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Embassytown (Anglais) Relié – 17 mai 2011


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When we were young in Embassytown, we played a game with coins and coin-sized crescent offcuts from a workshop. We always did so in the same place, by a particular house, beyond the rialto in a steep-sloping backstreet of tenements, where advertisements turned in colours under the ivy. We played in the smothered light of those old screens, by a wall we christened for the tokens we played with. I remember spinning a heavy two-sou piece on its edge and chanting as it went, turnabout, incline, pig-snout, sunshine, until it wobbled and fell. The face that showed and the word I’d reached when the motion stopped would combine to specify some reward or forfeit.

I see myself clearly in wet spring and in summer, with a deuce in my hand, arguing over interpretations with other girls and with boys. We would never have played elsewhere, though that house, about which and about the inhabitant of which there were stories, could make us uneasy.

Like all children we mapped our hometown carefully, urgently and idiosyncratically. In the market we were less interested in the stalls than in a high cubby left by lost bricks in a wall, that we always failed to reach. I disliked the enormous rock that marked the town’s edge, that had been split and set again with mortar (for a purpose I did not yet know), and the library, the crenellations and armature of which felt unsafe to me. We all loved the collegium for the smooth plastone of its courtyard, on which tops and hovering toys travelled for metres.

We were a hectic little tribe and constables would frequently challenge us, but we needed only say, ‘It’s alright sir, madam, we have to just…’ and keep on. We would come fast down the steep and crowded grid of streets, past the houseless automa of Embassytown, with animals running among us or by us on low roofs and, while we might pause to climb trees and vines, we always eventually reached the interstice.

At this edge of town the angles and piazzas of our home alleys were interrupted by at first a few uncanny geometries of Hosts’ buildings; then more and more, until our own were all replaced. Of course we would try to enter the Host city, where the streets changed their looks, and brick, cement or plasm walls surrendered to other more lively materials. I was sincere in these attempts but comforted that I knew I’d fail.

We’d compete, daring each other to go as far as we could, marking our limits. ‘We’re being chased by wolves, and we have to run,’ or ‘Whoever goes furthest's vizier,’ we said. I was the third-best southgoer in my gang. In our usual spot, there was a Hostnest in fine alien colours tethered by creaking ropes of muscle to a stockade, that in some affectation the Hosts had fashioned like one of our wicker fences. I’d creep up on it while my friends whistled from the crossroads.

See images of me as a child and there’s no surprise: my face then was just my face now not-yet-finished, the same suspicious mouth-pinch or smile, the same squint of effort that sometimes got me laughed at later, and then as now I was rangy and restless. I’d hold my breath and go forward on a lungful through where the airs mixed, past what was not quite a hard border but was still remarkably abrupt a gaseous transition, breezes sculpted with nanotech particle-machines and consummate atmosphere artistry, to write Avice on the white wood. Once on a whim of bravado I patted the nest’s flesh anchor where it interwove the slats. It felt as taut as a gourd. I ran back, gasping, to my friends.

‘You touched it.’ They said that with admiration. I stared at my hand. We would head north to where aeoli blew, and compare our achievements.
 
A quiet, well-dressed man lived in the house where we played with coins. He was a source of local disquiet. Sometimes he came out while we were gathered. He would regard us and purse his lips in what might have been greeting or disapproval, before he turned and walked.

We thought we understood what he was. We were wrong, of course, but we’d picked up whatever we had from around the place and considered him broken and his presence inappropriate. ‘Hey,’ I said more than once to my friends, when he emerged, pointing at him behind his back, ‘hey.’ We would follow when we were brave, as he walked alleys of hedgerow toward the river or a market, or in the direction of the archive ruins or the Embassy. Twice I think one of us jeered nervously. Passers-by instantly hushed us.

‘Have some respect,’ an altoysterman told us firmly. He put down his basket of shellfish and aimed a quick cuff at Yohn, who had shouted. The vendor watched the old man’s back. I remember suddenly knowing, though I didn’t have the words to express it, that not all his anger was directed at us, that those tutting in our faces were disapproving, at least in part, of the man.

‘They’re not happy about where he lives,’ said that evening’s shiftfather, Dad Berdan, when I told him about it. I told the story more than once, describing the man we had followed carefully and confusedly, asking the Dad about him. I asked him why the neighbours weren’t happy and he smiled in embarrassment and kissed me goodnight. I stared out of my window and didn’t sleep. I watched the stars and the moons, the glimmering of Wreck.
 
