Lisa Vegan's Reviews > Embassytown

Embassytown by China Miéville
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Nov 02, 11

bookshelves: fiction, novel, speculative-fiction, gr-a, groups-buddies, reviewed
Recommended to Lisa by: Sarah Pi Pinkster & Ceridwen
Read from October 17 to November 02, 2011

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 seem foreign. I had a hard time caring about anyone for quite a while. Eventually I cared quite a bit for the Arieka natives and some of the failed ambassadors, and even the narrator Avice, the first words of her name being ABC, which I’m not sure was by chance at all, given that this book has a lot to do with language/Language. But I never felt THAT deeply for the characters, not enough to become spellbound by the novel.

To be honest, I admired this book but as far as “liking” it, it barely gets these 3 stars. It definitely got better and better as it went on.
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Reading Progress

10/17/2011 page 18
5.0% "Fascinating so far."
10/22/2011 page 28
8.0% "Been reading other books the last few days. Might go back to page 1. This is fascinating and I'm really enjoying it, even though I'm not 100% sure of exactly what's going on."
10/23/2011 page 86
25.0% "Quite odd. I hope it's worth the read; so far, it's certainly interesting."
10/24/2011 page 96
28.0% "I meant to read some today. Perhaps this evening. Will bring the book with me tomorrow and hopefully will make some progress during breaks." 1 comment
10/25/2011 page 124
36.0% "If only I had time to read this more quickly; it's getting really interesting." 2 comments
10/26/2011 page 148
43.0% "I'm wondering if I'd be enjoying this more if I was reading it in big gulps rather than just several pages at a time. Avice Benner Cho ABC Language. Blah. Blah. Blah. Very clever, and I don't think I'm lost any longer, but I'm not caring all that much about Avice or any of the characters. I hope that changes."
10/29/2011 page 211
61.0% "Tomorrow is my day to read! I hope I can finish this book. Fascinating and frustrating both. So creative but it would be more fun to read if I felt more deeply for the characters."
10/30/2011 page 278
80.0% "I might get in another chapter late tonight before bed and then hope to (finally) finish this book tomorrow. Very unusual book!"

Comments (showing 1-30 of 30) (30 new)

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Lisa Vegan Elizabeth wrote: "I liked The City & the City more but I had trouble getting into both of them; so while brilliant, I agree with you, I probably won't read another."

Thanks, Elizabeth. Off to check out a bit about The City & the City. And you're so brilliant, I'm glad I'm not alone in not fully appreciating this book.


message 2: by Lisa (last edited Nov 02, 2011 05:48PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Vegan Elizabeth wrote: "Ha. Actually, I almost gave it up within the first 100 pages but it was a firstreads win and on page 96, it turned around."

It did turn around; I agree. I read this for a Goodreads' group. If I'd been reading it just to read it, I suspect I'd have put it down. I can be very lazy.


Lisa Vegan Elizabeth wrote: "Me too! Mieville apparently doesn't need lazy readers."

Perfect college classes reading!


message 4: by K (new)

K I had a very similar reaction to The City & the City. Objectively there was a lot to admire, but I didn't actually enjoy the reading experience all that much.


Lisa Vegan Hmm. I think I've had it with this author, at least until I hear some trusted people say they actually enjoyed reading specific books by him. Thanks Khaya and Elizabeth for your opinions.


Lisa Vegan Thanks, Elizabeth. I'll check it out. A lot of readers love him. I often agree with Ceridwen, but so far not with this author.


message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 04, 2011 06:21AM) (new)

I do love him for somewhat shallow reasons, but yeah...this is a totally fair assessment of his work. I'm just a sucker for weird + profanity - which is maybe more on display in Perdido Street Station than here - and which I think you would probably not enjoy, Lisa.

Un Lun Dun is a good call, E. It's YA - and a fantasy - so his inventiveness is fully on display, but all that mucking about with narrative or genre or whatever he's on about in other books of his I've read - that was reined in. I think Un Lun Dun is self-avowedly a riff on Gaiman's Neverwhere, but it doesn't repeat some of the problems of Gaiman's story. (For me anyway - I am no fan of Richard Meyhew.)


