In 2015, I read four of China Mieville’s novels: Un Lun Dun, Rat King, Railsea, and on the very last day of the year I read this novel, Embassytown. When I meander through the colourful ceiling high stacks at my local library (because my hubby has put a ban on me buying physical books until I re-home some), Mieville has become an author I keep an eye out for and it was with great delight that I discovered Embassytown. If you love playing with language, the creation of uniquely alien beings, and planets that are foreign yet familiar, then definitely check out this book.
The city, Embassytown, is on a planet that marks the edge of the explored universe and the unknown, where humans co-exist and trade with the indigenous population known as Ariekei, or the Hosts. The Hosts are wonderfully non-human, they cannot lie, have the appearance of a kind of insect, and speak Language, which requires two mouths and one mind. Due to this, special human Ambassadors are created to communicate with this race, becoming a go between humans and Hosts, and selected individuals perform bizarre acts to become literal similes, examples and other forms of language. Avice is one such simile who, when she was a young girl, became “a girl who ate what was given her” (28), and marks the beginning of her strange relationship with the Hosts. When an impossible new Ambassador arrives in Embassytown and speaks to the Hosts, the world as they known it changes forever, and it’s up to Avice to save them by communicating with the Hosts herself.
It’s not the easiest of reads. Mieville challenges his readers with the worlds he creates and the language he uses, and he always creates stories that are brilliantly unique. Now it’s back to the library to find more of his books!