Avice has always wanted to get out of the backwater world Embassytown. But years down the road, she finds herself returning. At first it was just to sate the curiosity of her husband about the Hosts unique to the place, but soon it becomes a matter of truth or lies, of life and death. And as a living simile, Avice finds herself in the middle of all of it. Even languages can evolve before our eyes.
I am always so conflicted about Mieville's style of writing, whether to love it or hate on it.
I loved the world. I love how he just drops you in the middle of this futuristic sci-fi world without a hint or a guide and you just have to piece it all together slowly. And when the world becomes clear, it's as if you know this town now. I love the concept of people as living language. It's such an elegant way to make this world different. The concept is just so fresh and done so well, I love it.
I have a couple problems with the characters though.
Midway through the book, I got disappointed and frustrated with Avice, thinking that argh Mieville always does this with his main character - where they seem to just be pulled and pushed around by the plot points, rather than doing things as the main character. Thankfully at the end, she emerges as a true pivotal character.
Another thing about the way he writes characters is just that I can never trust his relationships. He seems to regard love very loosely. Marriage may not mean a thing. And I never see any build up to true chemistry (romantic or otherwise) in his characters. His dialogue is usually flat in terms of chemistry. Basically, Mieville is all about the plot, not about making you love or hate the characters. His dialogue is to move the plot along, not to make a hero or a heroine.
Speaking of plot... The hard thing about reading this book is that it does feel like multiple books condensed into one. While most books have one goal and one purpose for the characters, Mieville dashes through twenty different plots. I'm never really sure where the book will go. Sometimes that's a good thing because surprise and interest is important for the reader. But sometimes it's a bad thing, because you start to wonder when the book will end. It does drag on a little in middle to be sure.
But oh the ending. It was just so right. Everything built up to that climax and I love how language became something more than just words spoken in air. The ending made this book. It was all worth it for those last scenes.
The concept of this book was just absolutely beautiful. For that, and for beautiful world building, I give this book four stars. I was hesitating between three and a half & four, but for the ending... it deserves four.
Highly recommended for people who love science fiction and new worlds. Expect many twists and turns though.