Lisa Vegan Ceridwen, By chance, do you in part like him because of his appearance? ;-)

Thanks re the books. I have a feeling this author, or at least Perdido Street Station, probably is not my cup of tea. I might try Un Lun Dun at some point, but it's not going on my on-deck shelf.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Lisa wrote: "Ceridwen, By chance, do you in part like him because of his appearance? ;-)"

*cough cough*

Me, be so shallow!? Perish the thought!

...but yeah, he doesn't hurt to look at or anything.


message 10: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Vegan Hee hee. Not good enough for me if the best part of the book is the author's photo, no matter how enjoyable to view, and view, and view.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

...and view and view and view.

But yeah, there's no percentage in continuing to try with an author you don't click with, for whatever reason. You have a nice dinner, give the it's-not-you-it's-me speech, and then spend some time necking in the parking lot before you go your separate ways.


message 12: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Vegan Ceridwen wrote: "give the it's-not-you-it's-me speech"

And that is exactly what it feels like, except that the line is a genuine feeling.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Some things are cliche because they are true.


Carol I'm having a difficult time w/this one, too - but loved Perdido Street Station and The Scar. We shall see what I feel when I finish.


message 15: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Vegan Carol wrote: "I'm having a difficult time w/this one, too - but loved Perdido Street Station and The Scar. We shall see what I feel when I finish."

Carol, I haven't read any other of this author's books. I'll keep those two in mind. Thanks. I hope you end up enjoying this. I liked it okay, but 3 stars isn't that high a rating for me.


Carol I think I'm giving it three stars too - I admire it too, but I didn't believe it!


message 17: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Vegan Carol wrote: "I think I'm giving it three stars too - I admire it too, but I didn't believe it!"

Oh, yes, Carol; I like what you say about not believing it!


Carol Thanks- how could a coupla folks totally change language for an alien species in such a short time? And also, the 'special-ness' of Avice and then her being able to 'lead' was very tenuous to me.


message 19: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Vegan Yes. And there was just something off about this book, for me.


Chris Lewis I feel the same as you about Embassytown. If you do decide to try him again, Perdido Street Station is the one to read. It was his first full-length novel, and the first of his that I read, and it absolutely blew me away. The fusion of science, magic, politics, just shear world-building is like something I've never seen before or since.

I've read all his subsequent books and none of them have done it for me in quite the same way. And the good news is, if you do end up liking it, there are two sequels!


message 21: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Vegan Chris, Thanks. I'll see where Perdido Street Station is in my queue.


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Uh, I love PSS, but I'm pretty sure that's not the book of Mieville's for you, Lisa. Just a hunch.


message 23: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Vegan Ceridwen wrote: "Uh, I love PSS, but I'm pretty sure that's not the book of Mieville's for you, Lisa. Just a hunch."

Thanks, Ceridwen. I think you know my taste fairly well. Do you think any of Miéville's books would be for me? Thanks.


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

I'd say Un Lun Dun might be something you'd enjoy. (And hey! I think I did say that exact thing earlier on the thread!) Un Lun Dun is just more...fun? than a lot of his stuff. I mean, I think PSS is crazy fun, but it's more deliberately grotesque than you might enjoy.


message 25: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Vegan Thanks, Ceridwen. Obviously, I should have looked UP.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Hey, I didn't at first either. :)


message 27: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Forbes I agree with your review Lisa, but China Miéville is awesome. Do give him another chance. One of my favourite novels ever is by him - 'Perdido Street Station'. That is fantastic. Also 'The Scar' is brilliant and I also really enjoyed 'The City and The City'. He's even written a great book that is suitable for adults and young adults alike - 'Un Lun Dun'. Give him another go and I think you won't be disappointed.


message 28: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Vegan Thanks, Paul. Yes, I have definitely gotten the same message from other readers. It's too bad this book was my first experience with him. Right now I am too overbooked, but I do plan to read other books by him. Thanks for encouraging me to do this.


message 29: by Paul (new) - rated it 3 stars

Paul Forbes Prioritising book reading is hard! So many books, so little time!


message 30: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Vegan Paul wrote: "Prioritising book reading is hard! So many books, so little time!"

Absolutely true.


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