Embassytown

Embassytown - China MiƩville

Embassytown is that rare thing in literature: unique. I'm sure there must be other books, other stories that deal with similar ideas, but I have yet to come across anything that comes close to the beautiful strangeness of this book.

There are cons: Embassytown is far from perfect. Like all of Mieville's work that I've read so far, it is hard work (especially at the start) but it does get easier as the story begins to grip you. This is not a comfortable, lazy read. Sometimes I found that that languaging was so alien - or conversely, so familiar - that I was jolted right out of this strange world and found myself contemplating the language choice rather than the story. This is not necessarily a negative; it could, in fact, be part of the author's intended reaction. "Language" is such a deep part of the plot that there is no reason to discount the possibility that the very writing itself was used in such a way to make the reader think about our own human forms of language.

Be that as it may, it was distracting. Coupled with this was the tendency to write as though the reader was already knowledgeable of the world and universe in which Embassytown is set. A second re-reading of the book may be in order, because there are so many parts from the beginning that I didn't comprehend and I think that detracted from the latter parts of the story. That being said, I did in fact enjoy the fundamental story so much that I will happily undertake a re-read in the near future.

Because oh, the story! The ideas! A dissection, an exploration, a near poetic discovery of what constitutes language and sentient interaction - this is at the heart of Embassytown. There are many other threads woven throughout (addiction, politics, oppression, morality, the essence of humanity) but Language is the core. I will never again be able to look at similies and metaphors in the same light. As with Railsea, the ending hit me so hard it was almost physical. In fact, the ending - if I may go so far as to say - was perfect.

I will be very surprised if this never finds its way to motion image - whether in film or television (or even pure art) form. Like the world in which it is set, Embassytown is ruggedly, alienly beautiful; flawed and (mostly) imperfect; unique, and essential.