Book Title: Embassytown
Author: China Mievelle
Publisher: Pan Books 2012
Page Count: 411
Genre: Science Fiction
Spoilers In Review: YES!
First Impression of the Book: This is the second China Mieville book I have read (The first was The City & The City) and so far the Author has shown a true talent for creating unique worlds. CM seems to be able to keep the reader in the dark about the bigger picture whilst revealing important story pieces without losing momentum.
Summary Of The Story (Spoilers!):
This is a story about two cultures living side by side, but it is mainly a story of addiction.
The events take place in a community called Embassytown, a city that co-inhabited by the 'Terre' (humans..ish) and the Ariekei or Hosts that exists on the edge of the known universe. The story follows Avice Cho on her many adventures in and out of Embassytown.
There are many elements to this story, it is an expertly weaved fabric of characters, concepts, cultures and chaos. I will attempt to explain a few elements to aid this review but it is best enjoyed in the frame of this novel so if you want the full experience stop reading now.
Avice is a character with many jobs and abilities so its quite hard to put a pin in her role in this other than the glue that sticks the story together. The Hosts are an 'alien' race who own/rule the land that Embassytown occupies. The hosts speak a complex language that the 'Terre' cannot speak themselves so they rely on the Ambassadors to communicate between the two races.
The Ambassadors are pivotal characters in this story and CM does explain their depth eventually but really we should know from the start as it would make digesting this novel A LOT easier. So...the ambassadors are a pair of 'identical' people who work together to speak the language of the hosts, this is necessary for many reasons many of which won't fit on this review so take my word for it that its important.
The first half of the book is split between the events leading up the arrival of a new ambassador and the events of that ambassador meeting the hosts.
The second half of this novel is the aftermath of this meeting, which involves addiction, war, suicide, more war and eventual retribution of sorts.
I found the first half of this story very frustrating at times, there is several aspects of the intro of the story that seemed unimportant when CM could have spent more time explaining to me what is going on...but in the end it did bring depth to the characters that was important in the latter half of the book.
The second half of this book is where the real story is and the story could have been sub-standard but the quality of the world and it's characters really kept the flame alive. There are times when CM's writing is sometimes difficult, but that may just be me, I read for hours at a time so its probably me...any way. The main theme of this novel is addiction, the pain and suffering is potent, the politics are consistent and it's not a easy jump to salvation.
The Hosts are very well written characters, the Ambassadors have plenty of depth to them and the story never really seems to fizzle out, CM keeps adding new details and components that drive the story forward and kept me from trying to predict the end and just go with it. The main character Avice doesn't really contribute much to the story and CM creates little bits and pieces that keep her relevant but ultimately she is a set of eyes to view this story through. At the end Avice kicks into gear but for me its a bit late.
The quality of the worlds China Mieville creates are outstanding, I can't imagine being in his head...but I've got plenty more of his books in my pile so I will keep coming back for more until he lets me down.