Catie's Reviews > Embassytown

Embassytown by China Miéville
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Sep 02, 12

bookshelves: read-in-2012, sci-fi, audio
Recommended to Catie by: Nataliya
Read from August 26 to 30, 2012

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 read from China Miéville. Where some of his other books seem to have this crazy frenetic energy, this constant flood of new ideas and creative imagery, this one feels more focused and streamlined. And while I’ve enjoyed every minute of the high-speed bizarre rides he’s taken my brain on, I fell hard for this story. Like The City & The City, this one gave me time to sit with his ideas. It gave me time to examine them from different angles, to bring them home to my own experiences and make them mine.

That’s not to say that this book isn’t highly imaginative and bizarre – I mean, this is China Miéville, after all. I tried to explain the premise of this book to my mom last night and I sounded completely ridiculous (she humored me though, because you know…she’s my mom). Those of you familiar with this author will know that you can trust him not to just come up with some vaguely human-looking people, add a few odd characteristics, and call them aliens. His aliens are genuinely alien. The Ariekei have a genuinely alien point of view, which is described with a vividness that can only come from complete imaginative dedication by the author. They have a genuinely alien appearance, which Miéville only partially describes, because it’s just not important. The most important thing about the Ariekei is their Language. Language for them is not so much a way of communicating, but a way of seeing. They speak things to make them real. Everything they “say” with their strange, harmonizing dual voices is therefore literal. I won’t say much more, because I think the way that Miéville reveals each facet of their culture and Language is completely absorbing and I don’t want to ruin that for anyone.

Yesterday, my friend Maggie left this gif as a comment on one of my reviews and I thought:

I am like the dog in the kitchen, who wanted to eat a cupcake but couldn’t.
I AM the dog. And I get to decide why.


Never before have I really stopped to think about how often we speak our truths with imagery, symbols, and lies. Also, this book makes my thoughts sound completely insane. If you haven’t read it, you're probably thinking I’m a crazy person right about now. Which is why this review is definitely not going up on the blog. You’re welcome, people of goodreads!

Here’s my best shot at describing what this book is about: It’s about a girl who grows up in a distant, alien place and becomes a part of its landscape, its Language. It’s about a woman eventually earns her way into the out. It’s about a traveler who reluctantly returns to her birthplace and finds something to fight for. Like so many of Miéville’s works, it’s about revolution. The path to new worlds is so often paved with blood and wreckage and the bones of lost traditions. But sometimes all that carnage and violence can become the fertilizer for something strong and new. "...the noise of old ways coming off in scabs. Pangs of something finishing, and of birth." I wish I could speak Language so I could say Photobucket and express all of that as one simple sentiment. I wish I could say Photobucket to tell you about the journey of Avice Benner Cho.

-------------------------

I know this wasn't absolutely perfect but I find it impossible to give it anything but 5 stars. I think The Scar is still my favorite Miéville but this one's an extremely close second. I may write a longer review someday when my life is less crazy, but for right now I can wholeheartedly recommend this book. If you're a Miéville fan, this is one of his best.
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Quotes Catie Liked

China Miéville
“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.”
China Miéville, Embassytown

China Miéville
“We speak now or I do, and others do. You've never spoken before. You will. You'll be able to say how the city is a pit and a hill and a standard and an animal that hunts and a vessel on the sea and the sea and how we are fish in it, not like the man who swims weekly with fish but the fish with which he swims, the water, the pool. I love you, you light me, warm me, you are suns.
You have never spoken before.”
China Miéville, Embassytown


Comments (showing 1-31 of 31) (31 new)

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message 1: by Kathryn (new) - added it

Kathryn Ooooooo!! Can't wait to see how you like this!


message 2: by Catie (last edited Aug 26, 2012 10:41AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Catie I already want to add it to my favorite books shelf.


message 3: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca This is on my toppling tower of TBR, too!


Catie It was fantastic!


message 5: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Thanks for letting me know.


message 6: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Look forward to the longer review.


Nataliya Well, Catie, I'm at 65% percent mark, and I love this book to pieces. Avice is such a great character; there's something about her that speaks to me. And yet again CM managed to create such a vivid setting full of such incredible weirdness! I'm turning every (Kindle) page with bated breath, both excited and terrified of what's to come. I hope everything turns out okay for Avice, but so far all Miéville's 'adult' books have had very bittersweet endings, and I'm afraid we have another one of those in the making.


Catie Oh, Nataliya - the ending of this book is incredible. It's not your typical Mieville ending. :D I just want to read it again and again.

What part are you at?


Nataliya I'm at the part where the war actually started. It's so sad... When EzRa was first introduced I had not the slightest inclination that it would ever turn to this. It's like taking 'dreamshit' from PSS up a notch.


Catie Yes, it is really sad. And almost all of it is just...accidental - the collateral damage of two societies interacting. Well, I guess that some of the parties had not-so-innocent motives but I don't think anyone expected that to happen. I think you're going to love the ending.


