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Embassytown Hardcover – May 17, 2011
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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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PRAISE FOR CHINA MIÉVILLE
“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
“Embassytown is a fully achieved work of art…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.”
--Ursula K Le Guin
“A breakneck tale of suspense…disturbing and beautiful by turns. And yes—China Mieville’s new novel is one of his best...I cannot emphasize enough how terrific this novel is.”
“The Kafkaesque writer journeys to the distant edges of the universe in his latest sci-fi thriller.”
“Utterly astonishing…A major intellectual achievement.”
“Brilliant storytelling…The result is a world masterfully wrecked and rebuilt.”
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The stakes [are] driven high and almost anything can happen. The reader is primed for a memorable payoff, and Miéville more than delivers.”—San Francisco Chronicle
The City & The City
“If Philip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler’s love child were raised by Franz Kafka, the writing that emerged might resemble . . . The City & The City.”—Los Angeles Times
Perdido Street Station
“Compulsively readable . . . impossible to expunge from memory.”—The Washington Post Book World
“A fantastic setting for an unforgettable tale . . . memorable because of Miéville’s vivid language [and] rich imagination.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“A masterwork . . . a story that pops with creativity.”—Wired
Un Lun Dun
“Endlessly inventive . . . [a] hybrid of Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and The Phantom Tollbooth.”—Salon
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.
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.