Embassytown, Paperback
4.5 out of 5 (5 ratings)


Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe.

Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet.

Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts - who cannot lie.

Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities.

But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.

Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts. And that is impossible.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Science fiction
  • ISBN: 9780330533072



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Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.

Review by

Do you ever wonder why non-humans in stories – monsters, gods, aliens, you name it – so often seem mysteriously able to speak English? So, it would seem from Embassytown‘s premise, does China Mieville.The Ariekei don’t speak English, they speak Language. If the humans who depend on them for their valuable biotech are to continue to survive they will have to learn to speak it too – and alien vocabulary and grammar are among the least of their problems. For one thing, Language can only be spoken via two mouths simultaneously, necessitating some (heh!) unusual sacrifices on the part of those human Ambassadors who wish to speak it. For another, Language can only be used to speak truth: lies, speculation, even metaphor are beyond the Ariekei’s capacities for expression or understanding. Until now…Though it’s got its thrilling moments (particularly the scenes of inter-species chaos, war and carnage!) Embassytown isn’t an action story: this is proper capital letters Speculative Fiction – a story that takes a wild idea and sees where it will go. And with Embassytown Mieville pulls off the trick that only the very best SF manages, namely /making you care/. If you’re up for something complex, and not scared of a book that drops you in at the deep end and makes you work a bit, then Embassytown will reward you with a unique imaginative experience to astound you.If I spoke Language I’d say this: China Mieville is an author always worth watching out for, and Embassytown is his best book yet.

Review by

Scifi with linguistics elements! How could I not love such a thing? I really liked the world-building, as I suppose I should expect from a Mieville book. However, I thought the writing felt a little... rushed? compared to some of his previous work. What I want to say is that the writing wasn't as chewy as usual, but I think maybe I made up that meaning of the word chewy. Oh well. Basically, I enjoyed it, but it's not my favourite of his books.

Review by

As the title of this novel suggests, it is set in a special place, where different peoples meet. However, it is soon clear that the 'people' who meet are somewhat more different than might be expected. The slew of newly-coined words and phrases immediately signals science fiction. We are ushered into a strange universe. 'Real' space is not real. What is real is an underlying void called the Immer. Locations in 'real' space do not in any way match up to locations in the Immer. The planet Embassytown is on, Arieka, is nowheresville in 'real' space but in the Immer it is on the border between human and alien space. We learn all this from one Avice, an 'Immerser', a human trained in coping with the stresses of Immer travel. Avice grew up in Embassytown and the whole novel is recounted by her. One of the things we learn about her is a that an unpleasant event happened to her, while she was still young. Arieka is inhabited by the Ariekene. No direct description of them is ever given, because there seem to be no parallels between their forms, and those shared by Terran life. They are called 'Hosts' by the humans. The Hosts are not backward: they have technologies that the Terrans covet. But one thing above all others makes them totally alien. They communicate using something called 'Langauge'. It is not language as we understand it. Hosts have two 'mouths' (or more accurately 'apertures') and both 'speak' together. Host's names are shown in the text as name1/name2 for 'individual' Hosts. This strange biology results in a Language which cannot express anything other than truth. The unpleasant event that Avice was involved in was orchestrated to get Hosts to experience the concept of 'likeness'. They can use it as a simile later, to compare and contrast with other experiences. For the Hosts this is a mildly addictive piece of fun. One Host in particular, for fun, tries to take things further and edge towards being able to lie...This all sounds rather Edenic. And it is until the creation of 'Ambassadors', pairs of twinned humans linked like Hosts. They are ostensibly there to better communicate with the Hosts. But what happens is a descent into chaos. Language is used as a means of oppression. Avice has to use deliberately oblique language in her recounting of events so as not directly state things (like that there seems to be a 'black ops' team based in Embassytown which is trying to de-stabilise the Ariekene world). Finally, Avice is instrumental in stymying this clandestine colonisation effort, by devising yet another twist in the nature of language...By any means of accounting, this is a remarkable novel. There are some pretty obvious political 'messages' emblazoned in it, but they fail to take away the sheer alieness of this novel, generated by all the different meanings and usage of 'language' it plays with

Review by

One of those books that you really want to savor, let yourself absorb as much of Mieville's amazing wording. Its more than just the biolingustic process that he explores (Chomsky would be proud), but it is the his own language that is so skillfully used throughout the book. We often talk about world-building in SF books, but imagine language building, something the Mieville executes brillantly. He brings in other brillant themes that parallel current global development issues and there relationship to prior colonization. If I could have a quarter of Mievilles linguistic abilities I would feel pretty content.

Review by

Just wonderful. Mieville steals into yet another genre and makes it his own.

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