Embassytown by China Mieville – sci-fi

Far into the future, humans have expanded out into space, colonizing distance planets. They walk among other sentient beings, many of whom humans can communicate with easily. It is on one of these planets that a small ghetto-like town, Embassytown, resides, where the aliens (Ariekei) speak a special type of language. Humans try and mimic their language by using twins who speak at the same time. Follow Avice as she finally learns what drives the politics of their relationship.

At the beginning, this book was very difficult for me to get into. There were a lot of sort of made up science fiction terms that I was unfamiliar with. You’d expect language to change in the future and on distant planets, especially with new technologies, so this definitely made the book plausible. After about 10% of the way through, I was able to finally catch onto the jargon.

The intricacies of Embassytown were really intriguing to me. Avice grows up here, but she leaves as soon as she can. Many of the people who live there never leave. The Ariekei allow the humans to live in a small portion of the planet that is habitable; humans can’t breathe Ariekei air. Avice later returns at the insistence of her husband, who I think was just using her to get there. It isn’t long after they arrive that the two start having problems.

The most interesting parts of this book were the complexities of the relationships between the different humans and the Ariekei. The only people Ariekei can speak to are twins who have been trained in their language. They can’t understand synthetic computerized talk either; they apparently need a soul behind words. They also cannot lie, but apparently want to. The humans and the Ariekei have to work together for trade agreements and the like to each other and other planets.

All turns to chaos when a pair of off-world twins start speaking to the Ariekei and the Ariekei become addicted to them and Avice must help save their world from destruction. Overall, I enjoyed following Avice on her path to find answers and to discover language.