Embassytown is not only a work of literature, but a merit to the science fiction genre. It details the life of Avice, a simile and an immerser. All Host language is based in truth, so in order to describe they must induct people, events, places or objects into their language. Avice becomes “the girl who ate what was given to her”, part of the language and one of the rare few who not only have the chance to leave Embassytown, but also decided to return.
Embassytown is a complex piece of artwork that touches upon an entire spectrum of themes including gender, language and humans' perpetual struggle of embracing 'the other'. Early in the novel, Scile asks Avice, "Does it ever occur to you that this language is impossible, Avice?" he said. "Im, poss, ih, bul. It makes no sense. They don't have polysemy. Words don't signify: they are their referents. How can they be sentient and not have symbolic language? How do their numbers work? It makes no sense.”(Embassytown). In a way, this text perfectly describes the position of Embassytown - it makes no sense. The Hosts, the Ariekei, the language, it makes no sense and, more potently, it isn’t meant to.
Much of the books appeal lies in Mieville’s creative use of language and neologisms to both create new languages and challenge our existing understanding of words and communication. As mentioned before, the best example of this is language of his alien race, the “Ariekei”, who’s ‘innate’ language forbids them from communicating what they have not experienced. The Ariekei (also known as the Hosts), speak a language which is ‘a direct function of their consciousness’, which somehow involves an intrinsic bond between each word and the thing it represents. Whilst this prevents them from lying, it also means they cannot imagine, create or extrapolate; this is simply one short example of Mieville’s radical linguistic subversion.
China Mieville Talks About Embassytown
"Miéville is the author who took the top off fantasy ten years ago, and his next to last novel, The City & The City,was so sui generis that it won awards for both science fiction (the British Science Fiction Award, the Clarke) and fantasy (the World Fantasy Award, the Locus Award for best fantasy novel), despite containing no non-realist elements whatsoever. But Miéville's latest novel, Embassytown, though in many ways as dazzlingly original as anything he's written, is positively retro. It's a planetary romance, a far future SF story about a time when humans have spread through the galaxy with the help of vaguely explained FTL technology, a story of contact with winged, eye-stalked aliens. It is, in short, that increasingly rare, increasingly unfashionable artefact, a core SF story, and its tropes are pure Golden Age."
Abigail Nussbaum - http://wrongquestions.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/embassytown-by-china-mieville.html
"China Miéville knows what kind of novel he's writing, calls it by its name, science fiction, and exhibits all the virtues that make it an intensely interesting form of literature. It's a joy to find this young author coming into his own, and bringing the craft of science fiction out of the backwaters where it's been caught lately between the regressive drag of publishers marketing to a "safe" readership and the bewildering promises of change and growth offered by postmodernism in all its forms and formlessness. Embassytown is a fully achieved work of art."
Ursula le Guin - 7th May 2011- The Guardian - http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/may/08/embassytown-china-mieville-review
“China Mieville's Embassytown creates a world in which language and reality are indistinguishable.
"You taught me language," says Caliban in The Tempest, "and my profit on't/ Is, I know how to curse." As Caliban knows to his disadvantage, language is a species of exchange, a transaction in which you might hope to turn a profit as well as a phrase. With the implicit curse they deliver in and on an acquired tongue, the lines also suggest how language and power go together on Prospero's island, and remind us how quickly an exchange of words between colonist and colonised can give way to an exchange of fire.
China Miéville's impressive new novel also deals with the unpredictable potencies of language, and of fictional language in particular. Its science-fiction setting has a lot in common with Prospero's realm, rising out of imagination as an unearthly place transformed by the rough magic of exceptional speech. In some ways, it's a place that Shakespeare's sorcerer might recognise, filled with strange beings, political intrigue, stirrings of revolution, and powerful voices echoing in its un-breathable air.”
James Purdon - 20th May 2011- The Guardian - http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/may/20/china-mieville-embassytown-review-purdon
Interview with Avice
Describe Embassytown in three words/phrases
1. Enormous rock wall
2. Astonishing housing
How did you feel when Bren asked you to perform a simile?
I remember that it was Dad Shemmi they sent to fetch me to tell me the news. At the time, it seemed important to him, so I made it important to me that he “squeezed my shoulder as he pointed me in to one of the nursery’s scruffy paperwork-and-datspace-filled offices.” When I entered the room, Bren and his smile felt like the most natural thing I could have seen. It was no matter that “it had been almost a year, nearly 25Kh, since Yohn’s accident, since I or any of us had returned to that house”, I was meant to be near Bren at that moment.
““You’re needed”, Bren said to me, without the needless frills of emotion, “that’s all this is.” “The hosts need you.” “They’re having a debate. A few of them are convinced they can make their point clearly by... by comparison.”
By comparison, I was to be their eternal point of reference. I knew was a great honour, I had no illusions about that, but I was still plagued with a whisper of anxiety. Bren said something which I assumed was supposed to help, I was still unsure as to the effect he had on my fears.
“I won’t tell you lies. It’ll hurt. And it won’t be nice. But I promise you’ll be alright. I promise.” “There’ll be money in it for you, like your Mum was saying. And. Also. You’ll have the thanks of the Staff. And the Ambassadors.”
How did it feel to be a part of the simile?
“What occurred in that crumbling once-dining room wasn’t by any means that worst thing I’ve ever suffered, or the most painful, or the most disgusting. It was quite bearable. It was however, the least comprehensible event that had or has ever happened to me. I was surprised how much that upset me.” I’ve always liked being able to lay claim to me, and I just wasn’t sure how to understand this feeling of not being myself, of being part of something I cannot create or change or even comprehend. It would be foolish of me to even try to know and see or find every Hosts who might ever my name to describe hurt; I will never know, I must never know, I need never know. My name is no longer mine.
What did it feel like to immerse for the first time?
It would seem to me, the best way of describing my first immer is uncertain. There was never any doubt I would get on the vessel... “yes I was about to immerse for the first time, but I would have done anything I was ordered and I think I would have done it well”. A journey on the whirling rushing mess of the immer can never be certain, it might be mapped and planned, but “the skills we’d practise[d were] never a guarantee the first time wouldn’t sicken you”. It would be the simplest thing in the world for a traveller to find themselves lost in this uncertainty, floating on the aimless patterns of the see, immersed in immersion and going nowhere. It is a feat of great willpower and skill to cross the immer and keep oneself anchored and secure. These were the techniques they taught the Classmates. These were “the skills I now knew... that made me an immerser, allowed immersers to stay conscious and intentional when we immersed”.
This page was created by Jordan Charles, Monique Perks and Gabbi Cohen