I can date the following events precisely, as they occurred on the day after my birthday. I was melancholic in a way I’m now amused by. It was late afternoon. It was the third sixteenth of September, a Dominday. I was sitting alone, reflecting on my age (absurd little Buddha!), spinning my birthday money by the coin wall. I heard a door open but I didn’t look up, so it may have been seconds that the man from the house stood before me while I played . When I realised I looked up at him in bewildered alarm.
‘Girl,’ he said. He beckoned. ‘Please come with me.’ I don’t remember considering running. What could I do, it seemed, but obey?

His house was astonishing. There was a long room full of dark colours, cluttered with furniture, screens and figurines. Things were moving, automa on their tasks. We had creepers on the walls of our nursery but nothing like these shining black-leaved sinews in ogees and spirals so perfect they looked like prints. Paintings covered the walls, and plasmings, their movements altering as we entered. Information changed on screens in antique frames. Hand-sized ghosts moved among pot-plants on a trid like a mother-of-pearl games board.

‘Your friend.’ The man pointed at his sofa. On it lay Yohn.

I said his name. His booted feet were up on the upholstery, his eyes were closed. He was red and wheezing.

I looked at the man, afraid that whatever he’d done to Yohn, as he must have done, he would do to me. He did not meet my eyes, instead, fussing with a bottle. ‘They brought him to me,’ he said. He looked around, as if for inspiration on how to speak to me. ‘I’ve called the constables.’

He sat me on a stool by my barely breathing friend and held out a glass of cordial to me. I stared at it suspiciously until he drank from it himself, swallowed and showed me he had by sighing with his mouth open. He put the vessel in my hand. I looked at his neck, but I could not see a link.

I sipped what he had given me. ‘The constables are coming,’ he said. ‘I heard you playing. I thought it might help him to have a friend with him. You could hold his hand.’ I put the glass down and did so. ‘You could tell him you’re here, tell him he’ll be alright.’

‘Yohn, it’s me, Avice.’ After a silence I patted Yohn on the shoulder. ‘I'm here. You’ll be alright, Yohn.’ My concern was quite real. I looked up for more instructions, and the man shook his head and laughed.

‘Just hold his hand then,’ he said.

‘What happened, sir?’ I said.

‘They found him. He went too far.’

Poor Yohn looked very sick. I knew what he’d done.

Yohn was the second-best southgoer in our group. He couldn’t compete with Simmon, the best of all, but Yohn could write his name on the picket fence several slats further than I. Over some weeks I’d strained to hold my breath longer and longer, and my marks had been creeping closer to his. So he must have been secretly practicing. He’d run too far from the breath of the aeoli. I could imagine him gasping, letting his mouth open and sucking in air with the sour bite of the interzone, trying to go back but stumbling with the toxins, the lack of clean oxygen. He might have been down, unconscious, breathing that nasty stew for minutes.

‘They brought him to me,’ the man said again. I made a tiny noise as I suddenly noticed that, half-hidden by a huge ficus, something was moving. I don’t know how I’d failed to see it.

It was a Host. It stepped to the centre of the carpet. I stood immediately, out of the respect I’d been taught and my child’s fear. The Host came forward with its swaying grace, in complicated articulation. It looked at me, I think: I think the constellation of forked skin that was its lustreless eyes regarded me. It extended and reclenched a limb. I thought it was reaching for me.

‘It’s waiting to see the boy’s taken,’ the man said. ‘If he gets better it'll be because of our Host here. You should say thank you.’

I did so and the man smiled. He squatted beside me, put his hand on my shoulder. Together we looked up at the strangely moving presence. ‘Little egg,’ he said, kindly. ‘You know it can’t hear you? Or, well... that it hears you but only as noise? But you’re a good girl, polite.’ He gave me some inadequately sweet adult confection from a mantlepiece bowl. I crooned over Yohn, and not only because I was told to. I was scared. My poor friend's skin didn’t feel like skin, and his movements were troubling.

The Host bobbed on its legs. At its feet shuffled a dog-sized presence, its companion.

The man looked up into what must be the Host's face. Staring at it, he might have looked regretful, or I might be saying that because of things I later knew.
The Host spoke.

