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The Embedding Paperback – December, 1989

3.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ian Watson was born in 1943 and lectured in Tanzania and Tokyo before teaching Future Studies at Birmingham Polytechnic for six years. He began publishing sf with 'Roof Garden Under Saturn' for New Worlds in 1969. His other books include The Jonah Kit, Alien Embassy, The Very Slow Time Machine and Miracle Visitors. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf Pub (December 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 088184554X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881845549
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,012,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Contrary to the other reader review of this book I found it to be one of the most thought provoking SF novels ever (this from a thirty year afficianado of Clarke, Asimov, Bradbury et al). Watson weaves an engrossing tale with tanatlising sub plots and questions the very fundementals of language and communication with massive implications for SETI planners and participants. I heartily reccomend this novel to any reader capable of discerning original SF thought from Star Wars 9. It is dissappointingly currently out of print so get down to your library or nag the publisher!
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Format: Paperback
Ian Watson's first novel, published in 1973, was one of his best, and an acknowledged classic of science fiction. Its theme is not a traditional sf topic, but a very intellectually challenging one: language as the means to bridge the gap between human consciousness and the otherness of the objective world. In Watson's fictional "embededed" language of the Xemahoas, a Brazilian Indian tribe, "This-Reality" is converted into the transcendent pattern of "Other-Reality," which is the world of pure being. The Sp'thra (who represent the essential otherness of the objective world, everything about it that we do not understand) bargain for the brains of speakers of this language, which they desire to learn. At the end, the main character experiences a breakdown of reality and a cognizance of a new state of being, reminiscent of such occurrences in the work of Philip K. Dick.
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Format: Paperback
In terms of interesting ideas, this book is one of the best in SF I have read. If you are even vaguely interested in language theory, you will like the interesting twists the author gives to the ideas in that field. In terms of developing these ideas to their full potential, the book is not so good. It makes a v fine start but leaves you a little dissatisfied in the end. If you like SF for ideas, this is a good choice. But if you are looking for characterization or action, there are lots of other far better ones.
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Format: Paperback
This book is generally famous within the annals of SF for really dealing with the concept of language and its nature, indicating a level of thought that wasn't often seen in the genre and helping to elevate its status above that of "rayguns and spaceships", which is how people typically see these types of novels. The origins and evolution of language is one of the more fascinating topics in the world, and many a person spends a large amount of time trying to piece together evidence in order to discover the "original language". Ian Watson probably has a background as a linguist to some extent (or at least he's well read), but it doesn't translate as well into novel form as one might hope. One of fiction's most famous linguists was, of course, JRR Tolkein, who basically came up with Lord of the Rings to field test his nifty Elven language that he came up with. Ian Watson doesn't go to those extremes and keeps things more in the realm of the abstract and the story suffers a little for it. It may be a case of biting off more than he can chew, because there are a lot of subplots swimming around in what turns out to be a fairly slim book (ah, the old days of SF, nowadays half the plots take up ten times the space, thank you, "decompression") . . . you have a team of researchers isolating children and giving them a certain drug to see if they can stimulate them into creating their own language, an "embedded" one, you also have a French fellow in the Amazon jungle studying a tribe that appears to connect to an Other-Reality when taking a local herb, allowing things like myth and legend to be experienced through language (or something), lastly you have aliens from beyond the solar system showing up to barter because they're fascinated by our language. And much like "Day of the Dead" they want brains.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
`The Embedding' was English author Watson's first novel.

The book contains two alternating sub-plots, both of which eventually mesh later in the narrative. In one sub-plot, Chris Sole, a linguist at a research institute in England, is working with traumatized, semi-catatonic Bangladeshi refugee children (?!) and trying various elaborate social conditioning methods - including a brain-stimulating drug - to get them to communicate.

In the other sub-plot, a French anthropologist named Pierre is living with a tribe of Amazonian Indians called the Xemahoa. The Xemahoa possess two languages, one being a `conventional' method of spoken communication. The other Xemahoa language is an ill-defined, esoteric form of semi-telepathic communication that involves taking hallucinogenic drugs, which in turn triggers an all-encompassing Awareness of the True Nature of the World.

When an alien spaceship is discovered en route to Earth, both of these plots begin to converge, as the communication becomes the all-important key to managing First Contact.

`The Embedding' was a struggle to get through.

Author Watson was intent on using various linguistic theories, that were hip and trendy in the early 70s, as the underpinning of his novel. Many passages are over-written efforts to introduce concepts of a Universal Consciousness through Communication, and these paradigms are too half-baked, and too tepid, to drive the narrative.

The reader must confront clunky, even amateurish exchanges of dialogue, such as this interaction with one of the aliens:

"Not so," howled Ph'theri , raising both arms and tick-tacking his thumbs in the utmost anger or agitation. "We Sp'thra are not sick. We are aware. Change Speakers exist - in another reality plane !
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