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
"It's a bewitching performance by a writer who deserves praise for daring to do something rare among writers of his stature: He's willing to walk the high wire without a net." (The Millions)
"Miéville is up to something else. In the case of 'Embassytown'... with his usual confident ambition [he] takes its monsters and spaceships deep into the zone of overlap between linguistics and politics." (The New York Times)
"Embassytown... works on every level, providing compulsive narrative, splendid intellectual rigour and risk, moral sophistication, fine verbal fireworks and sideshows, and even the old-fashioned satisfaction of watching a protagonist become more of a person than she gave promise of being." (The Guardian)
This is a proper, muscular SF novel that grabs you by the arm and pulls you right in. It sets the stage magnificently, laying out a believable society with enjoyably mind-boggling features. At first, quite a lot is left half-explained, and only make sense later: this is really delicious, and skilfully done.
This stage-setting takes up a huge chunk of the book, but it’s so fascinating I could have lapped up quite a lot more. When the plot gets going, things get a bit hectic, but it’s worth holding on tight right to the end. There are some nice twists, plenty of momentum, and a good resolution.
The whole issue of language is so often dismissed or sidestepped in SF, but here it’s at the heart of things. China Mieville has actually done something new here.
There’s a special kind of shivery exhilaration that only high-class SF can deliver, and this story comes across with the goods. It’s also excellently read by Susan Duerden, who deftly fleshes out the characters (I particularly liked the way she voices the aliens and the AI) and makes them a bit more 3-D.
Basically, it’s a bit of a corker.
First of all, I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it without hesitation; the consistent complexity of the world that China Mieville creates is astonishing. I read a good deal of Sci-Fi and I like what traditionalists call 'the hard stuff', that is Sci-Fi needs to be believable and in keeping with known science - none of this dodging around asteroids or visible laser shot. The best stuff (for me) is explorations of how societies and individuals react given an incredible but ultimately believable backdrop. This is exactly what China Mieville does in this book and it is done very well.
So, why the 4 stars and not 5? Well, the main characters are very well formed - but some of the most important secondary characters in the book are a little two dimensional - we see some signs of clichéd 'bad guys' and 'good guys'. The alien race has build a complex and (at least) continent spanning civilisation, is capable of interacting with advance human visitors and yet, at the end, begins to operate with single unchallenged purpose - it feels as if the end was rushed, in contrast to the rest of the book which keeps a fairly measured (and some would say slow) pace.
This is a minor gripe and I don't want this review to sound negative - the book is very good and the narration is of high quality. It is because of the high standards that the book sets itself that such trivial niggles reveal themselves - I doubt a less accomplished story teller would have pulled this off with anything like the flair China does. All in all a good listen.
If you're looking for someone who brings something new to world of sci-fi you've come to the right place. If you took Arthur C Clarke and somehow blended him with Lewis Carrol I think you'd end up with someone like Chine Mieville. If you're looking for bland, formulaic sci-fi then this isn't the book for you but if you want something with an almost poetic language then you'll enjoy this reading. Susan Duerden does a fine job of narrating this - there's some very difficult language in use in this story, I've had to look up a couple of the words myself and I like to think I've got quite a broad vocabulary. A great story teller, I'd recommend this and Perdido Street Station just for the sheer imagination of them.
Way up there. I love this author's imagination.
The concept of the paired speakers was amazing.
Slightly disappointing, monotonous intonation patterns
Do you understand what I'm saying?
Interesting, imaginative language
Anyone. Toby Longworth maybe.
Frustrated by reader. Couldn't bear to finish it.
Any chance of another edition with another reader?
A story about philosophies of language, truth and thought becomes an action based adventure in Mieville's deft hands.
The world of a human city, the Embassy Town of the title, embedded within the strange and exotic City of the real inhabitants of the planet is vivid and fascinating. I've just started getting into Mieville, and I love the way he mixes the familar with the strange to create alien worlds that could be somewhere in another country on Earth whilst at the same time as being on the outer edges of the universe.
Susan Duerden gives an excellent reading, especially when, with aide of a little digital magic, creating the voices of the double mouthed inhabitants of the Embassytown world,
Interesting concept but felt a slog sometimes due to author dense and abstract storytelling. Not sure I'll try the author again anytime soon
The book is set on some faraway world, seemingly in an alternate dimension with different rules to our own. The story itself is about about the interactions between the humans and different races who inhabit these far reaches. But really the story is a fascinating exploration of language and communication.
This is not some "Star Trek" world where every species is humanoid and can communicate automatically. There are completely different concepts at play here. Unfortunately things don't always go to plan and from a slow start the story develops into a compelling and very unique read. I'd highly recommend Embassytown.
This is my first China Mieville book ever so I had no idea what to expect. I found it a little confusing to begin with but once I got into it I was hooked. I thought the production was outstanding and the reader superb. Conceptual complexities made the book difficult to listen to whilst otherwise occupied - it is so NOT background noise!
I'll definitely read another Mieville.
I loved the story and Mieville's ideas. I had to relisten to parts to get a better understanding of 'language' and how that works. Fasinating picture of an alien culture and it's interaction with the humans.
Why 4 and not 5 stars? The narrator!! Flat voice and irritating. I dont think I want to listen to another book read by her!
"Had a problem with narrator"
Perhaps, but with a different narrator,
Probably not. I couldn't get used to the way narrator puts emphasis in sentences and stretches the vowels although her speech is nice and clear.
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