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43 of 54 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Embassytown is a Bremen colony on a planet bordering the farthest known reaches of space. The world is a strange mishmash of biological and technological species. Almost everything is part engineered and part living (architecture, flora, fauna, beings). Time is measured in kilohours. The relationship between the locals, their alien neighbors, and the Bremen Empire is tenuous. Embassytown is a bit of a back-water colony that largely exists under the radar of the ruling Empire on its distant planet - at least that's how it appears. The strange alien race that has accepted the Embassytowners into its midst is the Ariekei. Their speech, or "Language", is unique in that it is comprised of two things spoken simultaneously. The local leaders of the colony, the Ambassadors, are the only ones who can communicate with the "Hosts" or Ariekei. Ambassadors are two people bred and engineered so that they can be of one mind and speak simultaneously in "Language". "Language" is also unique in that it is literal and truthful. There is no symbolism in the language. Only what is can be spoken.

Avice Benner Cho, the narrator, was born and raised in Embassytown. She becomes an Immerser (someone who travels through space in the Immer - the timeless dimension in which the universe exists). During her travels, she meets and marries a linguist who is enamored with "Language". Together they return to Embassytown so he can study the strange language and they find themselves immersed in political and cultural upheaval.

To create the setting, the novel starts in two threads ("formerly" and "latterday") that finally meet and proceed to the book's conclusion. It is told entirely through the experience of Avice who is ultimately an impotent and uninteresting heroine. The narrative is revealed in endless summarizing and opining by the main character whose opinions count for very little. The reader doesn't know her. She's flat and empty - no values, no ambition, no wit, no passion, no intelligence. She just rides the wave of events and tells the reader about them and how she felt.

Two primary things occur that threaten the future of the Ariekei and Embassytown. First, a group of Ariekei struggle to learn to lie and achieve a momentous breakthrough. Second, when the Ariekei hear broken "Language" (simultaneous speech by an Ambassador that is not completely sympathetically linked), it has a narcotic affect on them. They become addicts and need the fix that only hearing the broken language anew can provide. These two occurrences threaten to destroy the civilization.

The work is imaginative (not dazzlingly so) but it lacks any grounding in characters that are interesting or with whom the reader empathizes. The novel comes off as a cold and calculated exploration of ideas lacking any emotional resonance. Imagination cannot substitute for characterization and this story suffers dreadfully as a result.
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14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2012
This is a dead boring, lazily written book., poorly edited book. I keep hoping for a really good book from Mieville. I've read & own all of his books. Even pre-ordered this via Amazon. Mieville is very imaginative & originial but all his books become merely "interesting".

Christopher Priest (see [...]) expresses my sentiments much better than I can myself:
<QUOTE>
Although Miéville is clearly talented, he does not work hard enough. For a novel about language, Embassytown contains many careless solecisms, which either Mr Miéville or his editor should have dealt with. This isn't the place to go into a long textual analysis, but (for example) a writer at his level should never use `alright' so often or so unembarrassedly. He also uses far too many neologisms or SF nonce-words, which drive home the fact that he is defined and limited by the expectations of a genre audience. On the first few pages, alone, he uses the words `shiftparents', `voidcraft', `yearsends', `trid', `vespcams', `miab', `plastone', `hostnest', `altoysterman' ... Yes, of course, it's possible to work out what most of these might mean (or to wait until another context makes them clearer), but it is exactly this use of made-up nouns that makes many people find science fiction arcane or excluding. A better writer would find a more effective way of suggesting strangeness or an alien environment than by just ramming words together. Resorting to wordplay is lazy writing.

I also find Miéville's lack of characterization a sign of author indifference: Embassytown is full of names, full of people, but mostly they just chat away to each other, interchangeably and indistinguishably. And for a writer who makes so much of ambience, China Miéville's fiction lacks a sense of place: this is not the same as a lack of description, as there is a lot of that, but a way of using a physical environment as something the characters notice, respond to, feel themselves to be a part of, so that the reader can also sense and respond to it. In Embassytown there is scene after scene in which these weakly drawn characters twitter away to each other in what might be a field or an airport terminal or someone's front room, for all the lack of evocation the author manages.
</QUOTE>
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19 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2011
I bought this after enjoying The City and the City, which IMHO is a much more accessible read than this book.
The prose was heavy going and the characters did not engage me. I kept going on the strength of the intriguing concepts about language the book, but gave up halfway through because It was more effort than pleasure. A disappointing experience for me.
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14 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2011
The last two books by Mieville that I read, Kraken and The City & the City were very readable, and I do believe
the latter will become a classic. This one, though, is a piece of you know what...pardon my French.
First of all, it's really boring. It's written from the first-person point of view, which doesn't work here. The narrator is
a passive, dull person, who does nothing much. The interesting parts, like the biomachines, or the immer, are only described
by means of hints, tantalizing, but nothing more than a tease. The language of the Hosts is - again - just boring, and
unbelievable. I mean, I know this is sci-fi, but even so, I find it hard to 'believe'. A language where lying is not possible, which is somehow directly reflective of the mind - really? Can you picture any kind of idea that's not representative? And does that not instantly mean that a representation could be inaccurate? I mean, what if one of the Hosts
was mistaken in describing something? What if he was convinced that was the truth, whereas the others knew it was a mistake?
Voila, the concept of lying, and the capability. Not everything an author says should be accepted, even in sci-fi.
Overall, though, this is a book where nothing much happens; a lot of passive descriptions, a lot of dialogue that's left hanging... I don't take that as the brilliance of indirection; I take it as laziness, of an author who doesn't know how to move the story... and honestly, do you care about any of the characters? or to put it in a non-Oprah-like manner: do you give a damn if they live or die?
I hope I don't offend others who liked this book... Mieville continues to be one of my favorite authors, and I recommend to everyone 'City and the City' and 'Perdido Street Station.' Even 'The Scar' is almost up there, and Kraken is enjoyable, though rather self-indulgent and baroque. But skip this one.
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28 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
For the last three days I've been trying to get in to this book, my first stab at China Mieville's work. I've had Perdido Street Station on my shelf since reading about it on a list of best-cyberpunk-novels. After fifty-five pages, I just can't bring myself to read any more. There is no story here; it's just a first-person narrator babbling on and on and on and never saying anything. After fifty-five pages, there is still not even the slightest hint of a storyline or plot. I have no idea what the narrator looks like, what the bulk of the world and worlds look like. There are obscure references to things and places that we as readers have no reference point for and there are no context clues for us to feel like we are in-the-know. In these fifty-five pages there is not one reason that I should care about this character or her vague impressions of the world around her.

