Customer Reviews for

Embassytown

Average Rating 4
( 94 )
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5 Star

(39)

4 Star

(22)

3 Star

(21)

2 Star

(9)

1 Star

(3)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

Slow getting started, but intense & provocative

It's a slow-ish start -- Avice's back-story is interesting enough, but you don't really understand its significance until much later -- but without leaving spoilers, I can tell you it really kicks into gear about 90 pages in. I imagine that some waggish reviewers will p...
It's a slow-ish start -- Avice's back-story is interesting enough, but you don't really understand its significance until much later -- but without leaving spoilers, I can tell you it really kicks into gear about 90 pages in. I imagine that some waggish reviewers will peg this book as being "about" colonialism (Ariekene, the site of Embassytown, is a colonial backwater populated by orientalised noble-natives), but there's so much more to it than that. It develops into a gripping story of chaos & survival, at the same time that it's a fascinating series of narrative thought-experiments on the nature of language, the relationship between language and thought, the linguistic nature of lies, and the relationships between individuals and both one-another and society.

posted by RidleyWalker on May 21, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

Smart but Disappointing

I like scifi, and I like a good smart book. But I want them to be interesting, comprehensible, and satisfying. Mieville builds a very detailed and extensive universe in " Embassytown", but it takes great patience, and focus, to figure out his world.

Like much good sc...
I like scifi, and I like a good smart book. But I want them to be interesting, comprehensible, and satisfying. Mieville builds a very detailed and extensive universe in " Embassytown", but it takes great patience, and focus, to figure out his world.

Like much good science fiction, Mieville builds a story that could work on any world...even ours. It's a story about connections and communication. Advice, the main character has an Ender Wiggin quality about her, and her universe reminds me a bit of Dune, but without the draconian seriousness.

I found this book very hard to read. I like serious topics, but this just didn't grab me.

posted by JGolomb on May 21, 2011

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  • Posted May 21, 2011

    Slow getting started, but intense & provocative

    It's a slow-ish start -- Avice's back-story is interesting enough, but you don't really understand its significance until much later -- but without leaving spoilers, I can tell you it really kicks into gear about 90 pages in. I imagine that some waggish reviewers will peg this book as being "about" colonialism (Ariekene, the site of Embassytown, is a colonial backwater populated by orientalised noble-natives), but there's so much more to it than that. It develops into a gripping story of chaos & survival, at the same time that it's a fascinating series of narrative thought-experiments on the nature of language, the relationship between language and thought, the linguistic nature of lies, and the relationships between individuals and both one-another and society.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Smart but Disappointing

    I like scifi, and I like a good smart book. But I want them to be interesting, comprehensible, and satisfying. Mieville builds a very detailed and extensive universe in " Embassytown", but it takes great patience, and focus, to figure out his world.

    Like much good science fiction, Mieville builds a story that could work on any world...even ours. It's a story about connections and communication. Advice, the main character has an Ender Wiggin quality about her, and her universe reminds me a bit of Dune, but without the draconian seriousness.

    I found this book very hard to read. I like serious topics, but this just didn't grab me.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This is a great science fiction thriller

    Human Avice Benner Cho grew up in a colony on backwater Embassytown. She left the planet to travel in space, but now accompanies her linguist husband Scile back to her home where he plans to study the language of the sentient native population the Ariekei AKA Hosts; she never learned their language though her smile helped her get by. She is not alone as the outsiders cannot comprehend the language of the morally driven Hosts so linguist ambassadors were created to communicate with the species.

    However, two events shake the value system of Host society. First an Ariekei learns to lie; an unheard of shattering event. Second two new Ambassadors arrive whose respective sounds produce an odd yet deep physical impact on the Hosts. Their pure society, which survived the colony, is undergoing radical change as Avice tries to help.

    This is a great science fiction thriller that takes a profound look at communication through the Host who are wired differently from the humans; sort of mindful of the Autistic Spectrum while the first lie will remind readers of the movie The Invention of Lying in an Avatar realm. The cast is solid especially the fascinating Host who find their world being radically changed when their Language is assimilated by the space travelers. China Mieville provides a thought provoking look at the relationship between a society's values and its language as each shapes the other.

