viernes, 10 de febrero de 2012

Embassytown by China Miéville (Review in English)

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

I'd lie if I said that China Miéville is one of my favorite authors. However, I greatly admire his versatility as a writer. I still find it incredible that the playful prose of Kraken, the direct and aseptic tone of The City & The City and the baroque writing of Perdido Street Station all come from the same author. I've only come to accept the fact after repeatedly checking that all those books have the same name on the cover. Embassytown, his last novel to date, is just another example of Miéville's chameleonic mimetism. 

Because Embassytown is a book that is, unlike most of Miéville's previous work, pure science fiction. Embassytown is clearly in the tradition of classics such as Babel 17, The Languages ​​of Pao or The Embedding, all novels with language as the main theme. But it is also possible to detect other more subtle influences, such as Ursula K. Le Guin's Ekumen stories. All this tradition has been perfectly assimilated and processed by Miéville's unique imagination to give rise to a work that, while being in dialogue with classic science fiction, is innovative and definitely modern. 

The action takes place in Arieka, homeworld to the alien race called the Ariekei. Embassytown is one of the most important cities in the planet, and the one where the main human settlement is located. The story is narrated by Avice Benner Cho, a girl who returns to Embassytown from her space travels just in time to witness the dramatic and unexpected events that will forever change the history of Arieka. However, the main protagonist of the novel is not Avice, but the Arieki language, a language so peculiar that only some humans, the Ambassadors, are able to speak it. I don't want to reveal more about this language because finding out why it is so special is one of the most pleasant moments when reading Embassytown. Suffice it to say that it is one of the most original and disturbing I've ever encountered in a work of fiction. 

The author uses this strange language as an excuse to speculate about issues such as the theory of mind, the relationship between language and truth, the correspondence between symbol and meaning, and many other linguistic and philosophical topics. But above all, Miéville uses the encounter between two cultures, human and Ariekei, necessarily mediated by the Ambassadors, to make us think about colonialism, the influence of one society into another and the loss of innocence.

If we add to the mix a precise and beautiful prose, an almost perfect development of the characters and some surprising plot twists, the result is a novel that is a must-read for any science fiction fan and, in my honest opinion, Miéville's most accomplished work so far. Thus, it is one of the strongest candidates for genre awards this year and I'll be really surprised if it is not shortlisted for most of them (in fact, it has already been nominated for the BSFA Awards).

(You can read this review in Spanish/Puedes leer esta reseña en español)

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