Saturday, April 28, 2012

Embassytown by China Miéville

EmbassytownEmbassytown by China Miéville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to read Embassytown after it had been nominated for practically every science fiction award in 2011-2012. I have only read The City and the City prior to this book, although I've always meant to go back and read some of his earlier books.

I kept getting distracted by other books (mostly poetry), so reading this took longer than most books do, but that shouldn't be interpreted as a lack of recommendation.

Embassytown is about language. I kept hearing that, and assumed it was code for "China Mieville uses big words." And while that is true, including several he makes up on his own (like 'floaking'), there is so much more. Embassytown is the name of a civilization on an alien planet on the edge of the 'immer,' the explored part of the universe. It is still populated by the natives, Ariekei, who for a long time were unable to communicate with their visitors, a language barrier of sorts.

Among the solutions is that some of the visitors are turned into living similes. Avice Benner Cho, who narrates the story, is a simile the Ariekei know as "The girl who was hurt in darkness and ate what was given her."

Avice has recently come back to Embassytown with her newest husband, and that is when there is a problem with one of the Ambassadors. I can't say much else; it would give the story away. But it is innovative and I enjoyed reading it.

A few little bits:

"As I've grown older I've become conscious of how unsurprising I am."

"Look instead at a map of the 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 accounting, the situation is visibly different."

"I couldn't tell if I was perpicacious or paranoid."

"How do lying and similes intersect?"

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