Embassytown review - Chia Mieville | Books | EW.com
The opening chapters of China Miéville’s new novel throw you headfirst into a dizzying far-future landscape. You’re assaulted by invented words (time is measured in ”kilohours,” children are raised by ”shift-parents”) with very little explanation to ground you. It doesn’t help that Miéville gleefully shuffles the story back and forth across time and space. You feel like a visitor to a foreign country.
And you’re supposed to. The title of Embassytown refers to a settlement of humans residing in the middle of an alien civilization known as the Ariekei. The Ariekei look strange — horselike and insectile — but Miéville’s most interesting creation is their language: They can speak only in objective truth. In one of the book’s countless funny twists, they make a national sport out of trying, and failing, to tell lies.
So Embassytown is really, on many levels, a novel about language, about how different cultures communicate. Sound dry? Far from it. Miéville’s slow-burn narrative is by turns amusing and horrifying, mixing Philip K. Dick-esque satirical banality with a mesmerizing vision of a society on the brink of apocalypse. Yes, it’s a bit too long. But Miéville’s swing-for-the-fences gusto thrills. This is Big Idea Sci-Fi at its most propulsively readable. A?
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