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3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  12,874 ratings  ·  1,860 reviews
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 o...more
Hardcover, 345 pages
Published May 17th 2011 by Del Rey (first published 2011)
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Sometimes words can shatter worlds. Especially when they are like this:
""I don't want to be a simile anymore," I said. "I want to be a metaphor."

This book lived up to all my expectations. No, it did not quite knock The Scar off its Miévillish pedestal but it came pretty damn close to it. (Hey, Catie, we both agree on that!) I loved it so much, and yet when a colleague politely asked what it was about (when I told him I stayed up half the night before taking call to read it) I could not figure...more
BLARGH this guy. This guy needs to be stopped. He is using all the ideas. He is taking all the genres.

(I was going to delete that but it got 10 votes, so it can stay. The sentiment still rings true. Stop using up all the ideas, you limey bastard!)


INTERIOR: Parking garage. Almost every space is full. The only opening is a narrow space labeled "Compact Car." To its left sits a SHINY MOTORCYCLE.

[A BLACK LEXUS creeps into view. The driver is irritated, swinging his head back and forth in sea...more
June 2011
Dear Steven Moffat:

China Miéville. Doctor Who. Think about it.


Avice Benner Cho is an Immerser. She's a floaker. She's a hoopy frood who knows where her towel is (Dear Jane Belson: China Miéville. Hitchhiker's Guide. Bad idea?). She's also a simile. When she was a child on the strangest planet in the universe, home to the strangest beings in the universe, she became a living part of the strangest language in the universe. And then she left to explore the Out, and then she retu...more
How can a novel about language leave one speechless? In a good way, I hasten to add!

This was the third Mieville I’ve read, and they are all very different in style, content and my liking (or not).

The core idea of this one is language: how minds shape language and how language shapes minds. Wonderful as it was, I can see reasons why some people would hate it, or find it too weird, or just not sci-fi enough. If you don’t delight in polysemy and are not interested in the difference between simile a...more
Carol. [All cynic, all the time]
Jul 02, 2013 Carol. [All cynic, all the time] rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of The Dispossessed, alien cultural intersections
In ninth grade, Mrs. Muench--who had an uncanny resemblance to Miss Marple's friend Dolly Bantry--endeavored to teach us the difference between similes and metaphors.

Similes use "like" and "as" to compare two unlike things.

Metaphors state two unlike things are the same.

But dear, enthusiastic Mrs. Muench could not have anticipated China's sophistry: metaphors are lies.

Embassytown is a deep-thinking book, not one to pick up if you are in a the mood for a fast action read. China's use of a futuris...more
Ian Paganus de Fish
Proem: In Which an Ambassador Iangrayetiates Himself With His Host With Impunity

Is a simile
Like a metaphor?
I cannot espouse
This figure of speech.
This not unlike that?
One word a signpost?

Can this be that, or
Would subject object?
How could I be you?
Worse still, you be me?
Well, I know my place,
I'm not one to boast.

I am, like, content
To be just a guest,
Sometimes arriving
First and leaving last.
Not competitive,
Neither least nor most.

A figure of speech,
An Ambassador,
If you please, beyond
Compare and c...more
Sep 02, 2012 Catie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Catie by: Nataliya
I wasn’t planning to review this book, but I just can’t stop thinking about it. And then I realized last night that the Hugo Award winners will be announced today and I suddenly had this pang of fan-superstition, like one of those crazy sport people who feel compelled to wear the same socks for a whole week. Maybe if I review this today, he’ll win. Maybe I can speak my wish into reality. See? I really can’t stop thinking about this book.

This book is very different than almost anything else I’ve...more
Aliens so alien they just alienate you with their alieness.

That is what you have to look forward to. Embassytown is a brave move by China Miéville, it is not an easy read, it is full of neologism, and it has a steep learning curve. The author made an effort to create something special and he expects some mental exertion from the reader too. In order for the reader to indulge the author they generally need to have a store of goodwill for that author to want to make the effort. Basically, this sho...more

There is no subject, not love, religion, sex, music, that generates more quasi-mystical but ultimately senseless gushing than.... language. I liked this book quite a lot, and wanted to like it more; but I was so unable to credit its central conceit, the Hosts' "Language", that I have to judge the book something of a failure. Here are some of my problems with it.

Language (capital L) both is and is not a language. (Fans of the language mysticism in this book might prefer that I wrote the f...more
David Sven
This is my first Mieville, and my first foray into his “weird fiction” as he likes to call it. And it is weird - and wonderful at the same time. Embassytown is not just an imagination of new worlds, so much as an imagination of concepts. In this case, specifically, Language.

