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Embassytown Paperback – January 31, 2012
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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“A fully achieved work of art.”—Ursula K. Le Guin
“The most engrossing book I’ve read this year, and the latest evidence that brilliant, challenging, rewarding writing of the highest order is just as likely to be found in the section labeled Science Fiction as the one marked Literature.”—Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Original, sophisticated, bristling with subversive ideas, and filled with unforgettably alien images . . . an amazing, sometimes brutal rhapsody on the uses of language.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Richly conceived . . . Embassytown has the feel of a word-puzzle, and much of the pleasure of figuring out the logic of the world and the story comes from gradually catching the full resonance of its invented and imported words.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Miéville’s swing-for-the-fences gusto thrills. This is Big Idea Sci-Fi at its most propulsively readable.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Miéville [is] one of today’s most exciting fabulist writers.”—Los Angeles Times
About the Author
China Miéville is the author of several books, including Perdido Street Station, The City & The City, and Kraken. His works have won the Hugo, the British Science Fiction Award (twice), the Arthur C. Clarke Award (three times) and the World Fantasy Award. He lives and works in London.
From the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
"Before the humans came, we didn't speak so much of many things. Before the humans came, we didn't speak." Embassytown is about the fragility and duplicity of language and the creation of meaning. It is an argument for the storyteller's great conceit: that the deepest truths can be told only through lies. Mieville asserts language's role as a creator of meaning, not just a reference. The brilliance is that a complex argument about language is made without long soliloquies,and is instead demonstrated through plot twists and the act of reading itself. For example, Embassytown includes a scattering of portmanteaus (e.g., floaking = floating, soaking) and other made-up words that force the reader to assign meaning through context. Simultaneously, the alien hosts are struggling to create new similes ("We are like the girl who ate what was given to her in the dark") and ultimately the little lie of the metaphor to construct a reality that expands their senses.
"Embassytown" is to "The Scar" what Frank Hebert's "God Emperor" is to the original "Dune": a story that's a whole lot weirder and less plot-driven, but more interesting philosophically. The reader who can appreciate its merits and overlook the story itself will find Embassytown a book worth experiencing.
Mieville also creates a very sympathetic and compelling character, Avice, through whom these ideas are explored. The reader can admire, identify and root for her but at the same time she is flawed enough to seem genuine. Examples - her acceptance of "floaking" as a lifestyle; her occasional willingness to take advantage of her status as a returned immerser; etc. But she ultimately comes across as strong, humble, and honest. Her perspective and narration is a real strength of the book.
The aspect of the book that holds me back from a full 5-star rating is the overlong, somewhat rambling, section describing the rampage of the addicted Areikei. I guess Mieville felt compelled to add some "action," thinking that a "novel of ideas" on its own wasn't enough. But I found that this part of the story dragged on long after I had gotten the point, and diluted the more interesting themes of the book.
But Mieville regains his footing toward the end, and brings us back in time for a deep, provocative conclusion. Despite his short detour, you have to applaud the way he puts forward these highly relevant and timeless themes.
Moreover, certain passages are just pure fun to read, because of the embedded language puzzles and playfulness. Inventing the language of the Areikei, and the role that humans play in the creation of certain figures of speech (Avice is a simile), is a tour-de-force of creativity.