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Embassytown by China Mieville
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Embassytown (original 2011; edition 2011)

by China Mieville

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1,7411284,057 (3.89)231
Member:tcgardner
Title:Embassytown
Authors:China Mieville
Info:Del Rey (2011), Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
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Work details

Embassytown by China Miéville (2011)

  1. 30
    Foreigner by C. J. Cherryh (PhoenixFalls)
    PhoenixFalls: Cherryh excels in writing really alien aliens and always focuses on the nuances of languages.
  2. 30
    Anathem by Neal Stephenson (bertilak)
    bertilak: Miéville has written a philosophical science fiction novel that rocks and is not bloated: Stephenson please take note.
  3. 52
    The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (BeckyJG)
  4. 64
    Hyperion by Dan Simmons (BeckyJG)
  5. 20
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (ansate)
  6. 10
    Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany (kevinashley)
    kevinashley: Both these books take the relationship between language and thought as central themes. They explore it in different ways but with a similar thoroughness; both really explore just how 'other' alien can be.
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» See also 231 mentions

English (128)  German (1)  All languages (129)
Showing 1-5 of 128 (next | show all)
What an interesting book. The ideas it explores were completely unexpected going into it. It is really an exploration of language v communication in a very literal but still meta way. It's a truly unique story told by a master. It's not my favorite of his, but it's so much better than a lot of books out there. ( )
  rockinghorsedreams | Nov 13, 2014 |
Avice has always wanted to get out of the backwater world Embassytown. But years down the road, she finds herself returning. At first it was just to sate the curiosity of her husband about the Hosts unique to the place, but soon it becomes a matter of truth or lies, of life and death. And as a living simile, Avice finds herself in the middle of all of it. Even languages can evolve before our eyes.

I am always so conflicted about Mieville's style of writing, whether to love it or hate on it.

I loved the world. I love how he just drops you in the middle of this futuristic sci-fi world without a hint or a guide and you just have to piece it all together slowly. And when the world becomes clear, it's as if you know this town now. I love the concept of people as living language. It's such an elegant way to make this world different. The concept is just so fresh and done so well, I love it.

I have a couple problems with the characters though.
Midway through the book, I got disappointed and frustrated with Avice, thinking that argh Mieville always does this with his main character - where they seem to just be pulled and pushed around by the plot points, rather than doing things as the main character. Thankfully at the end, she emerges as a true pivotal character.

Another thing about the way he writes characters is just that I can never trust his relationships. He seems to regard love very loosely. Marriage may not mean a thing. And I never see any build up to true chemistry (romantic or otherwise) in his characters. His dialogue is usually flat in terms of chemistry. Basically, Mieville is all about the plot, not about making you love or hate the characters. His dialogue is to move the plot along, not to make a hero or a heroine.

Speaking of plot... The hard thing about reading this book is that it does feel like multiple books condensed into one. While most books have one goal and one purpose for the characters, Mieville dashes through twenty different plots. I'm never really sure where the book will go. Sometimes that's a good thing because surprise and interest is important for the reader. But sometimes it's a bad thing, because you start to wonder when the book will end. It does drag on a little in middle to be sure.

But oh the ending. It was just so right. Everything built up to that climax and I love how language became something more than just words spoken in air. The ending made this book. It was all worth it for those last scenes.

The concept of this book was just absolutely beautiful. For that, and for beautiful world building, I give this book four stars. I was hesitating between three and a half & four, but for the ending... it deserves four.
Highly recommended for people who love science fiction and new worlds. Expect many twists and turns though. ( )
  NineLarks | Sep 15, 2014 |
Avice has always wanted to get out of the backwater world Embassytown. But years down the road, she finds herself returning. At first it was just to sate the curiosity of her husband about the Hosts unique to the place, but soon it becomes a matter of truth or lies, of life and death. And as a living simile, Avice finds herself in the middle of all of it. Even languages can evolve before our eyes.

I am always so conflicted about Mieville's style of writing, whether to love it or hate on it.

I loved the world. I love how he just drops you in the middle of this futuristic sci-fi world without a hint or a guide and you just have to piece it all together slowly. And when the world becomes clear, it's as if you know this town now. I love the concept of people as living language. It's such an elegant way to make this world different. The concept is just so fresh and done so well, I love it.

I have a couple problems with the characters though.
Midway through the book, I got disappointed and frustrated with Avice, thinking that argh Mieville always does this with his main character - where they seem to just be pulled and pushed around by the plot points, rather than doing things as the main character. Thankfully at the end, she emerges as a true pivotal character.

