China Miéville doesn't follow trends, he sets them. Relentlessly pushing his own boundaries as a writer - and in the process expanding the boundaries of the entire field - with Embassytown, Miéville has crafted an extraordinary novel that is not only a moving personal drama but a gripping adventure of alien contact and war.
In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.
Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.
When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties - to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.
When we were young in Embassytown, we played a game with coins and coin-sized crescent offcuts from a workshop. We always did so in the same place, by a particular house, beyond the rialto in a steep-sloping backstreet of tenements, where advertisements turned in colours under the ivy. We played in the smothered light of those old screens, by a wall we christened for the tokens we played with. I remember spinning a heavy two-sou piece on its edge and chanting as it went, turnabout, incline, pig-snout, sunshine, until it wobbled and fell. The face that showed and the word I'd reached when the motion stopped would combine to specify some reward or forfeit.
I see myself clearly in wet spring and in summer, with a deuce in my hand, arguing over interpretations with other girls and with boys. We would never have played elsewhere, though that house, about which and about the inhabitant of which there were stories, could make us uneasy.
Like all children we mapped our hometown carefully,...
I have a confession to make. I am in love with China Miéville's brain. I think his writing is brilliant, unique, and thought-provoking to the millionth degree. He treats the English language as his tool, his toy, and his landscape, and Embassytown is a perfect example of how much he can accomplish in one book.
(Reviewed by Beverly Melven).
Full Review (845 words).
China Miéville (pronounced mee-AY-vill) has taken the science fiction world by storm in his relatively short tenure as a published author. He is the winner of three Arthur C. Clarke awards, two British Fantasy Awards, four Locus Awards, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award - not to mention he's received numerous nominations for every major science fiction and fantasy award possible, including the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild awards. His first novel, King Rat, was published in 1998. That's a lot of attention in 12 years.
Though reviewers often speak of how he 'transcends the genre,' Miéville sees no shame in writing within the bounds of traditional science fiction. In a July 2010 interview in the New York Times...
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