Of course I’d seen its like many times. Some lived in the interstice where we dared ourselves to play. We sometimes found ourselves facing them, as they walked with crablike precision on whatever their tasks were, or even running, with a gait that made them look as if they must fall, though they did not. We saw them tending the flesh walls of their nests, or what we thought of as their pets, those whickering companion animal things. We would quieten abruptly down in their presence and move away from them. We mimicked the careful politeness our shiftparents showed them. Our discomfort, like that of the adults we learned it from, outweighed any curiosity at the strange actions we might see the Hosts performing.

We would hear them speak to each other in their precise tones, so almost like our voices. Later in our lives a few of us might understand some of what they said, but not yet, and never really me.

I’d never been so close to one of the Hosts. My fear for Yohn distracted me from all I’d otherwise feel from this proximity to the thing, but I kept it in my sight, so it could not surprise me, so when it rocked closer to me  I shied away abruptly and broke off whispering to my friend.

They were not the only exoterres I’d seen. There were exot inhabitants of Embassytown – a few Kedis, a handful of Shur’asi and others – but with those others, while there was strangeness of course there was never that abstraction, that sheer remove one felt from Hosts. One Shur’asi shopkeeper would even joke with us, his accent bizarre but his humour clear.

Later I understood that those immigrants were exclusively from species with which we shared conceptual models, according to various measures. The indigens, in whose city we had been graciously allowed to build Embassytown, Hosts were cool, incomprehensible presences. Powers like subaltern gods, that sometimes watched us as if we were interesting, curious dust, that provided our biorigging, and to which the Ambassadors alone spoke. We were reminded often that we owed them courtesy. Pass them in the street and we would show the required respect, then run on giggling. Without my friends though I couldn’t camouflage my fear with silliness.

‘It’s asking if the boy’ll be alright,’ the man said. He rubbed his mouth. ‘Colloquially, something like, will he run later or will he cool? It wants to help. It has helped. It probably thinks me rude.’ He sighed. ‘Or mentally ill. Because I won’t answer it. It can see I’m diminished. If your friend doesn’t die it’ll be because it brought him here.’

    
‘The Hosts found him.’ I could tell the man was trying to speak gently to me. He seemed unpracticed. ‘They can come here but they know we can’t leave. They know more or less what we need.’ He pointed at the Host’s pet. ‘They had their engines breathe oxygen into him. Yohn’ll maybe be fine. The constables’ll come soon. Your name's Avice. Where do you live, Avice?’ I told him. ‘Do you know my name?’

I’d heard it of course. I was unsure of the etiquette of speaking it to him. ‘Bren,’ I said.
‘Bren. That isn’t right. You understand that? You can’t say my name. You might spell it, but you can’t say it. But then I can’t say my name either. Bren is as good as any of us can do. It…’ He looked at the Host, which nodded gravely. ‘Now, it can say my name. But that’s no good: it and I can’t speak any more.’

‘Why did they bring him to you, Sir?’ His house was close to the interstice, to where Yohn had fallen, but hardly adjacent.

‘They know me. They brought your friend to me because though as I say they know me to be lessened in some way they also recognise me. They speak and they must hope I’ll answer them. I’m… I must be… very confusing to them.’ He smiled. ‘It’s all foolishness I know. Believe me I do know that. Do you know what I am, Avice?’

I nodded. Now, of course, I know that I had no idea what he was, and I’m not sure he did either.

The constables at last arrived with a medical team, and Bren’s room became an impromptu surgery. Yohn was intubated, drugged, monitored. Bren pulled me gently out of the experts' way. We stood to one side, I, Bren and the Host, its animal tasting my feet with a tongue like a feather. A constable bowed to the Host, which moved its face in response.

‘Thanks for helping your friend, Avice. Perhaps he'll be fine. And I’ll see you soon, I’m sure. “Turnaround, incline, piggy, sunshine”?’ Bren smiled.

While a constable ushered me out at last, Bren stood with the Host. It had wrapped him in a companionable limb. He did not pull away. They stood in polite silence, both looking at me.
 
At the nursery they fussed over me. Even assured by the officer that I’d done nothing wrong, the staffparents seemed a little suspicious about what I’d got myself into. But they were decent, because they loved us. They could see I was in shock. How could I forget Yohn’s shaking figure? More, how could I forget being quite so close up to the Host, the sounds of its voice? I was haunted by what had been, without question, its precise attention on me.

