EMBASSYTOWN by China Miéville


Email this review


A new venture into science fiction from the talented British author (Kraken, 2010, etc.) best known for his extraordinary steampunk-style fantasies.

Avice Benner Cho returns to her childhood home, the remote planet Arieka, after many years of working in the immer, a weird hyperdimension that permits passage among the stars. Arieka's indigenous Hosts have a remarkable, entirely biological technology and maintain a bubble of human-breathable atmosphere above Embassytown. The Ariekei have two speaking orifices and utter their language through both simultaneously; for them, language, thought and reality are inseparable, hence they cannot understand the speech of individual humans, tell lies or speculate. The only way they can express things that haven't happened is by performing a ceremony in which a human is declared a "simile," an honor for which young Avice was chosen. The Ariekei hold contests to see which of them can come closest to uttering an untruth; by human standards, their efforts are laughable. Humans, however, developed Ambassadors: clone-twins so alike in appearance, thought and experience that when they speak simultaneously, the Ariekei can comprehend them. Then Embassytown's overlords send a new type of Ambassador, EzRa, dissimilar in appearance and thought. Somehow, they can speak and be understood—yet the Ariekei don't react as expected. Instead, they show every sign of being intoxicated by EzRa's speech; not only that but they turn out to be hopelessly addicted. As their civilization begins to crumble, Avice must team up with Bren, a former Ambassador whose clone-twin died, to unravel a most unpleasant conspiracy. Much of this is far too formidably dense and complex to be summarized, and Miéville further blurs matters with a difficult, almost hallucinatory narrative structure. Conceptually, though, it's utterly astonishing.

A major intellectual achievement that, despite all difficulties, persuades and enthralls.

Pub Date: May 17th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-345-52449-2
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2011


Sci-FiWITH FATE CONSPIRE by Marie Brennan
by Marie Brennan
Sci-FiSPELLBOUND by Blake Charlton
by Blake Charlton
Sci-FiWHEN THE SAINTS by Dave Duncan
by Dave Duncan


NonfictionOCTOBER by China Miéville
by China Miéville
Sci-FiTHE LAST DAYS OF NEW PARIS by China Miéville
by China Miéville
Sci-FiTHIS CENSUS-TAKER by China Miéville
by China Miéville


FictionLOW TOWN by Daniel Polanksy
by Daniel Polanksy
FictionDECIPHER by Stel Pavlou
by Stel Pavlou
Sci-FiACCEPTANCE by Jeff VanderMeer
by Jeff VanderMeer
Sci-FiTHIS CENSUS-TAKER by China Miéville
by China Miéville
Sci-FiTHE LAST DAYS OF NEW PARIS by China Miéville
by China Miéville