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Embassytown Discussion > SECTION 4: Part Four: Addict and Part Five: Notes

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Nataliya | 378 comments And so the two timelines (Formerly and Latterday) have come to an end. Now we are at the beginning of a single unified timeline that, at the end of up a giant half-a-book linguistically-peppered set-up, is finally taking us on a wild sequence of events that have transpired after the arrival of the new improbable Ambassador EzRa.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to PART FOUR: ADDICT (Kindle 48%-58%, pages 162-200 out of 345) and PART FIVE: NOTES (Kindle 58%-65%, pages 203-224 out of 345)

The mystery of EzRa's impact on the Hosts and the reasons for their odd behavior have become known. It's quite pathetic, actually. The Ariekei have all become addicted to the Language spoken by EzRa, intoxicated on the strange way the two minds that are not one can ALMOST sound like one.
“You know what Language is to them,” Bren said. “What they hear through the words. So, if they hear words they understand, they know are words, but it’s fractured? Ambassadors speak with empathic unity. That’s our job. What if that unity’s there and not-there?” He waited. “It’s impossible, is what. Right there in its form. And that is intoxicating. And they mainline it. It’s like a hallucination, a there-not-there. A contradiction that gets them high."
And so the chaos ensues. As is mentioned a few times, "Embassytown was violently dying." The power structures the Embassytowners have been used to are undermined, the strain leads to orgies and suicides, and it's clear to everyone that this is the end of the world as the Embassytowners and the Ariekei know it.
"We’d always lived in a ghetto, in a city that didn’t belong to us but to beings far more powerful and strange. We’d lived among gods— little tiny gods but gods compared to us, considering what was at their and our disposal— and ignored the fact. Now they’d changed, and we had no way to understand that, and all we could do was wait."
The regular connections between the two societies have been shattered. In attempt to survive, the Ambassadors (and Avice) resort to what basically amounts to drug pushing in order to maintain trade.
"Our everyday pantheon gone needy, desperate for hits of Ez and Ra speaking together, fermenting Language into some indispensable brew of contradiction, insinuation and untethered meaning. We were quartered in an addict city."
Eventually, the collisions between the Terre and the Ariekei ensue, resulting in the casualties on both sides - the terrified humans and the hopelessly addicted Hosts.
"When anyone killed their first Ariekes, a life of conditioned respect would break: gunners would weep. The second time not."
There is a death at the end of Part Four and Part Five. Ra is killed by Ez. Vin takes his own life, leaving Cal in disbelief and shock.
-----------

What I thought was particularly interesting:

-- Slowly throughout this section we witness the change in the language Avice uses - 'the Hosts' are more and more becoming 'the Ariekei' in her narration, underscoring their changing role from almost-gods who supplied Embassytowners with means to life to semi-mindless addicts, incomprehensible in their all-encompassing need, who become a very real threat.

When we talk about the language in this book, it tends to be the Capital-L Language of the Ariekei. But here's a little example of how the change of thinking of humans and their language are mirrored in each other.

-- Ehrsul withdraws very early on in these chapters, apparently refusing to accept what's happening. Avice, in turn, withdraws from her former best friend as well. Is the ability of a machine to express such denial despite the facts an evidence of Ehrsul having more human mind than Scile was willing to accept earlier in the book?

-- The strange organic nature of the Ariekei world becomes very prominent again. It seems that the whole planet is rather like a living organism, with everything interconnected, with addiction being able to spread even to those who have never experienced EzRa's speeches firsthand. The surrealism of this place becomes so evident when we read about walls (!) becoming addicted. How can you survive when the whole planet seems to have gone insane?
"The city twitched. It was infected."

"...With reverse peristalsis, addiction was being passed out."
-- Bren is the first to introduce Avice to the concept that even doppel Ambassadors can hate each other despite supposedly being one person. The difference between Cal and Vin further underscores this constrained of unity in duality. And what do you think about the place for 'unfit' Ambassadors?

-- Finally, the whole scary and depressing picture of addicted Ariekei, pitiful in their misery. To what extent is this Miéville's commentary on our modern world, on our own drug addicts, and the parallels between Embassytowners supplying the Ariekei with their destructive drugs and our own political structures waging 'war' on drugs - or at least maintaining the appearance of such?
---
And the mental image for the end of this section:
“How …?” I remembered the stubbed and ruined fanwings. They can’t call them that anymore, because they can’t hear, or speak, they’ve no Language. “Oh, I …” I said. “Oh, God. They did it to themselves.”



message 2: by Cecily (last edited Mar 15, 2013 01:06AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily | 301 comments Re "In attempt to survive, the Ambassadors (and Avice) resort to what basically amounts to drug pushing in order to maintain trade."

