

Initially reminiscent of Neal Stephenson's [b:Anathem|2845024|Anathem|Neal Stephenson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1224107150s/2845024.jpg|6163095], Embassytown starts off as a fantastically interesting sci-fi story of a world where language is everything. As the book progresses, however, it becomes more and more conventional, to the point where the last 20% of the book is a marauding alien army that can only be stopped by an unexpected hero injecting a sudden change into the system of the world. It's like Independence Day, but without the Macs.

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Subjects

  • Fiction
  • Space warfare
  • Human-alien encounters
  • Loyalty
  • Life on other planets