“Weird fiction” writer China Mieville doesn’t write space opera (or at least he hasn’t yet), but even so (perhaps because of it), his non-human races are nonpareil. The khepri, garuda, and vodyanoi of Bas-Lag are foreign and compelling, but Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council are most memorable as masterpieces of crypto-communist steampunk. Kraken was completely different, a thriller-detective-theological hybrid. And now we have Mieville’s latest literary work, Embassytown, my favorite without a doubt (and here I was thinking nothing but Gormenghast was better than Perdido Street Station), with the most breathtaking alien race I’ve ever read (and that includes The Gods Themselves).
But let me stop title-dropping and write a little more coherently (with less parenthetical asides).
You could call China Mieville’s writing style schizophrenic–if he weren’t so good at everything. Every book he has come out with has been different–wildly different–from the last. Maybe he’s experimenting with narrative. Maybe he gets bored easily. Maybe he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed. “Weird Fiction,” after all, as far as genre categorization goes, doesn’t tell readers much. And neither can I, except that I’m in raptures and YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK:
China Miéville doesn’t follow trends, he sets them. Relentlessly pushing his own boundaries as a writer—and in the process expanding the boundaries of the entire field—withEmbassytown, Miéville has crafted an extraordinary novel that is not only a moving personal drama but a gripping adventure of alien contact and war.
In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.
Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.
When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties—to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.
This has been a production of the Scattering’s “Least Helpful Books Reviews” series. I’m going to blame the whole “applying to grad school” thing.