Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Sitting Under the Shade of the Tree: Embassytown

I've been a lot more active with my literary segment lately and I'm pretty determined to keep up with it. So despite the fact that I finished this book last week, I think it's time I shared my thoughts on my latest read. Today, it's another helping of China Miéville (as seen here), but this time one of his more recent works - the 2011 novel Embassytown.

I mentioned in my thoughts and feelings on Perdido Street Station that I couldn't remember on what whim I purchased that book. With Embassytown, I have very distinct recollections. I was having a book spree. It was marked with a 25% off sticker. I'd enjoyed The City & The City so much that I thought "what the heck" and indulged. I like these whims, even if my bank account doesn't.

So, anyway, to the point. Embassytown.

I feel, somewhat naturally, that I have to draw from what I blogged about Perdido Street Station in relation to Embassytown. See, China Miéville is an intriguing and fascinating writer. He is credited as part of the "New Weird" literary movement and I heartily agree. This is good. Weird is very, very good, as well as being a typographically pleasant word to look at. In Perdido Street Station, we were treated to the weirdness of New Crobuzon, the almost organic feeling of this insane city and its mixture of races. Miéville achieved this through what I would regard as his trademark use of language, his wordsmith mastery twisting the English language to suit his needs.

In Embassytown, he not only twists the English language in weird ways to achieve his goals, but puts the concept of language at the heart of the book - the weird and wonderful character unto itself, much as New Crobuzon was virtually a character of its own in Perdido Street Station.

So, a brief summary - Embassytown follows the trials and tribulations of Avice Benner Cho, a native of the eponymous Embassytown on the planet Arieka. She's a rarity among Embassytowners - she's an immerser, someone who travels on the immer, which appears to be a sort of hyperspace, an organic sea connecting regions of space together. Avice is human, but humans are not native to Arieka - the native aliens are reverently referred to as "the Hosts", a race of aliens who cannot lie. Now I could attempt here to describe how their language (or, as it is written in Embassytown, Language - the capital L is very important here), but my words...I know they'd fail to do Miéville's words justice. Suffice it to say, communication with the Hosts can only be handled by specially trained Ambassadors - essentially two cloned individuals whose minds are linked together, but it's far, far more complicated than that. Read the book and you shall discover this.

Anyway. Avice. Not only is she an immerser, but she's a simile. The Hosts, their Language so intriguing and intricate, actually seem to require humans to perform certain strange actions so they can use them as similes in Language. It carries with it a certain celebrity, which is how Avice, not only a rarity as an immerser, becomes so embroiled in the chaos that Miéville kicks off with the introduction of the mysterious and unprecedented Ambassador EzRa. And we see all of this through her eyes, her thoughts and interpretations.

When all is said and done, Embassytown is another triumph of the weird and wonderful. Miéville beautifully weaves together an intricate narrative, sucking you into yet another strange world he's created. So far, Embassytown is only my third helping of China Miéville's writing and I can't wait to read more. Next up I think is The Scar, book two of the Bas-Lag Trilogy. I'm looking forward to seeing what else the world of Bas-Lag has to offer.

Until then, dear readers, go forth, buy, read and enjoy Embassytown. It's weird in the best of ways.

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