Another thing about the way he writes characters is just that I can never trust his relationships. He seems to regard love very loosely. Marriage may not mean a thing. And I never see any build up to true chemistry (romantic or otherwise) in his characters. His dialogue is usually flat in terms of chemistry. Basically, Mieville is all about the plot, not about making you love or hate the characters. His dialogue is to move the plot along, not to make a hero or a heroine.

Speaking of plot... The hard thing about reading this book is that it does feel like multiple books condensed into one. While most books have one goal and one purpose for the characters, Mieville dashes through twenty different plots. I'm never really sure where the book will go. Sometimes that's a good thing because surprise and interest is important for the reader. But sometimes it's a bad thing, because you start to wonder when the book will end. It does drag on a little in middle to be sure.

But oh the ending. It was just so right. Everything built up to that climax and I love how language became something more than just words spoken in air. The ending made this book. It was all worth it for those last scenes.

The concept of this book was just absolutely beautiful. For that, and for beautiful world building, I give this book four stars. I was hesitating between three and a half & four, but for the ending... it deserves four.
Highly recommended for people who love science fiction and new worlds. Expect many twists and turns though. ( )
  NineLarks | Sep 15, 2014 |
I really liked this book by the end but I only want to give 3 and a half stars because the first half of this book simply frustrated the hell out of me. ( )
  pcollins | Jul 27, 2014 |
The eponymous Embassytown is a settlement of humans located on an alien planet whose inhabitants are notable for their unique language. It takes two mouths to speak it, and it's impossible to lie in it... and those are not the weirdest things about it.

The exact nature of that alien language, which is at the heart of the novel and drives everything that happens in it, requires a heck of a suspension of disbelief, or at least it did for me. When you get down to it, the basic idea behind it is more mystical than logical. It reminds me, more than anything, of fantasy stories in which magic works on the principle that everything in the world has a True Name, a name that is not just a label that human beings have given it but is somehow inherent in the very nature of reality. Which, while it's a strangely powerful concept, doesn't actually make any scientific sense. At all. Still, what Miéville does with it is interesting, and certainly does invite some deep thought about language and meaning.

The world-building, in general, is also very good, as one might expect from China Miéville. It feels more restrained to me than the surreal, unpredictable landscapes of the Bas-Lag novels, but that's not a bad thing. If anything, I'd say this world feels just the right amount of alien for the story he's telling with it. I also like the way he just drops the reader into this world, as seen from the point of view of someone who grew up there and feels no need to explain what she expects everyone to know, and trusts us to pick things up as we go along. I find that both more believable and more entertaining than being spoon-fed loads of exposition, and it wasn't too long before I got the hang of everything and started to feel quite at home.

The plot, I must admit, varied a bit in how well it held my attention over the course of the novel, but despite that, and the way it made me sort of shake my head and go, "Yes, but language not only doesn't work that way, it surely can't work that way!", I still found it very much a worthwhile read. ( )
  bragan | Jul 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 128 (next | show all)
Readers who want to delve no further than turning the pages will come away satisfied with "Embassytown," because Mieville's fertile imagination has created a fascinating alien species to go along with plenty of familiar human drama.
 
It is a miracle of a novel, one where Big Ideas cohabitate with Monsters, and neither is lessened by what academic propriety insists must be capital letters.
 
Miéville has a muscular intellect, successfully building a science fictional world around semiotics. For some readers, that will be enough.
 
I don’t hold this will to abstraction against him. Genre writers, and for that matter writers of the well-wrought middlebrow novel, mostly tell the usual stories in the usual way: narrative and character are advanced through conventional action. Miéville is up to something else.
 
In this sense, Embassytown plays out as a novel of metropolitan-colonial conflict, holding out the hope that language might not serve only as a tool of oppression, but be reclaimed as the instrument that makes resistance possible.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miéville, Chinaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Uchida, MasayukiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"The word must communicate something (other than itself)."
Walter Benjamin, "On Language as such and on the Language of Man"
Dedication
To Jesse
First words
The children of the embassy all saw the boat land.
Quotations
"I don't want to be a simile anymore," I said. "I want to be a metaphor."
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
On a distant planet in the far future, humans and an alien race coexist in a nonviolent but nonetheless uncomfortable arrangement. In general, they don't hurt one another, but they're not necessarily happy to share the city together. It is a marriage of convenience, arranged for economic reasons. But when a new group of humans arrives on the planet, one current citizen—a young woman—begins to realize that things are about to change for the worse.
Haiku summary
The Hosts - who are they?
Avise the simile, all
Ends in social change.
(mclewe)

No descriptions found.

(see all 2 descriptions)

Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist on a distant planet populated by the Ariekei, sentient beings famed for their unique language, returns to Embassytown after many years of deep space exploration to find she has become a living simile in the Ariekei language even though she cannot speak it, and she is torn by competing loyalties when hostilities erupt between humans and aliens.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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