Kristin's Reviews > Embassytown

Embassytown by China Miéville
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's review
Jun 06, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction, hugo-nominee

This is a blending of the strange world Mieville created with The Scar, Perdido St. Station and Iron Horse and with last book The City and The City ("It's not a secret, it's not a thought." pg 168. echoing the concept of 'unseeing'). I found Embassytown absolutely fascinating. I know others are completely bouncing off of it.

This is a book about Language and understanding Language. Yes, with a capitol letter. A Language that can only be heard if something sentient speaks it, to be repeated through mass media has no meaning or context and is a garble of noise. A society that cannot lie, but understands the meaning of lies. A Language that when spoken by the right humans, is a drug more addictive than any thing that can be taken physically. And it's a story about language (yes, with a small 'L') and how stupid and ignorant people can be. It's about miscommunication, real communication, and trying to understand what is being said.

I hit a couple of minor issues: with all the world building that Mieville does, and in this book he moves into the larger universe with a wonderful set of aliens and technology or bio-ology, a couple of archaic and mundane items jumped out at me: a formal event with all the glam that Mievlle brings to his societies and he had a main character of the moment in a tux with a white rose. That kinda threw me. And we have a peoples far far removed from Terra Firma (they don't even know where Earth is anymore) and yet they were using "Christ!" and "Jesus!" as swear words. A bit anachronistic perhaps? Granted, the author did add on pharotekton, as in "Christ Pharotekton!" but it felt as if it was just that, an add on.

I thought this story was brilliant. I can't say that you will come to the same conclusion. It's one of "those" books that people either love or truly despise.


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