Friday, May 22, 2015

Review:: Embassytown, by China Miéville

Title: Embassytown
Author: China Miéville
Format: eBook
Rating: ★★★★★

It's no secret I like China Miéville. (Alert: I like China Miéville.) However, as much as I love his works, Embassytown was the cream of the crop. Alien aliens, a beautiful breakdown of politics (during a breakdown), some absolutely stunning linguistics-play, and even further elevated and intoxicating Miéville prose. Yum.

Just a note: this is this the book The Legendary Book Club of Habitica is currently reading. If you want in, there's still plenty of time! Join HabitRPG, the guild itself (you must be logged in to see the guild), and our Goodreads group to get involved. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

As a child in Embassytown, Avice is made into a simile... literally. She is hurt and forced to eat what was given to her. All so the Hosts, the local aliens, can use her as a figure of speech. Later, she gets to leave, to experience life outside of Embassytown, but at her linguist spouse's behest, they return. Language for the hosts is something entirely different. They cannot lie. When they are spoken to, they cannot recognize it as language unless it is two voices speaking as one with a single mind behind it.

Computers cannot speak with them because there is no mind. Single humans cannot speak to them because they have only one voice. So in Embassytown, Ambassadors are bred, clones that are kept to be completely similar, two bodies, one mind, who are trained in a rudimentary form of Language so the humans in Embassytown can interact with the Hosts, trade with them, and exist with them.

Then, one day a new Ambassador appears who is not bred for the job. And everything falls apart.

I found it incredibly interesting that China Miéville's writing, in many ways, seemed more elevated in his book that so heavily discussed and used language. I'm used to having to double-check a couple of definitions and getting lost in the headiness of his prose, but it happened more often in Embassytown than any other work of his so far.

Another thing that clearly stood out to me was the understanding of the nuance of politics. With everyone having their own goals, politics becomes more of a web map than a party alignment, and not everyone's showing their whole hand. Or even aware of what cards they're really dealing.

Like always, Miéville's machines are wonderful. The thinking machines are just right, and the biotech is just delicious. I especially loved the scene at the end, with the alien and the automa. Just right.

The denouement was a bit strong-on for me, but after a delightful read that was absolutely fine. It only held on for a bit too long for my tastes and the suddenness from climax to denouement blurs in memory.

No comments:

Post a Comment