Thanks to the First Reads Giveaway for sending me this copy of a new book by one of my very favorite authors! :-)
I was slightly surprised, upon beginning to read the book, that this is absolutely a straight-up science fiction novel - somewhat new territory for Miéville. Avice is a woman who's grown up in the remote, backwater colony world of Ariekei, in Embassytown, where alien Hosts trade technology with humans - and speak a Language in which they cannot conceive of lying. Unusually, for one of her peers, Avice gets out of her small town by becoming an Immerser - a pilot capable of traveling through hyperspace. Even more unusually, she comes back to her homeworld - and finds herself uniquely placed at the center of an unprecedented crisis.
This is a book full of fascinating ideas, and if you have any interest at all in semiotics and linguistics, it is absolutely not to be missed. However, I do feel that Miéville wanted his ideas to drive the story so strongly that he left some logical holes in the plot. Some of the premises seem, to me, flawed or unlikely. I was caught up in the story and the concepts - but I kept catching myself and saying, "but hey, wait? Couldn't they get around that problem by doing... this...?" But it wouldn't have served the plot, so it didn't happen. I was also disappointed that his (really great) conceptions of FTL travel, which were brought out in some detail, didn't end up being more central to how the story developed.
Still, the book is a more than worthwhile read, for its ruminations on the nature of language, the possibilities of communication, a bit of mythological allegory, and a dark yet delicate contemplation of the changes - some horrible, some bittersweet, some simply inevitable - that may occur when different cultures collide. Yes, this is a topic that has been dealt with in many SF stories of First Contact - but Miéville truly brings something new to the table for his entry into this genre.