‘So somebody had drinks with Staff, today, did they?’ my shiftfather teased, as he put me to bed. It was Dad Shemmi, my favourite.

Later in the out I took mild interest in all the varieties of ways to be families. I don’t remember any particular jealousy I, or most other Embassytown children, felt at those of our shiftsiblings whose blood parents at times visited them: it wasn’t in particular our norm there. I never looked into it but I wondered, in later life, whether our shift-and-nursery system continued social practices of Embassytown’s founders (Bremen has for a long time been relaxed about including a variety of mores in its sphere of governance), or if it had been thrown up a little later. Perhaps in vague social-evolutionary sympathy with the institutional raising of our Ambassadors.

No matter. You heard terrible stories from the nurseries from time to time, yes, but then in the out I heard bad stories too, about people raised by those who’d birthed them. On Embassytown we all had our favourites and those we were more scared of, those whose on-duty weeks we relished and those not, those we’d go to for comfort, those for advice, those we’d steal from, and so on: but our shiftparents were good people. Shemmi I loved the most.

‘Why do the people not like Mr Bren living there?’

‘Not Mr Bren, darling, just Bren. They, some of them, don’t think it’s right for him to live like that, in town.’

‘What do you think?’

He paused. ‘I think they’re right. I think it’s… unseemly. There are places for the cleaved.’ I’d heard that word before, from Dad Berdan. ‘Retreats just for them, so… It’s ugly to see, Avvy. He’s a funny one. Grumpy old sod. Poor man. But it isn’t good to see. That kind of wound.’

It’s disgusting, some of my friends later said. They’d learnt this attitude from less liberal shiftparents. Nasty old cripple should go to the sanatorium. Leave him alone, I’d say, he saved Yohn.

Yohn recovered. His experience didn’t stop our game. I went a little further, a little further over weeks, but I never reached Yohn’s marks. The fruits of his dangerous experiment, a last mark, was metres further than any of his others, the initial letter of his name in a terrible hand. ‘I fainted there,’ he would tell us . ‘I nearly died.’ After his accident he was never able to go nearly so far again. He remained the second-best because of his history, but I could beat him now.

‘How do I spell Bren’s name?’ I asked Dad Shemmi, and he showed me.

Bren,’ he said, running his finger along the word.


From the Hardcover edition. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

PRAISE FOR CHINA MIÉVILLE
 
Kraken

 
“The stakes [are] driven high and almost anything can happen. The reader is primed for a memorable payoff, and Miéville more than delivers.”—San Francisco Chronicle
 
The City & The City
 
“If Philip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler’s love child were raised by Franz Kafka, the writing that emerged might resemble . . . The City & The City.”—Los Angeles Times
 

Perdido Street Station
 
“Compulsively readable . . . impossible to expunge from memory.”—The Washington Post Book World
 
The Scar
 
“A fantastic setting for an unforgettable tale . . . memorable because of Miéville’s vivid language [and] rich imagination.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
 

Iron Council
 
“A masterwork . . . a story that pops with creativity.”—Wired
 
Un Lun Dun
 
“Endlessly inventive . . . [a] hybrid of Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and The Phantom Tollbooth.”—Salon


Détails sur le produit

  • Relié: 368 pages
  • Editeur : Del Rey (17 mai 2011)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0345524497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345524492
  • Dimensions du produit: 23,6 x 16,3 x 3,1 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Guinea Pig VOIX VINE le 11 mars 2012
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
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J'ai aimé les idées de ce livre et beaucoup apprécié le style narratif, fluide et vivant. En revanche l'amenée des choses, très hésitante et toujours floue au quart du livre, m'a poussée à abandonner ce livre, lassée que j'étais des efforts à fournir pour tenter d'apprécier ma lecture.

Même si je trouve toujours un peu fatigant les livres qui demandent beaucoup de concentration au lecteur pour entrer dans l'histoire, j'admets parfaitement le choix de certains auteurs, pour mieux nous séduire par l'effet de surprise, d'instiller des éléments mystérieux et nébuleux tout en donnant les éléments de compréhension au compte-gouttes. De même, les effets de flashs-backs et digressions pour permettre au lecteur de mieux comprendre le monde et les personnages, même s'ils pénalisent le rythme, sont acceptables dans une petite mesure.
Mais quand toutes ces techniques narratives perdurent encore au quart du livre, sans aucune évolution et avec seulement quelques vagues éléments de mis en place, c'est beaucoup trop astreignant à mon goût.

