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Embassytown   by China Mieville

Read: 2016-11-05 Reviewed: 2016-11-28
Re-read factor:

There are three races of people known variously as Ariekene, Terre, Hosts, Ambassadors, `monsters' which defy generic description, people who always go around as (more or less) tethered pairs; there are two `languages' although one is a `not' language, and the different people can speak one or other or both. After having read the book I am baffled as to who's who. It is a terrible muddle, really.

Events take a turn when an infrequent ship delivers a new Ambassador, who starts to abuse the `not' language by telling slight untruths in the not-language: a major impossibility by all accounts. Ripples spread immediately through one or more of the societies, leading to street warfare, high-ranking murder, and mass-addiction to a god-drug which is, in fact, this new Ambassador speaking mostly empty rhetoric but always infused with a little untruth and political derring.

I think the main protagonist is of the planet's indigenous species, the Ariekene, but who is specially chosen to interact with the non-language speakers at an early age and then is at liberty to leave the planet and explore the universe a little; and at that that is a higher-dimensional place (immer). Actually, there is very little point to the immersing business and the book would have worked perfectly well with people simply travelling through ordinary space. However the hero comes back to her planet and gets deeply embroiled in the political upheavals. The final resolution is to force the non-language people, who have become dysfunctionally violent on the god-drug, to accept double standards and hence contradictions and hence constructed untruths, and thence to drop their dependence on their non-language and instead start talking properly to each other.

It is all quite ludicrous. There is an overarching feeling in the end that the non-language people are inately very, very stupid, which grates with the notion that they have developed any kind of complex society.

It is fair to say that, for what it is, the book is as well written and constructed as it might be, China Mieville throwing around a massive amount of imagination and literary flair (although in places early on it does turn into a tumble of random words).

Ultimately though, it's just a lot of nonesense.

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