Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels discussion

Embassytown
This topic is about Embassytown
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Challenges - Discussion > Author's Birthday Challenge: September 2019 (Caution! Spoilers may be present)

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message 1: by Bryan, Village Idiot (new) - rated it 2 stars

Bryan | 481 comments Mod
Ready


Victor I've read a few of Mieville's novels, and enjoyed them all - no exception with Embassytown. There are few I've read that can match his depiction of alienness. The biorigging, Ersuhl, and of course the Hosts and their physical transformations related to their addiction - I won't be forgetting the imagery anytime soon. If anyone who read this is looking for others by the same author, I'd recommend The City & The City, Perdido Street Station, and The Scar. Happy reading!


message 3: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (last edited Sep 30, 2019 01:35AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3488 comments Mod
Here is an article on linguistics behind the novel: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CXb6...


Antti Värtö (andekn) | 752 comments Oleksandr: your link doesn't seem to work, it says I haven't got the access rights to read the document.

Victor: I agree completely. The Hosts were wonderfully alien and the whole Embassytown felt like a real place, with weirdness such as biorigging and Ambassadors, but also mundane things like the coin wall.


message 5: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3488 comments Mod
Antti wrote: "Oleksandr: your link doesn't seem to work, it says I haven't got the access rights to read the document."

Please try again, I adjusted settings.


Antti Värtö (andekn) | 752 comments Thanks, now it works. And it's a good essay, too, very worth the reading.

The Language was an idea that will most likely stay with me for a long time, much like the double city Beszel/Ul Qoma in The City and the City. A language that represents objects directly, without symbolism: I keep thinking what kind of phrases could NOT be uttered in Language.

For me, it seems like they shouldn't have a word (or concept) of "truth": after all, they know nothing but truth. It's like we humans don't have a concept for "communicating while wanting others to understand": that's what "communicating" means, so the extra words don't convey any information. Unless, of course, the Ariekei didn't have a word for "truth" before they met humans?

I also noted the double-meaning in the Embassytowners' word for Ariekei: the Hosts. The Ariekei are, of course, the humans' hosts, in that the humans are their guests. But all the Biblical references to the Fall made me think that Mieville was also using the meaning "angel", as in "Lord of Hosts".


message 7: by Bryan, Village Idiot (new) - rated it 2 stars

Bryan | 481 comments Mod
Let me just start with this statement: China Miéville is like PKD for me. The story ideas are interesting, but the writing just doesn't do it for me. I can't put a finger on it, but I'm always underwhelm after I finish their books.

With that said. I really like the concept of the book and Language...but I'm not a fan of the book as a whole.


message 8: by Allan (new) - added it

Allan Phillips | 1937 comments Mod
I just finished it. To me, the Language is merely the conduit for information exchange. Perhaps it works without lies because the Ariekes have no concept of untruth - it was a revelation to them that someone could do that. The addiction and cure were very puzzling though.....how does that work? I guess if you look at powerful human orators, they have the ability to capture people, the obvious example being Hitler. But there has to be a cause or a hunger behind that.

As I stated at the start, Mieville's writing is a little oblique, with a certain magical quality to it that requires closer attention. It's not lightweight stuff you can skim. I like it but I couldn't read several books of his consecutively.


Antti Värtö (andekn) | 752 comments Allan: I interpreted the addiction this way:
The Hosts are one person speaking with two mouths. To simulate that, Ambassadors are two people so perfectly in tune with each other they seem like one person. But EzRa is not really in tune within: they achieve the harmony through Ez's prodigal skill at reading other people, combined with the implant that goes deeper than the "link" the Ambassadors use.

Thus, when EzRa (or EzCal) speaks, the Ariekes hear something impossible: at once harmony and total discord. Since you can't separate the Language from the world as it is, when the Ariekes hear EzRa speak, they get a vision of an impossible world, where things both are and are not what they seem. This causes a similar effect as being on drugs does to humans. (Why they got addicted to it instead of nauseous or something is a plot device.)

When the New Ariekei learned how to use symbolic language, they could distinguish the actual world from words used to describe the world. That's why EzCal's voice didn't feel like a drug anymore: it was just words spoken very weirdly, but they could tell it was "just words".


message 10: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3488 comments Mod
Allan wrote: "The addiction and cure were very puzzling though.....how does that work?"

During the Festivals of lies we have seen the glimpse of it: Hosts are intoxicated when what they hear is not the same to what they see, because both are for them the same for experience something. With EzRa it is even more so: Ez is an emphate, so he adds 'soul' to noise creating speech but what he tells and what he thinks are two different things and they are different on a deeper level, thus much more potent as a drug/intoxicant

A side note: how do you (all readers) like introduced new words, which unlike many other SF, the author borrows not from English but from other languages. For me it was a bit hard to understand


message 11: by Antti (last edited Oct 01, 2019 05:01AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Antti Värtö (andekn) | 752 comments Oleksandr wrote: "How do you (all readers) like introduced new words, which unlike many other SF, the author borrows not from English but from other languages."

I found it delightful, but then again he borrows mostly from German ("immer" and "manchmal" come first to mind: they mean "always" and "sometimes", respectively), which I understand a bit, so it wasn't so weird. Some French words, also, but I think they were mostly technical terms from linguistics? The essay you linked mentioned at least Saussure's langue and parole.

Then again not all words were German- or French-based. I was amused when the shark-like predators in the immer were called "hai": it means "shark" in Finnish. There probably were other such uses of other relatively obscure languages in the text.


message 12: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3488 comments Mod
Also Greek "Pharotekton" (lighthouse builder) and borrowed from Russian 'apparatchik' and 'troika'. I guess there are more.


message 13: by Ed (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ed Erwin | 650 comments I like Mieville a lot, but Embassytown was too much of a stretch for me. We all have our personal things that will just be too hard to accept, and the language stuff in this one went to far for me.

Shameless promotion: An old friend of mine wrote this story that also plays around with a strange language where humans play different parts of speech:

https://www.theverge.com/2019/2/8/181...

She normally writes comics, which are very good! This is her first published non-comic work.


message 14: by Allan (new) - added it

Allan Phillips | 1937 comments Mod
I liked the use of non-English words, they fit and made sense. I am totally stealing the term "floaker".


Antti Värtö (andekn) | 752 comments Allan: me too! This description really hit home:

"I progressed to the ranks I aspired to - those that granted me a certain cachet and income while keeping me from fundamental responsibilities. This is what I excelled at: the life-technique of aggregated skill, luck, laziness and chutzpah that we call floaking."

Rarely have I found a passage in a book that describes my life that precisely. I feel... exposed.

I should print some business cards with a title "Floaker", if I really wanted to describe what I do.


message 16: by Allan (new) - added it

Allan Phillips | 1937 comments Mod
Exactly! I recognized myself in that passage as well!


message 17: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (new) - rated it 4 stars

Oleksandr Zholud | 3488 comments Mod
Should we start a floakers' club?


message 18: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new)

Kateblue | 3667 comments Mod
I have never really gotten to the floaker's level . . . glass ceiling for floakers, too? Though I was pretty highly paid considering the organization


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