Le premier quart d'"Embassytown" (et je crains peut-être aussi les trois quarts restants - d'où ma décision de laisser tomber ce livre malgré ses attraits) est ainsi très décousu, avec des allers-retours permanents dans différentes directions, sans jamais offrir de réel fil conducteur.
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8 commentaires Avez-vous trouvé ce commentaire utile ? Oui Non Commentaire en cours d'envoi...
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Jean-loup Sabatier TOP 500 COMMENTATEURS le 3 juillet 2011
Format: Broché
Embassytown est la première incursion de Miéville dans la SF pure. Le roman se passe sur la lointaine planète Arieka (isolée dans une zone dangereuse de l'espace), où vit une race d'aliens humanoïdes très avancé dans leurs domaines propres mais qui sont très peu techniques (par exemple, ils ne sont jamais allé dans l'espace, même pas en orbite). Les Ariekin sont plus souvent appelés "The Hosts" avec respect. Ils ont invité les hommes à établir une ambassade. Très peu de gens peuvent parler la langue des "Hosts", toutes les tentatives informatiques de l'analyser et de la reproduire donne des résultats incompréhensibles aux aliens. Lorsqu'on leur passe des enregistrements exacts de ce qu'ils disent, ils ne comprennent pas qu'il s'agit de langage. Seuls un trafficotage génétique d'êtres humains nous a permis de parler aux Aliens, des vrais jumeaux qui parlent le langage Ariekin et sont appelés (avec respect) "Les Ambassadeurs".

Les gens nés et vivant sur la minuscule ville d'"Embassytown" sur Arieka ont rarement la possibilité de quitter leur planète reculée. Pourtant notre héroïne deviendra pilote de vaisseau (une "Immerser" qui conduit les vaisseaux a des vitesses plus rapides que la lumière dans une sorte de sub-espace appelé "L'Immer"). Elle quittera donc la planète, se mariera avec un linguiste qui la convaincra de revenir a Embassytown avec lui car il veut travailler sur/avec les Aliens. Et c'est là que commencera la véritable histoire du roman.

Le fond de l'histoire traite du language.
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216 internautes sur 234 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Hard Sci-Fi Emphasizing the Power and Beauty of Language? Yes, Please! 28 avril 2011
Par R. C. Bowman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
I'm not actually a China Mieville fan. The entire "New Weird" genre just sort of confuses me, and I'm rarely impressed (to be fair, he's a fantastic writer). "Un Lun Dun" and "Kraken", particularly, didn't really leave favorable impressions. Still, I did love "King Rat" and "Perdido Street Station", and his other books were enjoyable. Also, it's stupid to not read anything else by a prolific author simply because two books weren't your thing. Add to that the fact that "Embassytown" is, at least superficially, hard-core science fiction...well, it was enough for me to take the plunge.

"Embassytown" is told through the eyes of Immerser Avice Benner Cho. She first chronicles her childhood on the planet Ariekei, giving us glimpses of Mieville's multi-layered world: most children don't grow up with their birth parents. They live in communal homes with multiple parents (much like counselors.) Humans share their world with "exots"--aliens (exoterres). But this isn't some two-dimensional Star Wars or silly Futurama-type melting pot. Exots are screened. With one important exception, exots can only settle on Ariekei if their sociologic and, to an extent, genetic makeup (they must have language, move comfortably in a human-run world, have similar thought processes, et cetera) is similar enough to allow integration with humans.

Humans do not own Ariekei, however. We are settlers, only living on the planet because beings known only as Hosts permit us to.

The Hosts protect themselves. While benevolent, especially toward children, they have a part of the planet only they can enter; humans can't breathe in their area. They circumvent the human similarity, as well (it's their planet, after all.) They speak a language only genetically engineered linguists can comprehend (these people are called Ambassadors.) They are not at all humanoid in appearance; they do not communicate like humans; and their sociologic match-up is questionable at the very best.

