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 yet speaks through her.
This was another reread for me, and one that I happily undertook. I love Mieville’s work in general, though none of his novels yet have really resonated enough with me that I can count them amongst my ultimate favourites. Embassytown comes pretty damn close.
This was easier on a reread, mostly because I was more familiar with the world and its setup. On first read, I found myself a bit overwhelmed by the world and its complexities (which probably says more for the fact that I tend to read too damn quickly than anything else).
I love so much about this. I could go on for a very long time about how awesome Language is, and the Ariekei. I love the idea of the Ambassadors in general (though they do remind me in some ways of the Paratwa from Christopher Hinz’s books, which are woefully underrread IMHO).
This is actually pretty close to being an excellent book for me, apart from a couple of things. Avice as protagonist I found quite frustrating – she just seems to be there as a cipher for the plot to revolve around a lot of the time, and I actually found her actions fairly unbelievable near the end of the book. The ending of the book in general feels a bit all over the place to me, anyway – things seem to wrap up too quickly and it all just feels a little messy, even on a second read through.
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