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Thread: China Mieville's Embassytown
November 15th, 2010, 07:52 PM #1
China Mieville's Embassytown
not much info really but came across this at:http://thewertzone.blogspot.com/ can't wait
"Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe.
Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts - who cannot lie.
Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.
Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts."
Mieville will also be undertaking an American tour for the book, visiting New York, Washington DC, Boston, Seattle and Portland. I'm also hearing that Mieville's entire backlist is going to be repackaged in the UK with new cover art.
Embassytown will be published on 6 May 2011 and will be 432 pages in hardcover (not 208, as is being listed in some quarters) and tradeback.
November 15th, 2010, 08:14 PM #2
November 15th, 2010, 10:49 PM #3
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I don't know what to make of it. Sounds similar to The City and The City just slightly altered. Should be interesting one way or another. May wait for others to read it first before I take a shot on it.
November 16th, 2010, 10:16 AM #4
So how do you pronounce that name? Av-EESE or Av-ICE?
I'll read it as soon as Amazon.ca sends it to me. And it sounds nothing like The City and the City.
November 16th, 2010, 05:02 PM #5
November 17th, 2010, 09:17 AM #6
November 17th, 2010, 09:37 AM #7
March 9th, 2011, 02:09 AM #8
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I finished the book and it was as good as i expected; the same narrative space as City and the City but this time with aliens for which language is intrinsically tied with their sentience and written in the author's great style with superb world building, though the story itself turned out to be much more familiar at least for experienced sf readers who probably have seen it quite a few times before, of course in a different set-up, so I could tell from a long way from the end what will roughly happen
Still this does not detract from the achievement of the novel and I highly recommended it, while it will be a top novel of mine in 2011
March 13th, 2011, 11:18 AM #9
I've read it too, and wrote my review:
Fans of the eloquent and endlessly imaginative China Miéville have been blessed by his recent annual output, with the third book in three years coming out this May. After the previous genre-benders which melded murder mystery with metaphysical weirdness (2009′s The City & the City), and urban fantasy with theological satire (last year’s Kraken), the latest novel Embassytown once again mashes together incongruent elements of fiction to create something beautiful, bleak and terrifying. Embassytown combines planetary science-fiction with colonial novel, lingual exploration with zombie apocalypse.
It is megahours in our universe’s future (all lengths of time are given in hours and multiples of, due to the difficulty of standardising day and year length over thousands of colonised planets), and the nation of Bremen has established a colony on the far-off planet Arieka: Embassytown, a human ghetto-cum-bureaucratic facility smackdab in the middle of the indigenous species’ only city. The natives are the Ariekei, known to humans as the Hosts—and gracious hosts they are, as they provide food and wondrous biotechnology for the settlers, asking virtually nothing in exchange. However, there is a bit of a communication hurdle as the Hosts’ method of speech is physiologically impossible for humans to copy. That is until a breakthrough occurs, and specially trained-and-altered humans known as Ambassadors are finally able to speak to the Hosts. Things go peachily for a time, until the Bremen capitol, unprecedented, sends a new Ambassador to join the embassy’s Staff. This Ambassador is different in a remarkable way to all those who have come before, and the effect on the Hosts is unexpected and disastrous. Horror ensues in typical Miéville fashion.
The protagonist, who narrates in first-person, is Avice Benner Cho, an Arieka-born human who has returned to her home planet after spending her early adulthood as a career Immerser — a rare human capable of withstanding the severe physiological and psychological effects of travelling through the sub-reality shortcuts of the universe, known as the Immer. Being unaffected by what makes most travellers need to spend journeys frozen in sleep, she helps crew ships all over the universe, in Bremen territory and elsewhere. In a 50-page prologue (or “proem” as Miéville prefers), Avice provides insight into life growing up in Embassytown, as well as describing the wider universe, its sights and its inhabitants, ever so briefly. This honestly could have been a novel in itself because Miéville’s universe is so packed with detail and tantalising hints of whole worlds. I can only hope that more novels in this universe are floating around that shaved head of his. Soon after the book starts, Avice returns home and the book spends the rest of its length literally grounded on Arieka, with no further spaceship adventure to be had. It’s of no matter though, as what happens on the ground is incredibly gripping, and Avice is a smart, likeable protagonist who conveys events with the same terror and bewilderment as we feel while we read. However I’m not going to spoil anything, so you’ll have to find out what happens in May.
Miéville has often been praised for being able to write settings that seem like they are alive, but that’s especially true here, as the greater city that Embassytown resides within is quite literally alive — buildings, machines, vehicles and weapons alike are all grown by the biotech-proficient Hosts. The inanimate are all too animate, with skeletons, organs, organelles and bodily fluids being possessed by everything imaginable. It’s creepy and strangely beautiful to read about the “avenues of meat-trees”, and skin-walled houses with grotesque antibodies scuttling about securing the place from intruders. The Hosts themselves are creepy and hard to hold a picture of in the mind’s eye: they are described as insectile and equine, with sharp hooves and coral-like eyes. It’s weird, but hey, it’s China Miéville.
Equally inventive is the bizarre language system Miéville has come up with for the Hosts. They cannot speak about something unless it is true, and has happened. That means no lies (although they put on popular Lie Festivals in which they compete to try to say untrue sentences), no speculation, no future tense, no metaphors. To even be able to speak of abstract concepts they have to engineer similes, often with the help of humans. Avice herself is a simile: as a child, she performed a small act for the Hosts so they could canonise her in their Language. Avice becomes “the girl who was hurt and ate what was given to her”, from then on used as a figure of speech by the Hosts in various manners, whether in debates or philosophy, always opaque in meaning to humans. The mechanical aspect of the Hosts’ language is also strange, hence the need of specialised humans to speak it (the Ambassadors are some of the most fascinating characters in the book); and to represent this particular lingual quirk on the page requires a trick of typography that makes me wonder how well this book is going to be rendered on people’s Kindles, or how the audiobook version is going to handle it. I guess we’ll all find out in May.
The book is beautifully and baroquely written, most similar in style to his Bas-Lag works: Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council. Many pieces of science fiction jargon are given a Miéville twist: “alien” becomes “exoterre”, “human” is usually rendered as “Terre”, “stasis” becomes “sopor”, “slower than light” becomes “sublux”, and so on. Talk of “trids” rather than “holograms” and “corvids” rather than “ships” helps to differentiate Miéville’s universe from the usual science fiction writing. He also co-opts foreign words such as the German adjective “manchmal” to distinguish reality from the bizarre Immer. One stylistic choice was actually a bit distracting while I was reading: the frequent use of “megahours” and “kilohours” (while necessary in-universe, as I mentioned above) had me calculating on my iPhone so I could get an idea of exactly how long a span of time 250 kilohours, for instance, is.
Miéville has explored colonial themes in the past in the world of Bas-Lag, such as with the plight of the Stiltspear in Iron Council. This novel could admittedly have been another Bas-Lag book, the bizarreness of the biology and biotechnology are very evocative of his earlier fantasy triptych; just change planets to continents and spaceships to, well, ships. However the themes of colonialism and the inevitable destruction of native culture work just as well, or even better, in a far-future science fiction setting, and readers, even those die-hard fans waiting for a fourth Bas-Lag book, will really appreciate Miéville stepping into a fresh genre. As well as science-fiction and colonial literature, he folds in zombie horror pastiche, with a sneaky reference to George Romero’s films nodding to this.
Above all this however, this is a novel about the difficulty of communicating with, and understanding the workings of, alien minds. I realised about half way into the book that it reminded me a bit (not a lot) of Orson Scott Card’s Speaker For The Dead; not that this is a first-contact novel (no, first contact happened megahours before the events of the book!), but there are similarities in the ideas regarding trying to talk to other sentient beings, and hoping to hell that they don’t misinterpret you. Card just couldn’t have done it with such disturbing and stylistic flair as this.
