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Embassytown by China Mieville

Embassytown (original 2011; edition 2011)

by China Mieville

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,9841533,402 (3.89)279
Authors:China Mieville
Info:Del Rey (2011), Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Your library

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. 30
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell (ansate)
  4. 52
    The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (BeckyJG)
  5. 20
    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.
  6. 64
    Hyperion by Dan Simmons (BeckyJG)
  7. 10
    The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (KatyBee)
  8. 11
    The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (santhony)
    santhony: Science fiction as seen through the prism of anthropology and sociology.
  9. 00
    The Dosadi Experiment by Frank Herbert (santhony)
    santhony: Philosophical Science Fiction

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» See also 279 mentions

English (154)  German (1)  All languages (155)
Showing 1-5 of 154 (next | show all)
More gobblydygook (made it to page 27). I was really hoping for the best since I'd heard so many great things about this author. Check this bit out:

"The immer's reaches don't correspond at all to the dimensions of the manchmal, this space where we live. The best we can do is is to say that the immer underlies or overlies, infuses, is a foundation, is langue of which actually is a parole, and so on."

No "and so on" for me after that.
( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
Embassytown by China Miéville is a science fiction novel narrated by character Avice Brenner Cho. The actual titular Embassytown is an outpost located within a city on the planetary home of the indigenous intelligent species called the Ariekei. Humans are unable to live in the planet's toxic atmosphere without the help of the Ariekei's bio-technology. In fact, everything on the planet is based on their living bio-tech.

The Ariekei themselves have two mouths and use both of them at once to speak. Interestingly, they only speak what is true. Everything has one meaning. They can not lie. They even have a Festival of Lies where they try to tell a lie (after having an Ambassador lie.) The Areikei don't recognize language in most other humans, except the Ambassadors. Ambassadors have been specially bred and are chosen based on their ability to work with their "twin" while both are fitted with technology that allows them to speak in unison. They are the only humans able to speak with the Areikei.

Avice, the narrator, is also unique. She is a simile in the Ariekei language. They had her do a task as a child and she became, in short, "The girl who ate what was given to her." Since everything in their language is true, they needed her and others to do some task in order to make a comparison. Avice is also able to travel and help pilot ships through the immer, which allows travel to distant worlds and outposts. Avice returns to Embassytown, which is unusual for those who have left, with her husband, Scile.

At the beginning the chapters in Embassytown switch back and forth from past events to the present. Once the new Ambassador arrives, EzRa, they switch to the present. In fact, EzRa's arrival ends up setting off a whole chain-reaction of conflicts and events which makes Embassytown a science fiction novel full of political intrigue.

But, after saying all of that, Embassytown is, most importantly, a treatise on the uses of language and communication and their effects on civilization. Even the way Miéville uses word derivations and neologisms, or new words, in the character's language is inventive. (See the quotes below for examples.) He uses language in unique ways while telling a story where language is a key plot element as well as a theme.

To be honest, though, Embassytown is uneven. It is brilliant and original in some places while slow and dull in others. I was about to set it aside, sad that I wasn't enjoying it as much as Miéville's other works, when suddenly the plot took off at a gallop. Then much to my frustration, it once more slowed down before again resuming the quick pace. Even while this was happening, the implications driving the plot make it a most worthwhile novel.
Highly Recommended - 4.5 stars; http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/


The children of the embassy all saw the boat land. Their teachers and shiftparents had had them painting it for days. One wall of the room had been given over to their ideas. It’s been centuries since any voidcraft vented fire, as they imagined this one doing, but it’s a tradition to represent them with such trails. When I was young, I painted ships the same way. opening

At this edge of town the angles and piazzas of our home alleys were interrupted by at first a few uncanny geometries of Hosts’ buildings; then more and more, until our own were all replaced. pg. 10

It was a Host. It stepped to the centre of the carpet. I stood immediately, out of the respect I’d been taught and my child’s fear. The Host came forward with its swaying grace, in complicated articulation. It looked at me, I think: I think the constellation of forking skin that was its lustreless eyes regarded me. It extended and reclenched a limb. I thought it was reaching for me. pg. 13

The indigenes, in whose city we had been graciously allowed to build Embassytown, Hosts were cool, incomprehensible presences. Powers like subaltern gods, which sometimes watched us as if we were interesting, curious dust, which provided our biorigging, and to which the Ambassadors alone spoke. pg. 14

Look instead at a map of he immer. such a big and tidal quiddity. Pull it up, rotate it, check its projections. Examine that light phantom every way you can, and even allowing that it's a flat or trid rendering of a topos that rebels against our own accounting, the situation is visibly different.

The immer's reaches don't correspond at all to the dimensions of the manchmal, this space where we live. The best we can do is say that the immer underlies or overlies, infuses, is a foundation, is langue of which our actuality is a parole, and so on. pg. 31

What we do, what we can do - immersers - is not just keep ourselves stable, sentient and healthy in the immer... pg. 33

Ultimately, as a carta-carrying Embassytown native immerser, crewing and vouching for my fiancé, it only took tenacity to get him the rights to entry, and me to reentry. Scile had been preparing for his work there, reading, listening to recordings, watching what few trids and vids there are. pg. 40

"Everything in Language is a true claim. So they need the similes to compare things to, to make true things that aren't there yet, that they need to say." pg. 56

( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
Thanks to the First Reads Giveaway for sending me this copy of a new book by one of my very favorite authors! :-)

I was slightly surprised, upon beginning to read the book, that this is absolutely a straight-up science fiction novel - somewhat new territory for Miéville. Avice is a woman who's grown up in the remote, backwater colony world of Ariekei, in Embassytown, where alien Hosts trade technology with humans - and speak a Language in which they cannot conceive of lying. Unusually, for one of her peers, Avice gets out of her small town by becoming an Immerser - a pilot capable of traveling through hyperspace. Even more unusually, she comes back to her homeworld - and finds herself uniquely placed at the center of an unprecedented crisis.

This is a book full of fascinating ideas, and if you have any interest at all in semiotics and linguistics, it is absolutely not to be missed. However, I do feel that Miéville wanted his ideas to drive the story so strongly that he left some logical holes in the plot. Some of the premises seem, to me, flawed or unlikely. I was caught up in the story and the concepts - but I kept catching myself and saying, "but hey, wait? Couldn't they get around that problem by doing... this...?" But it wouldn't have served the plot, so it didn't happen. I was also disappointed that his (really great) conceptions of FTL travel, which were brought out in some detail, didn't end up being more central to how the story developed.

Still, the book is a more than worthwhile read, for its ruminations on the nature of language, the possibilities of communication, a bit of mythological allegory, and a dark yet delicate contemplation of the changes - some horrible, some bittersweet, some simply inevitable - that may occur when different cultures collide. Yes, this is a topic that has been dealt with in many SF stories of First Contact - but Miéville truly brings something new to the table for his entry into this genre. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
too complicated and drawn out ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
Having read The City and the City, and now Embassytown, I have no doubt that Mieville is writing some of the most philosophically-rich science fiction ever written. Like William Gibson, I can't say that Mieville's plots or characters pull me in, but the underlying ideas and the mood produced by the books are captivating. This one takes on language itself and...well, I can't even put it into words, appropriately enough, except to say the words are worth reading. ( )
  bibleblaster | Jan 23, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 154 (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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"The word must communicate something (other than itself)."
Walter Benjamin, "On Language as such and on the Language of Man"
To Jesse
First words
The children of the embassy all saw the boat land.
"I don't want to be a simile anymore," I said. "I want to be a metaphor."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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.

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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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