BookBrowse Reviews Embassytown by China Mieville

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Embassytown

by China Mieville

Embassytown by China Mieville X
Embassytown by China Mieville
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2011, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2012, 368 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Beverly Melven
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


An intelligent sci fi novel that examines the nature of language and how we communicate

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.

Avice Benner Cho grows up in a world where humans barely have an outpost, and the native population can barely communicate with them. The Ariekei's nature and language are such that it takes humans more than a century to be able to speak with them, though understanding is still limited. And while on one level this story is like a Star Trek Prime Directive fiasco (and worse than anything Kirk or Picard had to deal with), the science fiction adventure element is merely the surface. Miéville creates a world in which the characters play out the parts of a linguistics debate while challenging the social interactions that lead to war. Oh yeah - and meanwhile, humans have the ability to travel between planets using an alternate reality where movement is achieved by beings who have learned how to think about moving in a particular way.

Embassytown is roiling with undercurrents on the nature of language. The Ariekei think their human ambassadors (specially bred and trained to communicate with them) are amazing for being able to lie. They hold festivals so the Ariekei can revel in the lying and try to learn how to do it. They use humans to 'make similes' so they can talk about things that don't exist. If you're not an English geek like me, that might not sound interesting, but it's all dressed up in crazy aliens, even crazier people, and the messes that people always make when they let petty selfishness get in the way of the public good. There are characters to love, mysteries to solve and lives to save - all while Miéville ruminates on the duality of language and how miraculous it is that people ever understand what they tell each other.

I don't recommend starting this book while half-asleep. You will retain nothing and have to start over. Maybe there are PhDs in physics just nodding along with Miéville's futuristic creations, but for the rest of us, he is not just telling a story, he's inventing a scientific reality to populate and play with. He makes you dive right in, and you better hope you can learn to swim in his pool.

All of the Miéville books I have read feature the exploration of social structures, an impressive facility with language, and incredible narrative depth. Embassytown is no exception - you won't be forgetting this one. While I don't think this book is for everyone, those who enjoy a large dose of brain food with their entertainment will be right at home.

Reviewed by Beverly Melven

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in July 2011, and has been updated for the February 2012 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  China Miéville

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Genesis
    Genesis
    by Guido Tonelli
    Popular science books represent an important niche in non-fiction. They build a bridge between ...
  • Book Jacket: Buses Are a Comin'
    Buses Are a Comin'
    by Charles Person, Richard Rooker
    Charles Person was just 18 years old in 1961 when he became the youngest of the first wave of '...
  • Book Jacket: Firekeeper's Daughter
    Firekeeper's Daughter
    by Angeline Boulley
    Angeline Boulley's young adult novel Firekeeper's Daughter follows 18-year-old Daunis — ...
  • Book Jacket: Winter in Sokcho
    Winter in Sokcho
    by Elisa Dusapin
    Our unnamed narrator is a young French-Korean woman who works at a guest house in Sokcho, a popular ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Girl in His Shadow
by Audrey Blake
The story of one woman who believed in scientific medicine before the world believed in her.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Crossing the River
    by Carol Smith

    A powerful exploration of grief that combines memoir, reportage, and lessons in how to heal.

  • Book Jacket

    A Theater for Dreamers
    by Polly Samson

    A spellbinding tour-de-force about the beauty between naïveté and cruelty, artist and muse.

Who Said...

There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are either well written or badly written. That is all.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A S I T closet

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.