China Mieville

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China Mieville

Welcome to Arieka, the distant, densely imagined planet that serves as principal setting for China Mieville?s extraordinary new novel, Embassytown.

Immerser Avice Benner Cho has returned to her childhood home, from her adventures in the Out. Her world is as mysterious, complex, and exotic as any you will ever encounter. It is a world in which humans and ?exots? co-exist with the indigenous, enigmatic Ariekei?otherwise known as Hosts. That relationship, which is mediated by a group of unique linguists, the Ambassadors, has proceeded in relative tranquility for many years. Then one day a new, utterly unexpected Ambassador arrives?

Embassytown is a novel about diplomacy and conflict in a vividly created alien society. It is also, most centrally, a meditation on the power and infinitely varied possibilities of language itself. The result is an intellectual adventure of the highest order, a distinguished addition to an imposing?and constantly surprising?body of work.


As the leading proponent of the re-imagined genre of ‘weird fiction’ (formerly sci-fi), China Miéville’s latest offering, Embassytown, arrives hot on the heels of the brilliant The City and the City, for which he won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award and numerous other accolades, and Kraken, published in Australia late last year.

Appearing last year at Melbourne Writers’ Festival and Aussiecon 4, Miéville spoke well, and proved very well read, carrying with him great appreciation for yesteryear sci-fi writers and pioneers of ‘urban fantasy’ like Philip K. Dick. As with Mieville’s earlier books, Embassytown continues his approach in ‘changing it up’, to use Wire-speak, and the book is language-rich and densely populated with interesting characters. The setting is the distant outpost of Embassytown on the planet Arieka, where the human inhabitants co-exist with the indigenous Ariekei. This balance is maintained by the intriguing Ambassadors, engineered doppels who possess the capability to communicate with the Ariekei through linguistic enhancement.

Avice Benner Cho is an immerser (space-traveller) who moves in the privileged circles of the Ambassadors. Uniquely placed in society, at an important ritual between the two peoples, Avice bears witness to a major diplomatic flap that tips the co- existence off-balance, threatening the future of Embassytown. This is just a precis; there is a lot more going on in this story, and Miéville deftly negotiates the myriad of concepts and ideas.

Embassytown is fairly light on description of location and of characters and their traits, leaving the reader, to encounter and interpret as they progress. This is fantastic and intriguing read, but perhaps not the book to start with if a first-time Miéville reader.

Julia Jackson is from Readings Carlton.

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