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Embassytown (2011)

by China Miéville

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,2782113,768 (3.87)1 / 324
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. 40
    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.
  3. 30
    Foreigner by C. J. Cherryh (PhoenixFalls, electronicmemory)
    PhoenixFalls: Cherryh excels in writing really alien aliens and always focuses on the nuances of languages.
  4. 41
    The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (santhony)
    santhony: Science fiction as seen through the prism of anthropology and sociology.
  5. 41
    Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (electronicmemory)
  6. 64
    Hyperion by Dan Simmons (BeckyJG)
  7. 31
    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.
  8. 31
    The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (ansate)
  9. 20
    The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (KatyBee)
  10. 20
    Blindsight by Peter Watts (electronicmemory)
  11. 10
    The Dosadi Experiment by Frank Herbert (santhony)
    santhony: Philosophical Science Fiction
  12. 21
    The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (sparemethecensor)

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 Name that Book: Found: Help find title of sci-fi book3 unread / 3miatria, October 2021

» See also 324 mentions

English (210)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (212)
Showing 1-5 of 210 (next | show all)
I don't know enough about linguistics to know whether the fact that the language breakthrough seemed to be achieved by shouting is accurate or not, but it felt arbitrary. ( )
  IsraOverZero | Sep 23, 2023 |
Even great genre fiction can often feel derivative. Characters or concepts that feel familiar. And fair enough, the idea space is only so big. Not so this author. When he writes a sci fi, it's like nothing else I've ever read. Hats off, sir. ( )
  ropable | Aug 20, 2023 |
This is a very ambitious novel and gets high marks for aiming high. On the other hand, it's not very reader-friendly. I mark it down for not doing its job of engaging the reader and drawing them into what seems to be a very interesting world. The reader's appreciation of this book will depend on their tolerance for befuddlement.

The first third is the most frustrating. Since a major theme of the book is language (or, in the case of the Hosts, Language with a capital L), the author dumps the user into an alien landscape using futuristic language with only a few reference points. This would not have been so bad if the reader were also given a story. Instead, we are given a memoir. Or rather, we are given a hodge podge of a bits of memoir by a narrator that we can't quite identify with.

When things finally start happening in the immediate, the book gets a bit more interesting and engaging. Yet I could never quite shake the feeling that I wasn't quite there, in the moment, in the place. Description is fleeting. Dialog is circumspect. Events happen in a jumble.

Is this a literary novel masquerading as a science fiction novel? Or vice versa? It's definitely not a light summertime read. ( )
  zot79 | Aug 20, 2023 |
I think this is my favourite Miéville book. I just listened to it in audio format, a few years after reading it for the first time. There's something special about hearing the alien language, I think.

A lot longer than I remember it, and a lot more detailed. Miéville is one of my favourite authors for casually hinting at a world that is bigger than he has directly described, although this does mean a lot of mumbo-jumbo invented vocabulary.

It's also been long enough that I don't remember some of the twists, which is nice, although knowing the ending as I did, it was great to look back and see the structure and foreshadowing. ( )
  finlaaaay | Aug 1, 2023 |
Language is something that can define how we think and to an extent, who we are. Having the correct language and knowing how to use it can be key in understanding many a concept, especially as things become more complex. So what happens when language is limiting in much more fundamental ways? Changing your language and what it is capable of changes the speaker as well. This is a novel that examines the questions raised by how such changes and differences might manifest themselves. It will lead you deep into thought on this subject, whilst intriguing you with a richly inventive setting and an expertly told plot.

The start felt slow at first, but I was rapidly drawn in and fascinated by the themes and ideas presented that I had to know more about, and I was suddenly half way through. The thought that it might be a novel that bogs down in minutiae crossed my mind at first, but it picks up very well. Mieville does something that I actually love in SF which is to avoid labouring explanations, letting context and need define things and allowing the reader to figure them out. I found myself often thinking on the ideas presented, ruminating on the what-ifs the novel threw up whilst going about my days. This to me is a hallmark of great SF.

I have only very minor gripes at first Avice did not seem overly bothered about some fairly intense personal emotional things that happened to her, or at least there was little reason given for the lack of effect upon her. As the character develops through the middle of the book, it does become clearer, however. The only other thing that bothered me worth mentioning is to ask: why raise the idea of a self-worshipping god / self-addicted drug, just to skim over it and forge ahead with the rest of the plot? I felt that this was almost a teasing inclusion without further development, but can understand that it’s obviously too interesting an idea to leave out, however frustrating. ( )
  laurence_gb | Jul 30, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 210 (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
Miller, EdwardCover artistsecondary authorsome 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
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

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?
Avice the simile, all
Ends in social change.

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