    Harriet Klausner

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Powerful and thought-provoking

    If reading a book can be compared to eating a meal, then this book is a gourmet dinner. Desserts, treats, fast food and snacks all have their place, but Embassytown is a complete meal. Rich, complex, and satisfying; food for the mind. This is the story of a city on a far-off planet, Embassytown, where an uneasy alliance exists between humans and "Hosts". These beings are among the most "alien" I've ever seen depicted, in physical appearance as well as in thought. The story is told through the eyes of Avice Benner Cho, who grows up in Embassytown, "escapes" into the universe, and comes back. She is important both to the humans and to the aliens. Despite a supposed aspiration to just drift along, she finds herself drawn to the center of events. When an unprecedented crisis occurs, she may hold the key to the survival of both races. Embassytown is in the best tradition of science fiction. It takes you to a place that is completely and unmistakably alien, with themes and concepts and moral dilemmas that are truly universal. China Mieville does a remarkable job of creating fully realized and sympathetic characters while still conveying a sense of "alienness" to them. The importance of language and communication is a central theme. It is a theme wrapped up in an extraordinary and extraordinarily well-told story. Even though this was my first time reading China Mieville, I was very much looking forward to this novel and had high expectations going in. They were surpassed. The story is absorbing and thought-provoking. It moves along briskly and each page is rich with meaning. There is nothing more exciting than being taken somewhere you've never been before, and that is exactly where Mieville takes you. Science fiction is supposed to be about ideas, and that's what you'll find here. It is an exciting and rare treat to have your mind engaged to the degree this book does while also being thoroughly entertained. I was extremely fortunate to receive this book through an early reader program. It was already on my wishlist and I couldn't recommend it more highly. I have a feeling that this book will be read, discussed and reread for years to come. I also have to add that the cover design is absolutely brilliant and becomes even more meaningful once you've finished reading.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2011

    Surprisingly disappointing read.

    I bought this book because it was a recommended read from Barnes and Noble and I was truly looking forward to reading what seemed like a really creative work. I'm an avid reader and I can't think of a book I haven't finished once I've started, even if I didn't care for the story - so it was extremely disappointing to put this book down after 50 pages and know I wasn't going to pick it back up.
    The author spends the first 30 pages telling the reader about a world that's very complex, but not really explaining it or the terms, words and phrases he's using to describe it (most of which I have never heard, so an explanation would have been nice). It was like reading a technical manual for a rocket launcher - I didn't know what was being said and to be honest, after 10 or 20 pages I didn't care anymore. I did read some reviews on Barnes and Noble and Amazon, then and only then did I understand what was actually happening in the story. If a synopsis can better tell your story, something's wrong.
    Also, I would recommend having a dictionary close by - the elaborate use of "big" words is just another frustrating hurdle in this novel. I love language, especially descriptive creativity, but it got to be a bit tedious when a girl with a couple of English degrees had to put the book down every other sentence to look up a word. Overall, Embassytown was more trouble than it was worth for me, and in order to get into it you might have to be a die hard sci-fi fan already familiar with the lingo and/or concepts.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 11, 2011

    A Bargain Bin Book

    FROM ANONYMOUS (ONE STAR ~ UP ABOVE) I bought this book because it was a recommended read from Barnes and Noble and I was truly looking forward to reading what seemed like a really creative work. I'm an avid reader and I can't think of a book I haven't finished once I've started, even if I didn't care for the story - so it was extremely disappointing to put this book down after 50 pages and know I wasn't going to pick it back up. The author spends the first 30 pages telling the reader about a world that's very complex, but not really explaining it or the terms, words and phrases he's using to describe it (most of which I have never heard, so an explanation would have been nice). It was like reading a technical manual for a rocket launcher - I didn't know what was being said and to be honest, after 10 or 20 pages I didn't care anymore. ---------------------------- I feel very much the same as the reviewer up above, this is my first Mieville book and know that he is well thought of and is a proponent of New Weird Fantasy, which isn't science fiction. I stayed through this whole thing and couldn't make heads nor tails of the 'learning curve' here, sure create a new universe for us to know, but please do take the time to explain it a bit as well! I don't think that creating new words like Anathem by Neal Stephenson, another book that was very confusing, needs to be so difficult... I'm fairly certain that these books are a new blight from the minds of Social Butterflies who are utilizing confusion to mask the lack of creativity inherent in their enterprises. Embassytown lacks Action. This author is either doing too little drugs or too much... A Bargain Bin Book

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 2, 2011

    Boring

    This book rambles on and on. Very disappointed. Do not waste your time. Very boring.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2011

    Another outstanding novel

    It took about 50 pages to get a good feel for the setting and Mieville does a great job of playing up the alien-ness factor, but once I got comfortable and the author started writing about the nature of Language, I was hooked. Outstanding!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2012

    I loved this book, one of the few scifi books i recommend to my

    I loved this book, one of the few scifi books i recommend to my non
    scifi reading friends. Great world building without being sidelined
    into endless explanations, this is a book that you will have to put a
    bit of work into (or read it twice) to appreciate the details, but its
    so worth it. The first half of the book bounces back and forth from the
    'present' to past events in the narrator's life. It can seem a bit
    overwhelming at first but once everything starts coming together its
    impressive how it all ties up. Great story and some thought provoking
    ideas on what language and the ability to communicate mean. Most
    scifi/fantasy readers wont have trouble interpreting the slang, and
    although i did have to bust out the dictionary a couple times i don't
    really see a downside to that, unless you really hate learning new
    words. Overall not the easiest read out there, but the reward >
    effort imo.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2012