This was what I was thinking about in my comment on the discussion of "SECTION 1: Proem: The Immerser (0.1-0.3)", about echoes of a shameful period of British colonial history: The Opium Wars, sprang to mind.


Cecily | 301 comments I find Ehrsul is almost more important in her absence than in her presence. Her very nature poses so many troubling issues of what it is to be human or sentient and whether the difference matters. Scile is quite open about his reluctance to conceive of her as a friend in the usual sense, whereas Avice is more inclined to bury her doubts and act as if Ehrsul is human - almost wishing it to be true.

Also, little asides make it clear that Ehrsul and her designers had/have such concerns:
“She only ever used one corpus, according to some Terrephile sense of politesse or accommodation… having to relate to someone variably physically incarnate would trouble us [humans]” and her apartment is decorated with pictures on the wall, so that visitors feel relaxed and at home.

Would Ehrsul pass the Turing Test? Perhaps it would depend who tested her, which then questions the whole nature of the test itself.


Nataliya | 378 comments Cecily wrote: "This was what I was thinking about in my comment on the discussion of "SECTION 1: Proem: The Immerser (0.1-0.3), about echoes of a shameful period of British colonial history: The Opium Wars, sprang to mind."

This part left me feeling conflicted, just as it left Avice. On one hand, the Embassytowners are perpetuating the horror that can be their own demise; on the other hand, they feel that they have little choice as far as their survival is concerned. Of course, they seem to all be expecting a rescue mission at some point and thus just looking for short-term survival options instead of hoping to figure out a long-term solution; but in their defense at this point in the story I cannot imagine what long-term solution could have really worked.

Cecily wrote: "I find Ehrsul is almost more important in her absence than in her presence. Her very nature poses so many troubling issues of what it is to be human or sentient and whether the difference matters. ..."

Being turingware, she probably would have passed the Turing test (unless that's just wishful thinking from the manufacturers).

Ehrsul has a lot of mystery surrounding her - ever since her introduction to this story. Her origin, the nature of her work (if any - but she has her own rooms in a crowded city and it's been hinted at that she plays - or used to - some important roles), her possible connections with many 'best friends' in different echelons of power, the reason why she refuses to go to the Host city, the reasons why the destruction of status quo is affecting her so...

And yes - the question of how much her machine nature plays into her 'humanity' - so many questions, so few answers.


Cecily | 301 comments Nataliya wrote: "Cecily wrote: "...Ehrsul has a lot of mystery surrounding her - ever since her introduction to this story. ..."

Scope for anyone planning to write some fan fic?


Nataliya | 378 comments Cecily wrote: "Nataliya wrote: "Cecily wrote: "...Ehrsul has a lot of mystery surrounding her - ever since her introduction to this story. ..."

Scope for anyone planning to write some fan fic?"


Can we perhaps somehow persuade CM to write a fan fic 'writer fic' of his own work? ;)


Cecily | 301 comments I thought he'd expressed a desire for diversity in his work, in which case, a spin-off might be anathema.


Nataliya | 378 comments Cecily wrote: "I thought he'd expressed a desire for diversity in his work, in which case, a spin-off might be anathema."

But he did write three Bas-Lag novels, all in slightly different sub-genres. He can go ahead and give me a story of Ehrsul, 'Pride and Prejudice' style with New Weird undertones any time he wishes ;)


Cecily | 301 comments Nataliya wrote: "...'Pride and Prejudice' style..."

?!?!

From Mieville? LOL


Nataliya | 378 comments Cecily wrote: "Nataliya wrote: "...'Pride and Prejudice' style..."

?!?!

From Mieville? LOL"


That reaction is precisely why this would be priceless.

(Of course, the credit for this idea should go to Richard).


Cecily | 301 comments Well, he hasn't done a comic novel yet, has he?
Maybe this is his opportunity!


Nataliya | 378 comments Cecily wrote: "Well, he hasn't done a comic novel yet, has he?
Maybe this is his opportunity!"


Well, he draws quite well - his illustrations in 'Un Lun Dun' and 'Railsea' were superb.
In which case, this hypothetical creating will officially become the second comic novel I will read in my life ('Persepolis' was the first and I believe, the only one).


Nataliya | 378 comments Cecily wrote: "Well, he hasn't done a comic novel yet, has he?
Maybe this is his opportunity!"


Cecily, so in a flash of coincidence almost too awesome to be true I came across a friend's post alerting me to a COMIC BOOK that CM is writing. Here's the link!

