The children of the embassy all saw the boat land.
–China Mieville - Embassytown - c.2011 - pg. 1
Embassytown is a human colony on the planet Areika, the inhaitants are known by the local humans as the Hosts and they are unique among life-forms as they cannot lie. Their Language is so tied up with meaning that they physically cannot speak what is not true. Avice grows up on Areika, but she has the talent of immersing, which is a sort of navigation through space, and so goes off-world. but one of her platonic husbands is a linguist, and fascinated by Language, so they return to Areika. And just in time to witness the whole world go to hell with the arrival of a new Ambassador.
I’m a big Miéville fan. I’ve read almost all of his books, and there is always something there to make me sit up and pay attention. Unfotunately I didn’t really love this one. I found the main protagonist to be quite boring, she didn’t really have much of a character as such, and I spent a lot of time at the start of the book trying to figure out what was going on.
This is a huge pity, as the ending of the book suddenly seemed to come to life and I really loved that. If only the rest of the book had been so good.
Of course, I may have been distracted by the puppy and having to concentrate on what she was up to as well, so maybe my judgement if 100% fair. Puppies do tend to have a way of making you pay attention to them.
The world that Mieville creates is unique, and fascinating, but the lack of character made it hard for me to engage with the story properly. I knew, intellectually, that a lot was going on but I just wasn’t feeling it. Despite that I would still recommend this book, it has some really great ideas, and the whole premise has plenty to hold your interest. Or at least it held mine because I kept going back to it. Sure, the story takes a while to take off, and it’d’ve been nicer to get inside Avice’s feelings more than just reading about her recollections of the actions, but in its dealing with communication issues, understanding, and otherness, it is well worth a look.