Embassytown by China Mieville
China Mieville has always been a difficult author to pigeonhole. His bizarre, intelligent novels have never fitted into easy categories. They range from the vast, sprawling, fantasy driven Bas-Lag trilogy, to existential crime thriller The City and The City, and just about everything in between. He has never been a true hard science fiction writer, (the three Arthur C. Clarke awards aside), he hasn’t written about ray guns, spaceships and civilizations on far-flung planets. Until now that is and the release of his new novel Embassytown.
Set on a planet on the edge of the known universe, we follow Avice Banner Cho, an immerser, a traveller on the sea of the space, the Immer. Avice left her home city of Embassytown long ago for a life of travelling the universe but events have brought her home. She is somewhat of a minor celebrity amongst the humans of Embassytown, a girl who escaped their forgotten backwater and explored the cosmos.
Living amongst the human populace are the indigenous Hosts, a truly alien presence who only the chosen Ambassadors can communicate with. The Hosts have a unique language and cannot lie. When a new Ambassador arrives from the distant empire that ultimately controls Embassytown, the calm and balance that has lasted for centuries is thrown into crisis and Avice must find some way to communicate with the Hosts before all is lost.
The Hosts are a wonderful creation, enigmatically alien and outlandish. Their unique language really fuels the themes of the story and ultimately it is a book about language. About the power of words and how we convey meaning, how words can become (literally) intoxicating and what value a simple lie can be. The Hosts have to experience language before they can use it, for example as a young girl Avice was chosen to become a simile. Amongst the hosts she is known as, rather unpleasantly, the girl who ate what was given to her.
Avice herself is a reliable narrator, tough and streetwise. She glides through the story at first, revelling in her off world fame and her Immerser talents but as the crisis on Embassytown deepens Avice realises that she must play a significant part in what is to follow. She is supported by a rich tapestry of background characters, from her delusional, scholarly husband Scile, to the wise but downtrodden and crippled Ambassador Bren. The Hosts are well constructed and their culture feels alive and well thought out.
This is by no means an easy read. While never plodding the plot does sometimes feel a little bit sticky and Mieville spends a long portion of the novel explaining Avice’s back story, while it is important to the overall piece you are left at times hoping for a little bit more action. If you are new to the works of China Mieville this novel is probably not the best place to start, Kraken is on the whole more accessible and The City and The City more familiar but if you are already a Mieville convert then you won’t be disappointed.
China Mieville is one the of most unique and exciting authors writing in any genre at the moment, I would not be surprised if Embassytown doesn’t bag him another bagful of awards next year. With the release of Embassytown Pan Macmillan have decided to repackage all of his former novels and try to make him into some kind of brand, this is wholly unnecessary. Mieville is far too good to be pigeonholed.
This Embassytown book review was written by Charlie White
Have you read Embassytown?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Embassytown reader reviews
Ryan from Newcastle
I'm about halfway through this book and I'm very much in agreement with Charlie. This is an amazing, exciting, refreshing take on the Sci-Fi genre, one that all Mieville fans will love. It is a hugely complex undertaking for any reader, be prepared to be challenged on the foundations of communication, diversity, and diplomacy. If you are new to Mieville, I recommend you start with Kraken, followed by Perdido Street Station, because if you can get through those two then you will love Embassytown.
8.8/10 from 2 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a reader review for Embassytown by China Mieville; it really helps other readers find that perfect next read. Kindly enter your name, country and review below and click the 'Submit your review' button to send.
More recommended reading in this genre
Rendezvous With Rama
Arthur C Clarke
All’s quiet for many years, with humankind tracking thousands of asteroids and expanding its reach with colonies established on other planets and moons, until in 2130...
I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Earth. I’m in a Habitat designed to last 31 days. If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. I...
The Duke of Atreides has been manoeuvred by his arch-enemy, Baron Harkonnen, into administering the desert planet of Dune. Although it is almost completely without water, D...
John G Hemry
The last surviving superpower on Earth, the USA, is fighting a war to conquer the moon and obtain its riches. However, the American military has its own battles to fight be...
The Light Brigade
From the Hugo Award–winning author of The Stars Are Legion comes a brand-new science fiction thriller about a futuristic war during which soldiers...
Humanity is enjoying the Galactic Milieu. Colonies are thriving, Earth is peaceful, and as more metapsychics are born, the goal of mental Unity with the Milieu seems close....
The Woven Ring
M D Presley
A fantasy reimagining of the American Civil War, The Woven Ring pits muskets against magic, massive war machines against mind readers, and glass sabers against soldiers in ...
Visible in the night sky the Argus Station, its twin smelting plants like glowing eyes, looks down on nightmare Earth. From Argus the Committee keep an oppressive control: ...
The Imbued Lockblade
M D Presley
Over the Mueller Line and stalking across the Eastern homeland she betrayed during the Grand War, Marta Childress now cares for the catatonic Caddie Hendrix, whom she has b...
Great books also published in 2012
King of Thorns
To reach greatness you must step on bodies, and many brothers lie trodden in my wake. I’ve walked from pawn to player and I’ll win this game of ours, though the...
The Grimnoir Society’s mission is to protect people with magic, and they’ve done so - successfully and in secret - since the mysterious arrival of the Power in ...
The Woman Who Died a Lot
The BookWorld's leading enforcement officer Thursday Next is four months into an enforced semi-retirement following an assassination attempt. She returns home to Swindo...
Days of Blood and Starlight
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living - one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without re...
The Compleat Ankh-Morpork City Guide
Greetings, adventurer! We lay before you this most comprehensive gazetteer encompassing all the streets of Ankh-Morpork, as well as information on its principal businesses,...
The Wind Through The Keyhole
Visit Mid-World's last gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and his ka-tet as a ferocious storm halts their progress along the Path of the Beam. Roland tells a tale from his ea...
Gareth L Powell
In 1944, as waves of German ninjas parachute into Kent, Britain’s best hopes for victory lie with a Spitfire pilot codenamed ‘Ack-Ack Macaque’. The troubl...
The Empire has declared war on the small, were-ruled kingdom of Aydori, capturing five women of the Mage-Pack, including the wife of the were Pack-leader. With the Pack off...
Shadow Ops: Control Point
Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer. Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the d...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: