I have just finished reading China Miéville’s latest novel Embassytown. The main character of the book is Avice, who grew up in the titular city, which is a human colony on an alien planet. There the humans live separate from the local inhabitants, a race called the Ariekei. Because of their strange language, the Ariekei (or the Hosts as the human colonists also call them) can only communicate with Ambassadors. The Ambassadors are cloned humans specifically designed to be able to speak the language. Avice was one of the rare few people who left the planet to work in space, but she returned to Embassytown with her husband who wanted to study the language. Problems arise when a new Ambassador arrives, who has a strange effect on the Ariekei and on the language.
I absolutely loved the book. I think it is fantastic. It is very inventive; I won’t go into specific details because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but there is great world-building going on with a fascinating alien race and their language is a brilliantly unique concept. On top of that there is a great character in Avice, a female main character who is far from any SF cliche. It is incredibly well-written, and Miéville definitely skews towards the intelligent end of the SF genre; he makes you work to figure out what is going on, but the result is definitely rewarding. You don’t have to take my word for it, as the well-renowned SF author Ursula LeGuin wrote this review of it in the Guardian.
I seem to generally have a mixed response to Miéville’s books. I was blown away by The City and the City, and I also enjoyed his YA novel Un Lun Dun. But a few years before that I tried to read Perdido Street Station and gave up because I really loathed it. Earlier this year I started reading Kraken, his most recent book before this one. I gave up on that too; I didn’t hate it but I just didn’t enjoy it at all, it was very underwhelming and almost pedestrian compared to The City & The City. But after this book I am now considering giving his earlier books another shot, as I may just have read it at the wrong time when I last tried.
Back to Embassytown: I thought it was a brilliant book, I loved reading it, and it is one of my favourite books that I’ve read this year.