Since he crosses that bridge, my Pride and Prejudice remake by Miéville hopefully is next ;)


Cecily | 301 comments Extraordinary coincidence (though by "comic novel" I actually meant humourous, rather than what is usually called a "graphic novel" in the UK).


Nataliya | 378 comments Cecily wrote: "Extraordinary coincidence (though by "comic novel" I actually meant humourous, rather than what is usually called a "graphic novel" in the UK)."

Ah, language idiosyncrasies in otherwise closely related dialects ;) A fitting misunderstanding for the group reading a language-themed novel.


message 16: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Cecily wrote: "Scope for anyone planning to write some fan fic?"

What is the level of interest in this?

I might be prepared to participate, but it would need to be short, sharp and soon, because my head will soon be out of that space, to the extent that CM doesn't insinuate his way back into it.


Cecily | 301 comments I'd be interested in reading some, but I don't think I have the inclination or skill to write any.


message 18: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Cecily wrote: "I'd be interested in reading some, but I don't think I have the inclination or skill to write any."

Haha, I wouldn't want to do it without you ;)


message 19: by Cecily (last edited Mar 17, 2013 03:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily | 301 comments Was the story of The Little Red Hen, part of your upbringing? (If not, here's a short version: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/stor...)


message 20: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye The children of the embassy all saw the hen plant the seeds. Their teachers and shiftparents encouraged them to paint it for days. One wall of the room had been given over to their ideas. When I was young, I painted hens the same way.


message 21: by Cecily (last edited Mar 17, 2013 04:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily | 301 comments Not bad for starters, but surely you have to sneak in "palimpsest" and probably "cleavage"?


Cecily | 301 comments (Of course, my mention of TLRH was not with the thought you'd do a Mieville version, but because I felt I was casting you in the role of hen, and me in the role of one of the other animals.)


message 23: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye When I said "I wouldn't want to do it without you", I meant it would be "like" a "cleavage", not to do it together (or as one).


Nataliya | 378 comments Ian wrote: "The children of the embassy all saw the hen plant the seeds. Their teachers and shiftparents encouraged them to paint it for days. One wall of the room had been given over to their ideas. When I was young, I painted hens the same way."

Oh Ian, that was lovely!

I actually highlighted the 'painted ships the same way' phrase in my Kindle copy - it strongly (although I'm positive unintentionally) reminded me of an idea Pratchett has in one of his books - that all children draw things the same way regardless of time/upbringing - all have similar houses, people, animals - regardless of what they actually see/experience.


message 25: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye The hard part about painting the hen was catching it. But it looked good afterwards.


Nataliya | 378 comments Ian wrote: "The hard part about painting the hen was catching it. But it looked good afterwards."

Ok, all this punnery reminds me of Pratchett even more! Ultimate happiness has been achieved :)


message 27: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye I think I've mentioned before that I'm a Pratchett virgin, though I've been stalking the House of Pratchett for a while.


message 28: by Nataliya (last edited Mar 20, 2013 09:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nataliya | 378 comments Ian wrote: "I think I've mentioned before that I'm a Pratchett virgin, though I've been stalking the House of Pratchett for a while."

That needs to be remedied, and soon.

(I'm like a literary pimp for Pratchett, to push the virginity metaphor to uncomfortable lengths - hey, metaphor and a simile! :)


message 29: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Should I start at the beginning? Or do it the Dr Who way: "first things, first, but not necessarily in that order"?


Nataliya | 378 comments Ian wrote: "Should I start at the beginning? Or do it the Dr Who way: "first things, first, but not necessarily in that order"?"

Dr. Who is right (of course!). The beginning is weaker; he finds his voice after a few books.

The books outside the Discworld cycle are great as well - the standalone and often sad Nation and one of my all-time favorites Good Omens in collaboration with Neil Gaiman. They may give you a taste of Pratchett's writing without committing you to a long cycle of books.


Cecily | 301 comments I haven't read any Pratchett for years (and even then, I only read a few). Any suggestions for which to aim for (or avoid)?


Saski (sissah) | 266 comments Cecily wrote: "I haven't read any Pratchett for years (and even then, I only read a few). Any suggestions for which to aim for (or avoid)?"
I have a read quite a few of them and liked almost all of them. My most favorite is Small Gods. Death is also high on my list.


Cecily | 301 comments I hope it is "Death" rather than Death that is high on your list!

Seriously though, thanks for the tips.