5 stars out of 5
Great book! Now I'm wishing I hadn't got it early, I have to wait longer than everyone else for his NEXT book (2012 hopefully) :P
Last edited by Hobbit; March 13th, 2011 at 12:24 PM. Reason: Link removed. Review added to keep it all on site without the need for external links. Hobbit
March 13th, 2011, 05:59 PM #10
March 13th, 2011, 06:11 PM #11
Since this is a Science Fiction novel, I'm moving it to the SF Forum.
March 15th, 2011, 04:28 PM #12
I'm really looking forwards to Embassytown. I still haven't read Kraken, which I hear is very good, but I've very much enjoyed his Bas-Lag books and The City & the City was amazing.
March 21st, 2011, 05:12 AM #13
Review from PW (starred):
Miéville (Kraken) adds to the sparse canon of linguistic SF with this deeply detailed story of the ways an alien language might affect not only thought patterns but ways of life. Avice Benner Cho returns to her backwater colony home of Embassytown so her linguist husband, Scile, can study the almost empathic, in-the-present language of the planet's natives, the Hosts. When a Host learns to lie, the resulting massive cultural earthquake in Host society is compounded by two new Ambassadors whose voices have a profound physiological effect on the Hosts. Miéville's brilliant storytelling shines most when Avice works through problems and solutions that develop from the Hosts' unique and convoluted linguistic evolution, and many of the most intriguing characters are the Hosts themselves. The result is a world masterfully wrecked and rebuilt. (May)
May 4th, 2011, 02:05 PM #14
I read this one a couple of months ago, but just posted my review. It's up to the usual quality of of Mieville and a nice and refreshing jump into science fiction. Below is an excerpt from my review.
Miéville is a master of creating atmosphere and all things weird, which is one of the most exciting aspects of his foray into science fiction. Embassytown is an isolated backwater and Miéville subtly reinforces this through the travels of Avice. The atmosphere he creates is superb – and it’s utterly alien, which is where the weird comes in.
All too often sentient science fictional races feel too anthropomorphized – either that or they feel like too strong of an effort to avoid anthropomorphization. Miéville walks this fine line with excellence and subversion. The Hosts and their world are completely alien, yet the mistake made over and over again is to assume that they can be understood in ‘human’ terms. While Miéville’s descriptions of the Hosts are strong, they are just vague enough that I don’t really have a good mental image of what a Host really looks like, and that feels just right. Unfortunately, it’s a bit tricky to write about the most fascinating and more subversive qualities about Miéville’s aliens without giving too much away, so I’ll leave that for readers to explore on their own.
But the real emphasis of the Host’s alien nature is in their language. It is unlike any other known language in the galaxy and humanity has had to do some really horrific genetic engineering to develop communication with the Hosts – communication that is in reality not well understood at all. Through a bizarre ritual Avice actually becomes a simile in the Host’s language – she is an object of the language, an object of reverence and true meaning. And it confuses the hell out of her. I know my description of this aspect of Embassytown feels incomplete and probably a bit confusing, but long essays could be written on this and my advice is to read the book to come to an understanding of your own.
It’s through Embassytown’s view of colonialism that it becomes rather interesting, if not necessarily unique to the writings of science fiction. Embassytown is not told from the more traditional perspectives of colonists seeking independence, repressed indigenous species seeking freedom, or the conquering nation/empire/species – it is essentially the story of simple people trying to survive. And the ambiguity of where those simple people fall on that list of traditional perspectives is thought provoking – especially considering how the book ultimately ends. Is it a happy ending? Is it a sad ending? Was a culture destroyed or saved? Is it overall a hopeful story or one of despair? Who were the winners and losers? Were there winners and losers? Miéville doesn’t take any clear sides – he lays it out for readers to consider.
May 4th, 2011, 02:13 PM #15
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