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Embassytown (2011)

by China Miéville

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,0942083,734 (3.88)1 / 318
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)
  1. 72
    The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (BeckyJG)
  2. 41
    Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (electronicmemory)
  3. 41
    The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (santhony)
    santhony: Science fiction as seen through the prism of anthropology and sociology.
  4. 30
    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.
  5. 30
    Foreigner by C. J. Cherryh (PhoenixFalls, electronicmemory)
    PhoenixFalls: Cherryh excels in writing really alien aliens and always focuses on the nuances of languages.
  6. 30
    Anathem by Neal Stephenson (bertilak, g33kgrrl)
    bertilak: Miéville has written a philosophical science fiction novel that rocks and is not bloated: Stephenson please take note.
  7. 20
    Blindsight by Peter Watts (electronicmemory)
  8. 20
    The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (KatyBee)
  9. 31
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (ansate)
  10. 64
    Hyperion by Dan Simmons (BeckyJG)
  11. 21
    The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (sparemethecensor)
  12. 10
    The Dosadi Experiment by Frank Herbert (santhony)
    santhony: Philosophical Science Fiction
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 Name that Book: Found: Help find title of sci-fi book3 unread / 3miatria, October 2021

» See also 318 mentions

English (203)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (205)
Showing 1-5 of 203 (next | show all)
This author is a master of envisioning. He made an alien race that needed to say and hear a communication in two voices at once... only understanding at a certain pitch.it took a while to envision what mieveville was trying to illustrate, but eventually I had an idea. ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
I worked very hard to read and understand this book, and I wanted to like it. At times, I asked myself why I was struggling with it, but out of curiosity or obstinance (I'm not sure which), I continued working my way to the end. The audiobook made it much harder for me for various reasons, so I kept rereading an ebook version to help clear up parts that were unclear (much of the book). But still, not only was it confusing, and not making sense in some parts, but even when I thought I understood what was going on, I still felt I was missing something.

Perhaps it has something to do with my lack of aptitude for language. Although I do pretty well with English, I've never really been able to learn foreign languages, and boy was the Language that this book is about hard to understand. This book is all about a language that is so important to its people that it's not called the language, or a language, but simply Language, even by the non speakers. They actually say things like "I can't speak Language."

I had previously started and abandoned his book Perdido Street Station because it was just too much work for me to follow. I'm not really a great fan of the fantasy genre, although there are some works that I like - usually somewhat humorous works like Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, even Harry Potter. I guess my problem is I can't take fantasy books seriously.

So, I'm disappointed in this book, and my experience is probably no reflection of how good the book actually is, but for me, I'm glad to be done with it.
( )
  MartyFried | Oct 9, 2022 |
This book honestly terrified me, but when I tried to explain why...it’s just a mood, and very alien aliens, great concepts, and surprising emotional resonance, along with being a really interesting examination of semiotics. I think it’s going to haunt me for a while. ( )
  Adamantium | Aug 21, 2022 |
Great world building!

So hard to describe this book. It's about human's interacting with completely alien species, colonization and its associated good and bad effects, another entry in the "power corrupts" cannon. But mostly (and surprisingly) it's about language. How our language and thoughts are completely entwined. If you don't have a word for a concept, maybe your culture doesn't have that concept?

It was a great book to read during corona virus times. On one level a full-on sci-fi escape. On the other hand it's a fable of just how quickly "normal" can go away, replaced by a fully new normal.

( )
  sriddell | Aug 6, 2022 |
Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash meets Ted Chiang's Story of Your Life.

I loved a lot of Mieville's worldbuilding details, and the alienness of the aliens. The central question about linguistic relativity is always a fruitful one for science fiction. It was also nice to listen to the audiobook version, since the story focuses so much on a spoken language (or Language, rather) that uses two simultaneous voices-- being able to listen to the narrator's doubled voice for those moments definitely added to the experience.

I do have some gripes with Embassytown, however. Avice's special status as an immerser never really seemed to tie into much in the story, (though the payoff of her status as a simile was extremely well-executed), and it felt like Ehrsul was dropped from the plot as well. Avice was quite a passive protagonist for the first 80% of the book or so, though that's not the end of the world necessarily. And some of the practicalities of Language didn't quite add up (how did the Ariekei set up and ask for the similes before they had been created, for example?)

My biggest problem with the story, however, was what felt like a dismissal of the pre-human-contact Ariekei, the alien unknowableness of Language. The God Drug is, of course, obviously bad-- Ez/Ra are a purposeful instrument of colonial power even before they become an accidental one of genocide. But when Avice creates the solution to the God Drug, I felt like the book was strangely congratulatory.

The scene where Avice finally gets through to Spanish Dancer was a good one, and well-written. But since Avice is positioned directly in contrast to Scile's obviously dangerous and misled fanaticism, that has a side effect of precluding any nuanced exploration of the way in which the transformativeness of Avice's actions are also destructive-- she is destroying Language, something she has never spoken and can therefore never fully understand. Yes, it is necessary for the Ariekei to learn to lie, that's what saves them from bloody war and mass extinction. But Avice is still the final step in a colonial process that has fundamentally unmade the world of the Ariekei.

Yes, Spanish Dancer's speech at the end of the book is beautiful, and it portrays the Ariekei as totally in favor of language over Language now that they know the difference. But it makes me wonder why Mieville wrote it that way. As written, of course Avice is the hero and Scile the villain. But I think it would have been a better story if that was a little less clear.
( )
  misslevel | Dec 22, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 203 (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 (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miéville, Chinaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Drechsler, ArndtCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoven, ArnoTranslatorsecondary authorsome 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
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Wikipedia in English (2)

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.

No library descriptions found.

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)

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