Laura's Reviews > Embassytown

Embassytown by China Miéville
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Apr 21, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: being-human, language, madness
Read in April, 2012

The aliens were aliens. At least, until we got there with our oh-so-tempting ability to use figurative language and unsettled their society, the way the Black Death unsettled feudalism.

This story is told from the point of view of a simile, “the girl who was hurt in darkness and ate what was given her.” She was bruised, and maybe bloodied, but unbowed by the experience of becoming a simile for an alien species. Perhaps because she showed up and played along, she passed the tests and got to join not-Starfleet. Life is sweet. Until she marries an exo-linguist and takes him home to meet the non-figurative aliens. Wackiness ensues.

The first hundred pages were a bit of a slog, and if it had not come so well recommended, I would have put it down. Once the dying starts, it kept my interest. The future is another country, and diseases still pass from port to port.
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02/23/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Claire (new) - added it

Claire Jackson Awesome last line, Laura. Can I steal it?


Laura Absolutely! I'd be delighted.


message 3: by Claire (new) - added it

Claire Jackson You're so patient with my shameless acts of plagiarism.


Laura Claire wrote: "You're so patient with my shameless acts of plagiarism."

snicker. Semper liberalis! Everyone plagiarizes. Far as I can tell, we're all just telling Gilgamesh to each other over and over again. Just some of us know it.


message 5: by Claire (new) - added it

Claire Jackson So true! and a little depressing :)


Laura Claire wrote: "So true! and a little depressing :)"

I think it's awesome. We're all connected. Our lives are shaped the same. and yet, so varied as lived. You ever read Neil Gaiman's American Gods? He's got this great passage -- I typed it out -- a tiny bit of which goes --

"No man, proclaimed Donne, is an Island, and he was wrong. If we were not islands, we would be lost, drowned in each other’s tragedies. We are insulated (a word that means, literally, remember, made into an island) from the tragedy of others, by our island nature, and by the repetitive shape and form of the stories. The shape does not change: there was a human being who was born, lived, and then, by some means or another, died. There. You may fill in the details from your own experience. As unoriginal as any other tale, as unique as any other life. Lives are snowflakes – forming patterns we have seen before, as like one another as peas in a pod (and have you ever looked at peas in pod? I mean, really looked at them? There’s not chance you’d mistake one for another, after a minute’s close inspection), but still unique.

. . .

Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.
A life that is, like any other, unlike any other.
And the simple truth is this: There was a girl and her uncle sold her."


message 7: by Claire (new) - added it

Claire Jackson I loved American Gods and remember loving this passage. Thanks for reminding me of it - oddly enough (or not) I'm working on a poem that contemplates that theme. I'm also currently obsessed with fractals and am incorporating that concept as well - and the Gaiman passage is very fractal-y. Peas in a pod! Leaves on a tree! We are all connected! Even you choosing this passage. Jung would be so excited right now.


Laura Claire wrote: "I loved American Gods and remember loving this passage. Thanks for reminding me of it - oddly enough (or not) I'm working on a poem that contemplates that theme. I'm also currently obsessed with fr..."

Synchronicity! And I knew I liked you.


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