The pages read like an Income Tax return. Convoluted language that sounds as though it's been translated from the Latin. The diction level tries to come off as pseudo-Gothic, akin to the stories of Poe or Lovecraft, but is about as clunky as Mary Shelley. There is no emotion, good or bad; just indifference, which is what I felt while reading it. I pictured the narrator having to be revived several times while trying to write her narrative. How Mieville kept himself awake while writing it I'd like to know.

The sad thing is, from the tiniest glimmer of entertainment I got from the book, I gather that perhaps (but only perhaps) the plot might eventually revolve around something to do w/ language, the way we communicate with each other, or - the lack thereof. If the overall effect of the book is just how we fail to communicate, I guess you could say Mieville has done an excellent job, because little, if anything, is being communicated in this book. While that is a mildly amusing prospect, if indeed that's what it is, there is no reason for anyone to read it.

I know that Mieville has a legion of fans. I knew this without the Vine copy I've been attempting to read telling me so right there on the first page. I have Perdido St. sitting on the shelf, and right now I'm giving it dirty looks. If you are a fan of Mieville's previous work, you may or may not like this. But if you are new to his work, or are considering reading this particular book, I beg of you to check it out from the library and see what you think before plunking down hard-earned cash (or plastic), because I can find no redeeming quality in this book whatsoever.

Another thing I couldn't help noticing on the Vine copy's front page is that "the Author is now on schedule to produce a new novel every year." As esteemed as I've read his previous work is, perhaps the author should think about writing at a speed that suits him, and to heck with schedules.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2012
I was assigned this book for my Science Fiction class alongside two other books and a tome of short stories. I deluded myself into thinking I could read this over a weekend no problem, but I was wrong. The writing, as many other reviewers, my classmates and even my teacher have said, is dense. I feel dense is too forgiving, though. The writing is downright obscure and boring. I've never read Miéville before, but in this story he seems more interested in sounding intelligent by using as many big words as possible. There's no character development to speak of and nothing making me care about the narrator. She just seems to be an apathetic slacker adrift on the absentee storyline. Not initiating anything, just going along and reacting to things.

The author also seems to think that foreign words and random slang make things better. Luckily I'm familiar with most of the language and slang used, but my classmates think he's making up his entire vocabulary. I wouldn't mind a SF novel about language, but there needs to be a personality within the main character and an actual plot somewhere in the book. I've only gotten halfway through, so it might exist, but it really shouldn't take half a book of nothingness to get to.

And don't even get me started on the bizarre use of double negatives and weird terms like "not-inevitable." Overall I'd say this is a book best used as a door stop or coaster. I know people who could write better books in their sleep, and I've read trashy romance novels with better plots and characterization.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2014
I have a feeling this audiobook review is going to get dumped into the generic review of the book...as always. The narrator, in a word: terrible. Don't get me wrong, her voice is incredibly pleasant, so I started out hopeful. The problem is that she reads, she doesn't become the narrative voice. Every sentence is read with the same tones and inflections. Think listening to only the first three bars of any song on repeat.

I couldn't tell you about the book because I couldn't get past the narrator. I breathed a sign of relief after shutting off the audio.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2015
Very dense writing. Kind of like a heavy chocolate desert, but afterwards you realize there is not much substance to it.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Embassytown was neither interesting nor fun for this reader. I only made it to 22%, so it's possible that something terrific happens after that point, but I am skeptical. To here, I've found the book tedious and incredible.

The concept of a "Language" whose meaning is conveyed by a conscious mind speaking two related streams of sounds is an interesting idea. However, after reading the author's extensive explanations, this reader is still mystified. Can you imagine a language that can be spoken by a non-human species with the paradoxical properties that humans can understand the content by organizing sounds, words, grammar, and meanings, while the originators of the language cannot recognize the same sounds and sequences replayed to them as anything but noise? Yet, when these sounds are spoken by two closely linked human minds, the non-humans can understand? To me, this is inconceivable. Whether or not you can swallow such a strange inconsistency will affect whether you can enjoy this book.

Given the author's attempts to explain the unique and inexplicable features of this universe, the plot moves at a crawl through the first 22%. Too much time and effort has been devoted to describing and explaining the world, and too little to character and plot development.

Not recommended.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2011
As the title of my review indicates, this book starts really strong. The concept of how the Arieki communicate is unique, fascinating. Yet somewhere im the middle it all falls apart. The characters are inconsistent and the story simply does not hod well. The main character is really poorly constructed. A dissapoinment.
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