I had to restart this book three times because I didn’t have a clue what was going on at the start. We’re on another planet, guests of an alien race who can talk to us but we can’t talk to them. Our Hosts have two mouths and...more
Ben Babcock
Some books are just made for readers. Embassytown, with its focus on the way language shapes our perceptions and our thoughts, is one such book. As readers we are conoisseurs of language, we inhale it and revel in it and cultivate it and all of its diversity. Language informs us, sways us, entertains us, engages us … it is everything to us.

Science fiction seems, to me, like a perfect vehicle for exploring our dependence upon language. After all, there has been a great deal of speculation about h...more
This may be one of the best books I've read this year.

I wasn't sure if I'd end up in the love-him or hate-him camp since this was my first China Miéville, but it seems I love him! He had been very hyped up by friends and reviews and general opinion and I was nervous that I wouldn't like his work as a result.

The commentary on language and communication was just mind blowing. I could attempt to summarize some of the more interesting points but honestly I think I'd need to read the book a few tim...more
I see I'm going to be a dissenting voice here, but I'm afraid I found Embassytown to be weak, poorly-plotted and fundamentally unconvincing.

The book is concerned with a settlement on a planet at the edge of the known universe. The city is inhabited by Ariekei, a strange species whose distinguishing feature is a unique language which has a double articulation and in which it is impossible to lie. A small enclave of humans lives there, and communicates with their ‘Hosts’ via a series of Ambassador...more
What is Embassytown about?

Embassytown is about reality.
Embassytown is about how we make reality.
Embassytown is about how we speak reality.
Embassytown is reality.
Embassytown is unreal.
Embassytown is about religion.
Embassytown is about the spirit.
Embassytown is about being incorruptible.
Embassytown is about corruption.
Embassytown is corruption.
Embassytown is about the opiated masses.
Embassytown is about what opiates the masses.
Embassytown is about any opiates for any masses.
Embassytown is opiates...more
Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime)
Mar 27, 2013 Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: sf
This is why I read China Miéville!

I recently finished The Scar and was thoroughly disappointed, giving it the lowest rating I've given to one of his books. So, I felt I just had to jump into Embassytown, and loved it from the start.

SF is full of "aliens", but for the most part they're odd-looking humans, or at least "people". They're not really all that alien. Miéville's Ariekei are not only completely alien, he never even really clearly describes their appearance - it just isn't that important....more
I was thrilled to find a copy of Embassytown at the library a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I only made it through about 40 pages before I had to return it. Those were a tough 40 pages that really hurt my brain. At some point, I realized that my problem was less about the book than about the fact that I just couldn't hear it right in my head. Avice, the first-person narrator, tells the story in a slang that kept making me stumble. She doesn't define anything in her world because she assumes that...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
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 "C...more
I'm ashamed to admit that I was doubting Mieville (sorry, don't know how to do the accent mark) at the beginning of this novel. All of his books prior to this one had grabbed me from the start. However, I almost felt like I was reading an anthropologist's field notebook about a tribe being studied, for the first quarter of the book.

Once it was all said and done though, I get why it was necessary. I'm still amazed he pulled the plot off. It would have been a disaster if attempted by a less adept...more
Lisa Vegan
Nov 02, 2011 Lisa Vegan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lisa by: Sarah Pi Pinkster & Ceridwen
what to say? what to say?

What an odd book.

It was a slog for me. I didn’t have a lot of fun reading it; it was more of a frustrating challenge than pleasure reading. But it was fascinating, and highly creative. This is my first book by this author and I’m not running to read others by him. I’m afraid this is my failing: to not fully appreciate what was done here. It is brilliant in its way, maybe worthy of even 5 stars.

This author does almost too good a job at making the aliens and the society se...more
China Mieville is a hard guy to pin down. Each of his novels probes a different cranny of genre writing. The only commonality is his use of the word "chitinous" as early and often as possible. Each of his novels that I've read layers idea upon idea, novelty upon novelty. A couple have defeated me, the ugliness of his descriptive passages outweighing the brilliance. I can't remember him depicting any place or creature that wasn't in some way grotesque.

