Book Review – Embassytown by China Miéville


Goodreads Synopsis:

In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak. Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language. When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.


I’m a big fan of Miéville’s work and am slowly working my way through all of his books. This one was recommended to me because it focuses on Language and well, that sounded fascinating so I just had to read it! Like all his books, these are novels that you don’t read quickly as there’s just so much to take in. It took me ages to read this book as I got interrupted halfway through and as it requires a lot of concentration, I’d just been too tired from work. Finally though, I finished it and it was absolutely brilliant, as I’ve come to expect from him.

The main character, Avice, is a simile. When she was a child, the Hosts or Ariekei, made her perform certain actions so that they could then use her in their language to express abstract ideas. In the Ariekei language, speech is thought and so they cannot lie and rely on the humans to express more complex ideas. The main focus of the novel is that of Language and how it works. It’s linguistically fascinating due to the fact that it requires two humans, in perfect sync, to be able to speak it and these are known as Ambassadors. These Ambassadors are usually bred specifically for the task and are identical clones of each other, undergoing alterations each day to ensure they continue to look identical.

I was absolutely enthralled by this novel and honestly, even if the plot was awful I would have enjoyed it just for all the interesting analysis of how language works. Luckily, the plot is excellent and explores what happens when a new Ambassador arrives who is unlike any of the previous ones.

It’s rather difficult to talk in too much detail about what happens but the worldbuilding, as always with Miéville is absolutely fantastic and is the main reason I continue to read his work. The descriptions manage to constantly convey that slightly alien feeling about the world and the inhabitants. We slowly learn more as the book goes on and it’s a constant delight and full of surprises.

I would definitely recommend this novel to fans of SFF, as I’m a huge fan of Miéville. His work is challenging so I recognise that it’s not for everybody, but it’s definitely worth it and I recommend sticking with it as it just kept getting better and better the more I read.


Book Review – The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett


Goodreads Synopsis:

In a breathtakingly vivid and emotionally gripping debut novel, one woman must confront the emptiness in the universe—and in her own heart—when a devastating virus reduces most of humanity to dust and memories.

All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit…

Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.

Soon Jamie finds other survivors, and their ragtag group will travel through the vast reaches of space, drawn to the promise of a new beginning on Earth. But their dream will pit them against those desperately clinging to the old ways. And Jamie’s own journey home will help her close the distance between who she has become and who she is meant to be…


I received a copy of this from Netgalley to review based just on the “ragtag group of survivors” because I love books centered around that and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. I started reading this book before going to bed, and I didn’t put it down until I’d finished it because I was enjoying it so much!

The plot follows Jamie and the group of survivors she ends up with that include a former priest, a prostitute, the captain of a ship and an autistic boy. Along their travels they meet other groups of survivors until they eventually reach their final destination.

Obviously, in a book like this, the main focus is going to be on the characterisation and the interactions between the characters. They were all fantastic and I really enjoyed the tensions between them at times. However, the character I’m going to focus on for this review is Finn. Finn is an autistic boy and I adore him. He is written very well and at no point is he ever treated as a joke, most of the characters accept him the way he is (one doesn’t, but she’s not happy with most of the survivors). I was just so happy to see a positive representation, and see how the crew were just so accepting. At one point, Jamie gets very upset because he’s wandered off without telling her but she doesn’t yell or shout at him and the captain just calmly goes “Hey, tell us next time okay?”. Another survivor that we meet briefly is also very likely to be Aromantic and Asexual based on the conversation she had with Jamie and again, she was portrayed in a positive manner, perfectly happy the way she was and the situation she was in. These positive representations just made me love the novel even more and just made me feel so happy to read.

The worldbuilding is something that we don’t see much of, because it’s focusing mostly on the characters. We get a small glimpse at the history that involves forced emigration from Earth based on social classes and we see a couple different planets. What we do see is certainly very interesting and because of the nature of the book, it’s something that isn’t as important. One thing the book doesn’t address is how they travel through space, other than a mention of needing fuel, but as it’s a very character-based novel this lack of information isn’t that important as it doesn’t relate to the plot.

I don’t want to say too much more, because part of the enjoyment was just being along for the journey and so it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible.

I would highly, highly recommend this novel as I was just so charmed by it and any book that keeps me up until 3am reading deserves to be recommended! I enjoyed this book so much I’m planning on buying a physical copy when it comes out so I can force my friends to read it.