Thursday, March 08, 2012

Embassytown by China Mieville

I finished reading Embassytown in late February. This is one of two books I stumbled across in a list of science fiction books that NPR published: Mind-Bending Sci-Fi Books For A Fantastical Summer. Embassytown is one of the nominees for the 2012 Nebula Award for best novel. I read another of Mieville's books--The City & The City--almost two years ago and enjoyed it enough to be tempted to read another of his books.

The science at the heart of British author China Mieville's latest science fiction novel is linguistics. The book is set in a human outpost on the hostile planet at the edge of explored space that is home to a strange race of beings called the Ariekei or simply the Hosts. The Hosts language is metaphor-based and must be spoken with two voices by two people at once. In a different twist, the Aliens are essentially unable to lie.

The story is told from the perspective of Avice Benner Cho as if she is remembering and telling the story after the fact. As a child, Cho was transformed into a living simile in the alien's language. After traveling the universe, Cho returns to Embassytown and finds herself in the middle of a complete meltdown of the Hosts' society.

I always enjoy different ideas and this book has lots of them. While I am not as thrilled with the book as other reviewers, I recognize that it is unique. Overall, I would rate the book four out of five stars.

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