Some of those hallmarks are still in place h...more
A great accomplishment in a central theme of science fiction, that of humans blundering their way toward fuller communication and understanding of an alien species. Despite some plodding of the plot in the middle and a struggle to accede to the overlying premise of the tale, this was well compensated for by good engagement in the fate of in-depth characters, plenty of ingenious invention and atmospheric conveyance with the details, and fascinating reflection on how very different species may hav...more
Let's play fuck-marry-kill with Embassytown: A) Fuck the concept, and repeatedly, in varied and salacious ways, because, day-uuum, the one for this book is an extended orgasm; B) marry the author; and C) kill the characters and plot, because they're the poorly assembled vehicle through which B uses A to mess with your head.

Look, China Miéville is an exceptionally intelligent writer, and in the context of speculative fiction, few can touch what he does. However, as literature goes, his style stri...more
Lori (Hellian)
Completely different than PSS, more true sf than fantasy. I had no trouble getting right into it - tighter focus than Perdito, no lengthy descriptions (which I loved but I know many don't). What struck me the most is how language reflects our reality, the way we actually think. And if suddenly a new way comes at us, our whole perception is shattered, blasting away a sense of self and how we relate to the world. In this case, it's alien species who are starting to incorporate similes, the strange...more
Lit Bug
It is difficult to pin down this work to any genre – SF? Yes, but not quite. Not an intersection of SF and Fantasy either. Political? Definitely yes, but not that alone. Mieville himself, perhaps, describes it best – WEIRD FICTION.

No, it isn’t weird as an end in itself. It is thematically complex, uses devices of SF and Fantasy only as a necessary, inevitable setting to posit even more radical views on concepts we are already extremely familiar with. Language. Politics. Similes and Metaphors. Po...more
Milica Chotra
I loved this little anthropological study of a wonderfully crafted world on the edge of the known Universe.

Though I couldn't make myself care too much about the human characters (even the narrator of the story seemed uninteresting to me), I was totally immersed in the politics of Embassytown and the linguistic struggle of their Hosts - Ariekei. The central concept of the novel is the importance of language in the shaping of our worldview / perception of reality, and Miéville did an impressive j...more
switterbug (Betsey)
The only other Mieville I have read (and also reviewed) was The City & The City, which was his least fabulist style of book, and I was transported and absorbed throughout. Although I am not attracted to SciFi, I was intrigued by a novel about "Language." I knew that Mieville would scatter EMBASSYTOWN with fascinating neologisms, and create a world that is absurd, baroque, yet inevitably believable, due to his attention to detail and his wicked, hipster, and yet sensitive, intelligent treatme...more
Rachel Hartman
I really want to sit down and review this properly when I have time. Of course, I say that about a lot of books and then never get to them, so what do you imagine the odds are, really?

I just want to say for now, though, as a kind of placeholder, that this is the first China Mieville novel I have ever successfully read all the way through, and I only managed that because I made the conscious decision that this was going to be the one! I wasn't going to bounce off the surface like I always do, lik...more
Arielle Walker

Embassytown is that rare thing in literature: unique. I'm sure there must be other books, other stories that deal with similar ideas, but I have yet to come across anything that comes close to the beautiful strangeness of this book.

There are cons: Embassytown is far from perfect. Like all of Mieville's work that I've read so far, it is hard work (especially at the start) but it does get easier as the story begins to grip you. This is not a comfortable, lazy read. Sometimes I found that that lan...more
Embassytown by China Miéville: “A quirk of psyche and phonetics”

(This review is spoiler-free!)

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 togethe...more
Arun Divakar
One of the most amazing things in being a social animal is our usage of language. If it were not for this facility of our mind, we would have led a most chaotic life. Even the animals and birds who share the planet with us communicate in their own ways. This was my first foray into a story where language was the soul of the story. China Mieville is an author whose world building skills have found in me a delighted reader through his New Crobuzon. In Embassytown, he creates a world with the same...more
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A British "fantastic fiction" writer. He is fond of describing his work as "weird fiction" (after early 20th century pulp and horror writers such as H. P. Lovecraft), and belongs to a loose group of writers sometimes called New Weird who consciously attempt to move fantasy away from commercial, genre clichés of Tolkien epigons. He is also active in left-wing politics as a member of the Socialist W...more
More about China Miéville...
Perdido Street Station (Bas-Lag, #1) The City & the City The Scar (Bas-Lag, #2) Kraken Un Lun Dun

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“Word spread because word will spread. Stories and secrets fight, stories win, shed new secrets, which new stories fight, and on.” 831 likes
“It felt like being a child again, though it was not. Being a child is like nothing. It's only being. Later, when we think about it, we make it into youth.” 37 likes
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