However, the human and exot population of Ariekei long struck a balance. They are always problems, but Embassytown is an almost disturbingly cordial society. The Hosts do their best for Ariekei, and the Ambassadors keep the peace and essentially run the society.

But when a new Ambassador arrives, the entire balance is thrown into jeopardy.

Now, the writing in "Embassytown" is fantastic. It does start slowly. There are pages and pages of childhood memories, but that serves two purposes: extensive, and subtle, world-building; and an understanding of a narrator who often takes a back seat to the story to follow.

The writing is lyrical and descriptive. During its leaner moments, Mieville recalls Ray Bradbury (which is only a plus as far as I'm concerned.) Some readers will probably describe it as "long-winded", but I think it matches the story perfectly. The narrative doesn't stop or bog itself down. There is simply a lot to tell, and Mieville tells it all.

The characters weren't as deep as I prefer. But again, this matches the story. While a rather bleak, hard-core science fiction novel, the crux of "Embassytown" is the beauty and power of language. It wasn't a parable, but the theme overtook the plot. At the same time, it doesn't wham you over the head. You're not having "language is a beautiful thing" screamed at you from every page. It is subtle. The story doesn't have a weak spot, and it doesn't stop. I think one of Mieville's greatest achievements is this flawless weaving of a theme and moral into the fabric of a novel.

This novel is, I thought, bleak, if far, far from hopeless. While it starts off comfortably as Avice describes her childhood, "Embassytown" swiftly darkens.

I'll be honest. This is my favorite of China Mieville's books. It is traditional science fiction infused with enough originality to make it unqiue. It carries a theme that is actually very dear to my heart. The writing is Mieville at his best, and the story itself is very different. I can already tell it isn't to everyone's taste, but I adored it, and eagerly suggest you give it a try.
47 internautes sur 50 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Embassytown 3 mai 2011
Par Brendan Moody - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
China Miéville's fertile imagination has always explored the interstices of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, but this, his eighth novel, is more strongly tilted toward science fiction than its predecessors. On a planet dominated by aliens whose unique language demands a uniquely specialized form of communication, the isolated human community of Embassytown lives a life of benign neglect, having only occasional contact with the society of which it's a nominal colony and the natives on whom its livelihood depends. When that harmony is shattered by an impossible arrival and an unexpected discovery, Avice Benner Cho, positioned by fate at the nexus of several conflicting agendas, finds herself caught up in the tragic, violent birth of a new order.

Miéville uses theoretical questions about the nature of language as a jumping-off point, but doesn't explore them in any rigorous way; this is not so much a novel of ideas as of images. As ever, the author excels at portraying an urban existence that's alien and yet based in universal aspects of city life. Embassytown is first seen through a child's eyes, as flashbacks detail Avice's early years, the games and myths that spring up in the lives of children surrounded by strangers, whether those strangers belong to a different ethnic group or a different species. No awkward exposition blunts the mystery of Avice's city, and readers not familiar with the immersive quality of novels like this one may find themselves lost. But before too much time passes, Miéville weaves seemingly-disparate threads together into a deeply satisfying moment of revelation. At that point, the novel truly takes off.

In its first half, chapters detailing Avice's complicated history with the different powers of Embassytown alternate with ones set on the evening when everything changes. These overlapping sections are perfectly paced, revealing narrative secrets at a rate that prevents the reader from becoming bored with either plotline or losing sight of the big picture. The science fiction notions that emerge are not particularly novel, but there are enough of them that the combination remains distinctive, and Miéville describes these familiar ideas with flair, finding the awe and terror in what might otherwise be clinical concepts, especially in the later sections, where the flashbacks end and the particular nature of the novel's aliens leads to a truly horrific outbreak of chaos.

The characters of Embassytown often lack individual depth; their histories are unexplored and their motivations treated as unknown and possibly unknowable, while Avice's laconic voice conceals personality rather than revealing it. Frustrating though it can be, this distance lends them a certain strange grandeur, the counter-intuitive dignity of minimalist fiction, and its shortcomings are offset by Miéville's rich rendering of the different factions at work in the life of any city. It's not as simple as humans vs. aliens, colonists vs. homeworlders, or any such binary. Feuds and clashing ideologies of which even the well-connected Avice can have only the dimmest idea drive competing factions, creating an impression of greater complexity than a three hundred fifty-page novel can offer, and there are no easy answers about which groups and actions are morally justified. Likewise, Miéville's robust world-building makes Embassytown feel like a real place, one whose dark nooks and crannies can only be glimpsed on a single visit.

