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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  29,401 ratings  ·  3,276 reviews
Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe.

Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, Humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts - who cannot lie.

Only a tiny cadre of unique human Amb
Paperback, 405 pages
Published January 5th 2012 by Pan Books (first published May 17th 2011)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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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. It is by far my favorite Mieville book: I reread it and listened to it more times than I can remember. 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 out how to describe it
Jeffrey Keeten
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
“Now the Ariekei were learning to speak, and to think, and it hurt.”

I’m addicted to language; we all are.

While reading this book, I thought about language. I haven’t really thought about it from the standpoint of it not existing or that it is something to be discovered, like traces of gold in a California riverbed. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have language. The ability to express myself has served me well. Not that I haven’t said the wrong thing or said the right thing at the wrong t
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
Dec 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The girl who wanted to be a metaphor.

There is a certain “What the hell??” quality about a China Mieville novel, especially in the first few pages. The City and the City continued on in this quizzical, absurdist mouth breathing until damn near the middle of the book. To put in Forrest Gump terms, the box of chocolates may reveal pieces that are most definitively NOT chocolate, are in point of fact not even food; some bite-sized morsels may be poison. The box may even be a prop from a Justin Timbe
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
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
This book very well could be the start of a new epoch. Or at least, I think it should be.

Why? Because it's not just Miéville's grand far-future SF at play here, full of some of the most subtle and freakishly amazing and STRANGE aliens who are very much defined by their language, but because this novel works on several levels perfectly at the same time.

Am I impressed? Hell yes, I'm impressed.

"Before the humans came, we didn't speak so much of certain things. We were grown into Language. After hi
Ms. Smartarse
In an unspecified future humanity has left Earth, settling several other planets in space. One of the more remote ones is on Arieka, a planet where the Terrans have established Embassytown, after coming to a mutually beneficial arrangement with the indigenous population (i.e. the Hosts).

Despite the difference in physical appearance and language, the Terrans of Embassytown have managed to develop a rather ingenious method of communicating with the Hosts, ensuring a peaceful and prosperous life fo
Ian "Marvin" Graye
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
Kara 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
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 22, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021, hardcover
For Hosts, speech was thought. It was as nonsensical to them that a speaker could say, could claim, something it knew to be untrue as, to me, that I could believe something I knew to be untrue. Without Language for things that didn’t exist, they could hardly think them; they were far vaguer by far than dreams.

Welcome to Embassytown, the frontier. I know how fast the stories’ll come. I’m an immerser: I’ve heard them. Just beyond our planet’s shores will be, people will say, El Dorado immer land
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Embassytown is that rare thing in recent 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 t
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever been on a first date and suddenly had the sweet realisation that not only are you going to have a great night, but that you're at the beginning of something special, something that could be lasting?

That's how I felt a couple of chapters into Embassytown.

I had no idea what to expect when I began this book, and it blew me away. An embassy district in a vast city on a faraway world. An alien race whose unique language limits their ability to think and entirely prevents them from lyi
China Mieville is not the first writer to tackle the idea of language in a sci-fi setting (I’m thinking of Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” (, which drove me insane, and Ted Chiang’s story “Stories of Your Life” (, which was amazing – but I’m sure there are others); but if you know me, you know Mr. Mieville makes me weak in the knees… I read this book when it first came out and recently had an itching to re-read it: my hu ...more
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at the way language underlies thought, action, being, done in a way that only science-fiction really can. The world of the Hosts & Embassytown is fascinating, full of bio-rigged homes and shrubs with legs -- world-building is such a strength of Miéville's. An entire lexicon, sentient species, and universe to explore in one book. I think what stopped this from being a 5-star read for me was that the most compelling character (Spanish Dancer) out of a cast of relatively flat peopl ...more
Jun 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: language

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
Ever seen a Baroque painting? China Miéville is the Caravaggio of literature. He has his own language, his own aesthetic power that might look too grandiose for some, but also refreshingly profound to others. Embassytown is weird. As weird as his other novels, to be frank. We have a living city, with a bunch of aliens who look like insect-horse-coral-fan things, and with two mouths which simultaneously speak 'Language', a sign-system in which the truth of the world and speech itself are indistin ...more
Mar 22, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I'm still a novice in sci-fi/speculative fiction genre. And I'm constantly discovering my tastes.
What I know I already like:
* if there are aliens, they should be very alien.
* and the story should try for new and exciting ideas.
Embassytown has both.
The book is not an easy read for the first few chapters, it's like trial by fire. But if you pass that point(somewhere around 10% for me), story becomes much easier. Also I loved how he gradually revealed this world and these characters without going
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
Mar 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
A masterful conceptual journey through the borderlands between the familiar and the unknown, most prominently including the ties between linguistics, cultural identity and the minds of living beings. And a thoroughly pathetic attempt at telling a halfway decent story. Ladies and gentlemen, it's China Miéville.

Full review, perhaps explaining why I'd love nothing more than to be able to read bi-weekly philosophical newspaper columns by the guy while avoiding anything he puts into novel form, to co
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
David Sven
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
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
Oleksandr Zholud
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a linguistic SF, which was nominated for both Hugo and Nebula in 2011. It was read as a paret of Author’s birthday challenge in Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels group.

There are quite a few SF works that make languages their main topic, including The Languages of Pao, Babel-17 and Native Tongue. This one is the great addition to the bunch.

The story is set in a distant future on a far-away planet Arieka. The protagonist, a female hyperspace (“immer”) pilot Avice Benner Cho. She grew up in
Paul Sánchez Keighley
Never had international trade looked so much like symbiosis.

Embassytown is a generous serving of yummy brainfood titillating with novum and teeming with grotesque alien life forms. I’m in love.

I mean, you know you’re reading a good book when you’re just over a third of the way in and you’re horrified and appalled and keep thinking this can’t possibly get any worse and it consistently does to the point where it becomes borderline depressing and yet you never lose faith because at all times you f
May 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Embassytown is the god-drug EzRa and I am a helpless Ariekei in thrall to it. China Mieville is a master dealer of an irresistible drug-cocktail depicting alien languages and consciousnesses, galactic politicking, revolutions, personal involvement and loyalty, and a unique world filled with wonder and mystery.

I was pretty cautious to read Embassytown after loving Perdido Street Station, admiring The Scar from a distance, and not getting past the halfway-point of Iron Council. None of his books a
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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

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