Embassytown itself is an outpost at the edge of space controlled by humans. It is built upon the Ariekene homeworld and populated by unusual beings that cannot lie. Although the humans in this novel have travelled so far through the immer that groups become colonies on alien planets, there are still limitations in this location as to what humans can do.
Embassytown does contain some futuristic features such as “plasm”g (p8), “floating toys”, and “plastone” (P7) but the architecture also retains some of the characteristics that our Earth homes have. The houses are built of “brick, cement” (p8) which demonstrates that although new materials such as “plasm” have been discovered, the humans remain to build in a way which is conventional, using conventional materials. “Tenements” (p7) have also been built and there are still “backstreets” meaning humans still cling to their past ways of creating their homes, bringing the past and the familiar into an alienscape. Their lack of a new style is not for want of ideas or materials. The Hosts’ city is also described; their buildings use “uncanny geometries”, and “more lively materials” (p8) which may suggest that the humans limit themselves to what they know, rather than embracing the other culture that exists feet from them.
Another limitation that the humans face is their lack of oxygen. Although they may not learn from the customs of the Ariekene and use their ideas and techniques when building, they need the Ariekene to survive. The Ariekene allow the humans to survive on the planet by creating an oxygen bubble, but this bubble also means that exploration of the planet is limited. The fatality of attempting to move outside the oxygen bubble is presented in the first chapter when young Avice and her friends play a game and attempt to run as far as they can without oxygen and back. Avice would hold her breath “and go forward on a lungful” (p8), which may also represent the human need to retain part of their culture (symbolised by the “lungful” of air”) in order to survive whilst exploring. The activity the children are taking part in also demonstrates the human desire to compete against each other when venturing into new territories. One of their friends “Yohn”, “went too far” (p11) and became injured in this game, demonstrating the possible risks and casualties that can be incurred when exploration into new territory occurs. He is rescued by a Host which again emphasises the dependency the humans have upon the alien creatures in this otherworldly location and the need for co-operation.
The “Immerverse” China Mieville has created can be traversed by moving through the sub reality of the immer, a concept based on the German words “always”. Mieville allows certain characters to travel across the universe by travelling through the subspace but certain constraints on the ability to explore are present creating comments on the constraints of humanity. What the immer represents is a futuristic fluidity of location in the novel, a fantastic ability to cross the universe and bring humanity into contact with wild and differing new worlds. The constraints that Mieville places on this form of travel indicate to the reader that humanity contains inherent limitations in its identity as a species throughout time and space. The immer brings forward the problems humanity faces today in terms of technology such as the reliance on fossil feuls in todays society. The traveller in the Immerverse has surpassed all of the limitations we can imagine in terms of physical travel, allowing the potential for infinite locations and yet the practice is still imperfect. The subspace is a dangerous place, requiring skilled travellers to navigate it. Although travel is nearly boundless, the communication across the immerverse is slow as there is no instantaneous communication device compared to other science fiction writing in which devices such as the ansible allow for superluminal communication in a universe. Whilst travelling through the immer, the aging of a human stops creating a separation at a physical level from the rest of space but also an indication of the infinite nature of the universe. Combining the ageless facet of the subspace and its basis as the German word always, Mieville can be said to be pointing out how regardless of the technological advances that humanity makes or the locations it is able to reach, new boundaries and challenges are found because of the finite and imperfect nature of man.
Created by Gabbi Cohen & Conor Mahon