Wars are fought not to preserve the past but to define the future. Miéville understands this, and his novel captures the compromised, compromising life of a city in transition. In spite of the cruelty, fear, loss, and destruction that it describes, Embassytown is first and foremost a portrait of strength and survival, of the adaptations demanded by hardship and the price they bring with them. And, for all its futuristic wonders, it is ultimately a novel about how communication between different cultures produces changes on all sides, and therefore remarkably contemporary. Embassytown excels both as gripping, imaginative science fiction and as a carefully thought out meditation on the nature of cities.
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Shifting Paradigms 28 avril 2011
Par Lynnda Ell - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
I read science fiction to be entertained and to stretch my understanding of ideas I might never otherwise consider. Embassytown gave me a huge dose of both. China Mieville wrote a stimulating, entertaining story of the importance of language. He did that by introducing an alien culture totally out of sync with the way in which human beings communicate - even though both species communicate through sound.

The protagonist, Avice, grew up in the one human town - Embassytown - on the alien's planet. The town was an outpost of a human-dominated world and not a large place to live. Mieville does a good job of grounding the reader in the culture of the synergy between humans and aliens by allowing Avice to tell certain important parts of her childhood.

The story begins in a time of rapid and traumatic change that threatens to destroy the aliens' world and Embassytown. The snowballing events pressure breakthroughs that offer changes as devastating as the ones at the beginning of the story.

I had two problems with the advanced proofs that I received for review. (The book is due to be released in May.) First, about 50-to-75 pages near the center of the book slowed down to the point of slogging through mud. (Mieville spends too many pages getting through the times when any action is taking place out of Avice's sight.) Second, one of the subplots that seemed to be important several times in the book - Avice's relationship with Ehrsul - ended strangely, even for sci-fi. Those are the only reasons that I rated the book with four stars instead of five.

With all truly well written science fiction stories, the first reading is for orientation to a new world and to make the paradigm shifts necessary to understanding the plot. The second reading brings out the nuances and the delights of finding all the subtleties the author includes in the book. Embassytown passed the first-reading test with high marks. I anticipate that Embassytown will carry me through the second reading with equal aplomb.

I highly recommend Embassytown.
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A novel of ideas sorely lacking characterization 19 juin 2011
Par K. Sullivan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
Embassytown is a Bremen colony on a planet bordering the farthest known reaches of space. The world is a strange mishmash of biological and technological species. Almost everything is part engineered and part living (architecture, flora, fauna, beings). Time is measured in kilohours. The relationship between the locals, their alien neighbors, and the Bremen Empire is tenuous. Embassytown is a bit of a back-water colony that largely exists under the radar of the ruling Empire on its distant planet - at least that's how it appears. The strange alien race that has accepted the Embassytowners into its midst is the Ariekei. Their speech, or "Language", is unique in that it is comprised of two things spoken simultaneously. The local leaders of the colony, the Ambassadors, are the only ones who can communicate with the "Hosts" or Ariekei. Ambassadors are two people bred and engineered so that they can be of one mind and speak simultaneously in "Language". "Language" is also unique in that it is literal and truthful. There is no symbolism in the language. Only what is can be spoken.

Avice Benner Cho, the narrator, was born and raised in Embassytown. She becomes an Immerser (someone who travels through space in the Immer - the timeless dimension in which the universe exists). During her travels, she meets and marries a linguist who is enamored with "Language". Together they return to Embassytown so he can study the strange language and they find themselves immersed in political and cultural upheaval.

To create the setting, the novel starts in two threads ("formerly" and "latterday") that finally meet and proceed to the book's conclusion. It is told entirely through the experience of Avice who is ultimately an impotent and uninteresting heroine. The narrative is revealed in endless summarizing and opining by the main character whose opinions count for very little. The reader doesn't know her. She's flat and empty - no values, no ambition, no wit, no passion, no intelligence. She just rides the wave of events and tells the reader about them and how she felt.

