The To-Read Pile

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A Week of Reviews – Thursday: Embassytown by China Miéville

A Week of Reviews – Thursday

I own quite a lot of books that I’ve had for a while without getting around to reading them. Sometimes, especially if I know that something will take a lot of concentration to read, I put off reading it until I feel like I have the time and energy to do it justice. There’s a lot that’s subjective about reading and sometimes things like how tired you are really impact on your final opinion of a book.

My husband read Embassytown before I did and he has been encouraging me to pick it up ever since he put it down.

Embassytown by China Miéville

Embassytown by China Miéville

My relationship with China Miéville books has always been a little… let’s go with rocky. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, because I do, and it’s not that I don’t admire the writing, imagination and clever ideas that go into them, because, to be honest, I think he’s a complete and utter genius. The trouble is that I also feel like there’s something in the writing that wants you to see just how clever he is. It’s like an attractive person who knows just how attractive they are – somehow offputting.

This is the third of his books that I’ve read (after Perdido Street Station and The City and The City) and, although I would recommend them all to you, there’s something that holds me back from really gushing.

That said, like his other books, Embassytown is imaginative in a way that makes you wonder just how he manages it and has some incredible ideas behind it. It’s set on a planet at the far reaches of known space, where humans (and other species) share a city – Embassytown – with the Hosts or Ariekei. The Hosts do not think in a way that humans can understand and their language is also completely different and requires special Ambassadors.

During the course of the book, something happens to affect the nature of communication between the humans in Embassytown and the Hosts. The whole balance that the city relies upon becomes upset and it’s up to Avice, a human woman who cannot speak to the Ariekei but is herself part of their language – a simile – to fix things.

It took me a while to get into the story. Miéville doesn’t gently ease readers into the epic world that he has created here and there are new ideas and words to get used to before you can just settle into enjoying it. Once I did start to feel comfortable with the worldbuilding, though, it just blew me away. So much thought has clearly gone into everything and there were things that were mentioned incidentally that I could have read much more about.

There are some really excellent and intriguing ideas in the story about the ways in which the nature of our language and the nature of our thinking are related. I thought it was really good and I’d definitely recommend it, especially to people with an interest in language and communication.

I could go on at length about how good I thought this book was but ultimately it wouldn’t change the fact that I can’t give it 5 out of 5. Maybe it deserves the 5. If you’ve read it and you think so, let me know. I just can’t help feeling reluctant. I thought it was excellent and interesting and well-written but I didn’t love it. You should read it anyway.

4/5

2 comments on “A Week of Reviews – Thursday: Embassytown by China Miéville

  1. jackconner
    March 8, 2013

    Reblogged this on jackconner and commented:
    “Embassytown” is a unique if flawed novel. Totally worth the read for its unique setting and plot. As always, China’s imagination is brilliant. I only wish, as always, that I was having more FUN in his world.

    Of course, that’s the sort of writing I do (fun weird fiction), so I WOULD say that, wouldn’t I?

  2. Len
    March 8, 2013

    Like the way you compared the author to an attractive person who knows they look good! Haha

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This entry was posted on March 7, 2013 by in Reviews and tagged , , , .
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