    Obtuse experimental fiction

    After 50 pages I wondered where this book was heading. After 100 pages the answer came back: nowhere. Full of obscure terminology that is never explained, and seemingly lacking any kind of clear plot, this book is apparently some kind of experiment. There is no sense of connection of the reader with the time, place, characters or events - nothing to draw the reader in. This is like Vogon poetry in Hitchhikers Guide, just slightly less painful. But, some people might like this kind of thing so I rated the book 2 stars to be fair.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2012

    A unique view of alien culture shock

    The meeting of aliens where the word alien makes sense. Where one main character is a living simile in the stereophonic language used in Embassytown. Never before have i thought just how shocking being in the company of alternate lifeforms would be.
    An excellent piece of work

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 12, 2011

    an original idea badly presented and with meandering style

    This book was very uneven. Nuggets of good ideas well presented in between large useless sections that will have you skipping pages in frustration.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2014

    Smart Fiction

    This is the sort of fiction that a graduate of English Literature, a linguist, or a physicist might enjoy. Ursula K Le Guin talks about Science Fiction exploring the "what if?" This book does that in a brilliant, creative way.
    A great read. I bought a hard copy for my shelf.

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  • Posted April 27, 2013

    I wonderful approach to SF. A fertile mind.

    I wonderful approach to SF. A fertile mind.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2013

    Creative yet lacking in character development.  

    Creative yet lacking in character development.  

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  • Posted October 6, 2012

    Certainly unique!

    A very unique and satisfying read... I was totally transported to another time and place.
    Previous to reading this book, I read 2012 by Kim Stanley Robinson. I see that in this one, as well, some readers have a problem with "made up" words or concepts. Obviously, one has to be pre-disposed to this type of writing, but If one has the imagination and uses the context of the story, it is not that difficult to conceive of what the author means in those particular instances/descriptions etc.. It is, after all, SF---or Weird SF or whatever---if the author only dealt with current concepts, beliefs, morals and technology (all that stuff) then it seems that it would be just another story about humans and aliens running around like cowboys and {Native Americans}.
    This story deals with the far future and so to make it believable (for me), there must be some parts that are almost beyond understanding. The characters themselves are not going to resemble us, if it is to be consistent with the story. I don't mind stretching my brain a bit. it is almost at times like meditating---you don't have to understand every concept or word, but somehow it all comes together to be pretty amazing.

    I agree that it takes some time to "get into" the beginning of the story but there are plenty of books that start out that way where things fall into place eventually. And yes, towards the end, with the war, it does go on a bit long than seems necessary.

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  • Posted August 16, 2012

    Complex and Bizarre

    This book is set in the very distant future, and it has a very bizarre theme. It is well-written, with few (but some) loose ends or discontinuities. The story develops slowly, but ends with action and suspense. A knowledge of linguistics would probably be helpful to anybody trying to understand what this book is all about.

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  • Posted July 3, 2012

    A Stimulating Read

    Embassytown is a fascinating look at how an alien species' language, and hence perception of reality, could be radically different from ours. What follows is a story of how this alien races affects humans, and to even an even greater extent, vice versa. I found the exploration of language structure and use satisfying since it is so often glossed over in sci-fi.

    The book is "heavy," and filled with both unfamiliar made-up words and obscure real vocabulary. At times this makes the read a bit confusing, especially at the beginning. However, if you stick with this, you will not be disappointed. I certainly didn't figure out every alien word, and didn't stop to look up every real word I didn't know (there were a lot). Still, I got sucked into the story and felt I ended up understanding the content well. My advice would be to not sweat the vocabulary too much and let the story take you where it will.

    The story felt a bit rushed at the end, and I wish there had been a little more exposition of the lingering effects of certain events. However, this book gets four stars from me for creating a unique world with an intriguing and truely alien race, and a set of human characters whose motivations and feelings were explored in a thorough fashion.

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  • Posted June 30, 2012

    A Very Worthy Read

    This was my first read of China Meiville. China's take on Human/Alien relationships is unique in the Science Fiction genre. This book is certainly worth a sequel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2012

    2012 Hugo nominee

    Compare to fellow nominee Leviathon Wakes. This book is a much more complex - and as a result confusing - picture of life in the far reaches of the galaxy. I am not sure I buy into the semantic concept that shapes that plot, but in the end I enjoyed working through the complexity.

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