Two primary things occur that threaten the future of the Ariekei and Embassytown. First, a group of Ariekei struggle to learn to lie and achieve a momentous breakthrough. Second, when the Ariekei hear broken "Language" (simultaneous speech by an Ambassador that is not completely sympathetically linked), it has a narcotic affect on them. They become addicts and need the fix that only hearing the broken language anew can provide. These two occurrences threaten to destroy the civilization.

The work is imaginative (not dazzlingly so) but it lacks any grounding in characters that are interesting or with whom the reader empathizes. The novel comes off as a cold and calculated exploration of ideas lacking any emotional resonance. Imagination cannot substitute for characterization and this story suffers dreadfully as a result.
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A mess of ideas 13 septembre 2011
Par Marci Kesserich - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Almost every review I've read of this book has praised it as 'a groundbreaking book with unique meditations on the structure and nature of language.'

I don't think this is a groundbreaking book, not does it have unique meditations on the structure and nature of language. To be fair, I don't think China Mieville thinks either of these things either. This book is the logical outgrowth of a science fiction writer steeped in Saussure and Lacan. Anyone who has completed any sort of advanced humanities degree in the past thirty years has at some point been exposed to the notion of signifiers vs. signified. In fact, I would not be surprised if the basic idea of this novel occurred to Mieville while he was completing his own PhD in International Relations. The thinking is that of a graduate student steeped in abstruse theory.

So no, I don't think Mieville ever meant this to be understood as a personal philosophy or some sui generis contribution to the realm of ideas. The ideas are a half-century old. That said, they are deployed quite cleverly in places. The notion of making intention necessary to intelligible language is interesting, and the need to create similes to express new ideas, and the inability to lie, are all very nice. However, they are insufficient to sustain an entire book. Ultimately, the story failed me in two basic ways.

1) The impracticality of Language. Put simply, while having a language composed entirely of signifieds might be an attractive theoretical framework, the reason it remains theoretical is because it is not only impractical, but impossible. It's logical for symbolic language to pre-figure other sorts of language, because the structure of symbolic language is reflected even in the most primitive forms of communication - pointing to 'that', not pointing to 'this', etc. The notion that an alien race evolved in such a way that they have a language that is completely deficient in signifiers is fantastic. Even if we grant creative license and excuse such development, the author undermines himself at one point when he speaks of the second mouths of the Hosts as having been some form of early-warning distress organ. If the Hosts existed at a point in which their two mouths were not synchronized speech organs but were socialized enough to have developed distress calls to a group, then symbolic language must by necessity have pre-dated Language. Of course, I am surprised, given the ending he subjected the Ariekei to, that Mieville didn't briefly reference the 'end-of-history' linguistic thinking of William Benjamin, who posulated just this sort of apotheosis for man, marking the distinction between signifier and signified as our true fall. But perhaps Mieville knew when enough was enough.

2) The "isn't that nice" refrain. This is what I think results from Mieville realizing he had a thin idea to hang his story on, and deciding to festoon the edges of it with the fruits of his impressive imagination.

- Our viewpoint character Avice is a simile. The Ariekei could have chosen anyone, but they chose her. Isn't that nice?

- She also becomes an immerser. Immersers allow ships to travel somewhere very quickly and very strangely, but otherwise this has almost no direct bearing on the plot. Still, isn't that nice?

- Avice marries a nice boy and takes him to Embassytown, only to reveal himself as a psycholinguistic terrorist. Isn't that nice?

- Because she's a simile, Avice gets to hang out with the other cool similes, which gives her a front-row seat to their violent plans. Isn't that nice?

- There is a heavy-handed, presumably Terran empire called Bremen out there that turns out to have contributed to the plot in a completely dispensable way. Still, we have an overbearing, star-faring political entity in the background. Isn't that nice?

- There are things in the immer that seem to mark places that destroy ships. Something is Out There. Isn't that nice?

And so on. Mieville spends chapters outlining the cool aspects of immersing, but really, it has nothing to do with anything. The Bremen and the beacons are giant MacGuffins-In-Space, so it's best not to expect too much from them. The heroine is the nexus of the bloody universe, but you might as well overlook that.

So, fine. Characters not terribly interesting. Lots of peripheral bafflegab to weird up the scenery that amounts to a whole lot of not-much. The central premise just doesn't work. Mieville is one of my favorite modern writers, and if I'm disappointed, it's not because this is an experiment that failed, but one that wasn't near as much an experiment as some readers think it to be.
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