Saturday 9 July 2011

The Scotsman Abroad | Embassyzone

My second review for The Zone SF went up a couple of weeks ago.

I've been hugely remiss in not directing your generous attention towards the piece sooner, especially given how much I'm wont to go on about China Mieville hereabouts, but... well. Shall we say there were are few technical difficulties and leave it at that?

In any case, I agonised over this review for rather longer than I've delayed pointing it out. Which is to say, it was a hard thing to write. Putting words to one's feeling can be a trial at the best of times, and my feelings as regards Embassytown were, as expected, complex.

But then, is anything ever simple when it comes to Mr Mieville? I sincerely believe the man could make a masterpiece out of a molehill. And the ideas behind Embassytown are certainly more mountainous than molehillish:

If I may be so bold, let's get this show on the road with a quote, from a book I bet we've all read a bit of: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him, nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." So the great story goes. Or rather, so goes one translation of one chapter of one version of the story, according to this one guy, John, apparently.
These verses of the gospel of John refer back to the Psalms, to the oft-told tale of the Earth's and our creation as Christian theologians care to tell it. They are preface, introduction and summation, all in one. A proto-Saussure of sorts, in the verses aforementioned and at length in those that follow, the disciple John speaks to the unspeakable illumination of language, to create and name and declaim - as does Embassytown...
Embassytown, for its part, does not begin with such gargantuan ambition - though it ends, if you'll allow me this last little heresy, every bit the equal of the fourth and final gospel in terms of its revelatory import. Instead, it opens on a party: a glittering, gossiping, grandstanding Arrival Ball held to welcome to Embassytown a new Ambassador. His name - their name - is EzRa - and he, and they, will change everything.

Read on over at The Zone SF for more happy heresy, and stand aghast - or not - as I suggest China Mieville may be the closest author to Godhood that we have in these hallowed realms of speculative fiction. :)

Now the wait begins for Mieville's next novel... about which I haven't heard a single skinless sausage. Any of you better-informed sorts have any ideas what we might expect, and when?


  1. This one's definitely on my To Read list. I haven't read much of Mieville's work yet (okay, in fairness, I've only read Un Lun Dun so far...), but I like what I've seen, and I keep hearing such good things about Embassytown that I know I'm going to have to read it at some point in the future!

  2. Oh, Ria, you really must. It's maybe more work than play for the first hour or so, but hang on in there; when Embassytown snaps into place... by the dead, it's a tremendous thing.

    Incidentally, it's funny your sole experience of China Mieville is with Un Lun Dun -- it's the only one of his novels I haven't read, come to think of it. I think I was saving it for a rainy day for the first while, then the rainy day didn't come. Not that I'm complaining! :)

    But divorced from the context of all Mieville's other work, I wonder: how did you find it?

  3. "Certainly, lovers of lovely language will love the languid language of MiƩville's loveliest text to date, and though in the beginning the narrative is difficult to grasp, far less to parse, there is such light at the end of Embassytown's darkness: pools of pure illumination, brilliant and utterly unfettered."

    I love the alliterations in the above paragraph, Niall. And I really must get more Mieville to read, as I've only read The City and the City, which I loved!