Sunday, September 23, 2012

Embassytown-China Miéville

Embassytown-China Miéville

the facts
satisfaction: Up
pages: 405
gender: M
nationality: UK
year: 2011
Novel

"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."

After the semi-ambivalence I had about King Rat, Mieville's first novel, I tried not to get my hopes up about Embassytown. I sometimes get worried, when I love and adore an author's style, that they'll let me down and my opinion will forever be trampled a little. Really, I didn't need to worry one bit because Embassytown is fantastic.

So okay we're in outer space so far into the future the kids AND adults are talking language we 21st centuryers can't begin to understand and then there's the aliens, the Ariekei, who cannot even conceive of our noises being a language. The Ariekei use two mouths to speak and thus only altered humans, the Ambassadors, can speak to them. And it's important to keep in contact because Embassytown is the last outpost before the mysterious lighthouses that were put up to warn travelers of the immer of dangerous space as well as the source of incredible half living technology. Then the whole delicate diplomatic balance fails.

So this is a book about language. There's a lot of complicated linguistics going on in true Miéville fashion so there's the usual over-your-head technical jargon that I just adore. And that slang along with a different sense of time makes for a difficult first chapter but then the story about language really just sucks you in. There's a key question of what language actually is  and how it is possible to conceive of concepts you've no words for. The Ariekei manually build up their language and due to that, despite their complex and advanced technology, they are culturally a bit limited since they literally cannot lie. When they discover this, their world undergoes a crazy, mad revolution that no one was prepared for and their world has to burn down around them before they can build it up again. 

The politics, the characters, and the cultural changes are just brilliant. 

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