Nataliya | 378 comments Cecily wrote: "I haven't read any Pratchett for years (and even then, I only read a few). Any suggestions for which to aim for (or avoid)?"

As I mentioned above, the good non-Discworld standalones are Nation and Good Omens.

As for Discworld, I'd recommend Guards! Guards!, Wyrd Sisters, Small Gods (like Ruth said), Mort, and (and many will disagree - but I love it) The Wee Free Men as good starters.

If you have read any of the City Watch (a.k.a. Captain Vimes) books before, then I'd recommend my absolute favorite Night Watch as well as Thud! and Snuff.


Saski (sissah) | 266 comments Cecily wrote: "I hope it is "Death" rather than Death that is high on your list!

Seriously though, thanks for the tips."


Yes, it is! :) I only noticed the lack of necessary quotation marks after the fact.


Nataliya | 378 comments Ruth wrote: "Cecily wrote: "I hope it is "Death" rather than Death that is high on your list!

Seriously though, thanks for the tips."

Yes, it is! :) I only noticed the lack of necessary quotation marks afte..."


Very fitting, as DEATH speaks in quotation-free small caps ;)


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments "-- Ehrsul withdraws very early on in these chapters, apparently refusing to accept what's happening. Avice, in turn, withdraws from her former best friend as well. Is the ability of a machine to express such denial despite the facts an evidence of Ehrsul having more human mind than Scile was willing to accept earlier in the book? "

I did get the thought, towards the end of the book, that she was acting pretty much in accordance with how she had been programmed, that she was unable to transcend the limits of her programming, and in that, showed herself for the machine she was.


Nataliya | 378 comments Traveller wrote: "I did get the thought, towards the end of the book, that she was acting pretty much in accordance with how she had been programmed, that she was unable to transcend the limits of her programming, and in that, showed herself for the machine she was."

I found so much of Ehrsul's incomplete story and her brief appearances really fascinating. We know from Avice's speculations that once she may have played some important part. We know she's been around for a while. We know that she refuses to go into the Ariekei city even though she technically can, not needing the atmosphere. We know that she begins to fall apart mentally (if you can apply that word to her) the moment things begin to change, and in the end she refuses to accept anything that has happened.

Why would she be programmed this way? It seems quite deliberate, doesn't it? Maybe someone in the past, given Ehrsul's apparent humanity, was worried that she would inadvertently do (view spoiler) I can only speculate...


message 39: by Traveller (last edited Mar 25, 2013 02:29AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments That's a very interesting thought, Nataliya, I hadn't thought of that myself, just assumed that her propgrammers might have assumed that the status quo would never change..


Allen (allenblair) | 227 comments "It’s like a hallucination, a there-not-there. A contradiction that gets them high."

That and the "city twitched" really rooted the story into an alien world for me. Yet, I saw some similarities with the desire to feel/see/touch/taste a contradiction. It's like an art exhibit or poetry - especially stuff that really challenges the way you think (Mapplethorpe), or even a horrific traffic accident. You have to look, to see what's never seen, or feel what's different than you. Morbid curiosity. Drawn to it because you specifically will never experience it in your own life, not would never, but will never. Also reminded me of the escapism of alcohol and drugs. How even the most well-intentioned wants and does drink too much to forget the problems. On the other hand, here it's sudden and what really do they need to escape from? I know they are fascinated with lying, but is it really an escape they desire?

Regarding is this Mieville's commentary on our world, I thought at first about drugs. About how in some ways marijuana users are now tolerated by authorities because we have stronger drugs, so it's best to leave them alone and concentrate on surviving the meth/oxycontin crisis (in the U.S. at any rate).

Now I'm thinking ahead to the next section a bit, and thinking more about craving "contradiction," and I wonder whether Mieville wants us to think maybe we need a little more addiction, or opposite addiction, to shake up our linear existence. In my specific cultural realm, I sometimes wish there would be an epidemic of open-mindedness! Let's take equality. Many of us crave to see a day when everyone looks past skin color, sexual orientation, gender, etc. The conversations about what it would be like, the poignant moments in movies when characters beautifully overcome a stereotype, or in watching our kids play without any regard for differences between them, it's almost euphoric the feeling you get.

Or is that too off the mark, considering what I now know happens to the Ariekei? Maybe I'm reading way too much into this too early?


message 41: by Traveller (last edited Apr 01, 2013 10:16AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments It's going to be fun to discuss this once you're done, Allen! Yes, I did think at the time that the Ariekei's addiction seemed a bit over the top, it's like they ...wait, I think I'll wait a bit with discussing the nature of the addiction in later threads, just in case of spoilers?

