by China Mieville
3.9 96


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Embassytown by China Mieville


In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak. Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language. When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties: to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak—but which speaks through her, whether she likes it or not.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345524508
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/31/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 255,855
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

China Miéville is the author of several books, including Perdido Street Station, The City & The City, and Kraken. His works have won the Hugo, the British Science Fiction Award (twice), the Arthur C. Clarke Award (three times) and the World Fantasy Award. He lives and works in London.

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Embassytown 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 96 reviews.
RidleyWalker More than 1 year ago
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.
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
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.
tottman More than 1 year ago
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.
harstan More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
dharmakirti More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
patubb More than 1 year ago
This book was very uneven. Nuggets of good ideas well presented in between large useless sections that will have you skipping pages in frustration.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like Science Fiction, then you will surely enjoy this book. It starts off slow, but it picks up a little before the midway point in the book. This is by far one of my favorite books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So full of ideas and so unforgettable
Will1000 More than 1 year ago
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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Creative yet lacking in character development.  
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stimpy More than 1 year ago
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.
deesy58 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AKSteve More than 1 year ago
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.
Robert_P_in_VB More than 1 year ago
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.