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) I agree it's one of his best. It's only his other best we disagree on :-)


Catie Hahaha, so what's your other favorite Derek? As long as it's not Kraken, we're good. ;)


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) Yes, you've seen what I didn't like :-) I didn't think much of Kraken, either. His first book for me was Perdido Street Station, but it didn't do a whole lot for me on first reading. The City and The City came long after, and it wasn't until I was almost done that it occurred to me I'd read something else by him - and went back to Perdido. But The City and The City was the one that really turned me on, and that keeps reminding me what he's capable of when I read something like Kraken ... or The Scar!


Catie Yeah, I think there's a definite division in style between his Bas-Lag stuff, Kraken, and Railsea and the later stuff - Embassytown and The City & The City. The later two are much more streamlined and understated, whereas some of those earlier ones feel more frenetic with a million ideas flying at you all at once. I like both styles though. :)


message 15: by Waqas (new) - added it

Waqas Mhd i couldn't finish it due to time constraints and other stuff. i think i should give it another go.


Catie I hope you do!


message 17: by Reynje (new)

Reynje Fantastic review Catie :)

So.. if I was going to venture into some Miéville, what would you recommend I being with?


Catie Hmmmmm....

A good question. For you, I'd probably recommend this one or maybe Un Lun Dun. They're all very weird, which I'm not sure if you like or not but I'd be very interested to see what you'd make of them!


message 19: by Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) (last edited Sep 02, 2012 08:49PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) I'm not sure that Embassytown might not ruin a reader for some of the lesser works, but it's a great story. I really loved King Rat, but that's probably Miéville's least-liked book, so what do I know... I was actually unimpressed with Un Lun Dun, because I felt it was largely a rehash of King Rat (and then Kraken did it all over again, though you'd probably need to read all three to see just why I feel that way...).


message 20: by J.P. (last edited Sep 02, 2012 08:34PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

J.P. The hugo for best novel went to Jo Walton for Among Others. I was rooting for China


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) Catie wrote: "Yeah, I think there's a definite division in style between his Bas-Lag stuff, Kraken, and Railsea and the later stuff "

You realize, Railsea is the latest stuff, right?


Nataliya I love this review, Catie! You said everything about this book so perfectly.

Like so many of Miéville’s works, it’s about revolution. The path to new worlds is so often paved with blood and wreckage and the bones of lost traditions. But sometimes all that carnage and violence can become the fertilizer for something strong and new.

You said it so perfectly, described it so aptly that I finally realized what all the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head after I finished this book were about.


Catie Derek wrote: "You realize, Railsea is the latest stuff, right?"

Yep. I would still place it in the frenetic, million-ideas-flying-at-your-face category. I know in one interview I saw with him (with Nancy Pearl) he mentioned that his books are not always published in the order he actually writes them - I really wonder if he wrote that one earlier.

J.P. - I just saw that! Kind of bummed, but then, I haven't read Among Others yet. I have it on-hold with my library right now so hopefully I'll get it soon.

Thanks Nataliya! I'm so looking forward to reading your review of this!


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) Catie wrote: "I would still place [Railsea] in the frenetic, million-ideas-flying-at-your-face category. ... I really wonder if he wrote that one earlier."

I expect it's very common for publishers to push out books in whatever order they think works best, and you could well be right that Railsea is really an earlier work.


Catie Very true. I also wonder if he actually wrote that book with the intention that it would be young adult, or if that was a decision made by the publisher.


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) Catie wrote: "Very true. I also wonder if he actually wrote that book with the intention that it would be young adult, or if that was a decision made by the publisher."

I'm pretty sure it was intended as YA - though I guess I got most of my information from the publisher :-)


Jenny (Reading Envy) I really enjoyed your review. So few people took the time required to read it, and I'm glad you liked it as much as I did. I voted for it to win, knowing it wouldn't.


Catie Thanks Jenny - I just read yours and really enjoyed it as well. I did read that it was a bit of a dark horse contender this year but I still wanted it to win. Have you read the winner - Among Others? I am going to check it out.


Jenny (Reading Envy) Catie wrote: "Thanks Jenny - I just read yours and really enjoyed it as well. I did read that it was a bit of a dark horse contender this year but I still wanted it to win. Have you read the winner - Among Oth..."
I have read Among Others, and enjoyed it against my wishes. :P Not much plot, more of a love story to reading and science fiction and libraries.


Catie Ha! Well, you've certainly got me interested anyway.


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) Jenny wrote: "I have read Among Others, and enjoyed it against my wishes."

LOL. I'm very much of two minds. I just put it on hold at the library because I want to see what could possibly even be considered in the same class as Embassytown. I want to enjoy it, because I really hope it's even close to being worthy of beating out such a fine book, but that synopsis doesn't do much to make me want to read it in the first place!


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