Anywhoo, the addiction aspect of this novel reminded me a lot of DFW's Infinite Jest.


Annie (aschoate) | 78 comments The way children learn language and all the he rest of their survival skills reminds me of the Ariekei. They learn at a tremendous rate.

I can't help wondering why Bremen would send a drug-god to an isolated planet at the edge of the known immer, unless they want to destroy the Areikei population.

I agree with Traveller, that Ersula reaches the end of her programming when it involves interaction with the Areikei. Is her shut down related in anyway to Ezra's at his arrival? Is it possible that Ersula used her data minung skills to connect with Bremen. Or am I lost in the immeragain?


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Annie wrote: "The way children learn language and all the he rest of their survival skills reminds me of the Ariekei. They learn at a tremendous rate.

I can't help wondering why Bremen would send a drug-god to ..."


Regarding EzRa, all is revealed in the end, Annie!

We're never quite sure about Ershul,though. My take on her is that she is probably becoming a bit confused, because she was programmed to perceive the Ariekei in a certain way.


Nataliya | 378 comments Allen wrote: ""It’s like a hallucination, a there-not-there. A contradiction that gets them high."

That and the "city twitched" really rooted the story into an alien world for me. Yet, I saw some similarities w..."


Miéville does have an effortless way of reminding the reader that, hey, you are definitely in the world that does not follow the rules you are used to; that it's strange and weird and unusual in very unexpected ways - and he does it so casually! I love that about his writing.

Allen wrote: "Regarding is this Mieville's commentary on our world, I thought at first about drugs. About how in some ways marijuana users are now tolerated by authorities because we have stronger drugs, so it's best to leave them alone and concentrate on surviving the meth/oxycontin crisis (in the U.S. at any rate)."

Ah, the meth crisis... It does put the 'benign' drugs into perspective, doesn't it? But then there's that concept of the gateway drug - is there a right answer, ever? Funnily, heroin is not being tolerated even though we have much stronger drugs - a lot of it is just in the public perception.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Yeah, but from what I've seen of the few heroin addicts I've come into contact with, heroin is probably one of the most addictive opiates out there, and basically destroys the life of the user.


message 46: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments But so much of that is caused by the fact that nobody can really afford to be addicted to an illegal drug - sooner or later, you have to give up things like eating and take up things like selling your body. I've seen the same happen with non-opiates - both meth and cocaine.

I wouldn't be surprised if it can happen, but I've never met a pot-smoker who couldn't manage to go without for a few days if he was short of cash.

I don't think I can believe in "gateway drugs". My brother killed himself with drugs - and all he ever did was pot, cigarettes & alcohol (and I don't think he was even addicted to nicotine). Those are the ones people start with - but the people who go on to stronger things probably would have anyway.


message 47: by Traveller (last edited Apr 02, 2013 10:25AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Gee, well nicotine was pretty addictive for me and for a bunch of people I've known who also struggled to come off it. But then, i enjoy a buzz, not a downer, so i'd probably get easily addicted cocaine.

We had a girl at work who was placed there by a welfare agency- (filing clerk ;) )she was in a programme to get off herion, and she struggled against the withdrawal symptoms valiantly for quite a time, so i was saddened to hear that she had lost the struggle and was back on the streets using again. I know meths is also pretty bad, but at least I know of a person who managed to get off meths permanently.


message 48: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new) - rated it 5 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Traveller wrote: "Gee, well nicotine was pretty addictive for me"

Me, too, which is why I'm pretty sure he wasn't addicted. But I prefer the downer, which is why the only drug I still use is alcohol.

I had a business partner who got addicted to cocaine (crack was the drug everybody was worried about at the time). It screwed up his life for a while, but he did get past it.


message 49: by Traveller (last edited Apr 02, 2013 11:02AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Only one I still do is coffee, but I've even had to stop that now due to a wee bit of an ulcerative gastritis --something I sadly seem quite prone to and isn't the best thing to have copious amounts of coffee with. :(

Missing the buzz and the comfort of coffee, I'd hate to think how it must feel going off coke.


Allen (allenblair) | 227 comments Now that you mention it, count me in on nicotine, too. And this has made me remember some very unintelligent (right word?) things I have done to satisfy the craving. It's not short-term as destructive as more hardcore drugs, so maybe I'll reread a bit with nicotine addition in mind, see where it leads me ... although I'm not sure I would take an action parallel to what some Arekei did.

FYI - We've been smoke free more more than 10 years, and it was one of the most difficult things I or my wife have ever done. But sometimes we like to stand next to smokers :)


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