by Henry Farrell on June 13, 2011

I liked “Embassytown”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0345524497/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=henryfarrell-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217153&creative=399349&creativeASIN=0345524497 a lot (which will come as no surprise to long time CT readers). It wasn’t perfect. There is a longish section (between the two-thirds and four-fifths mark) which dragged – it had neither the intellectual pyrotechnics nor the pacing of the rest of the book. But where it is good, it soars, and better reconciles literary ambition and sense-of-wonder headkicks than anything else he’s written. It’s hard to compare with any other book – perhaps the closest is Delany’s _Stars In My Pockets Like Grains of Sand_ in its mixture of space opera and linguistic speculation – but the comparison isn’t very close. The writing is more tamped down and Delany’s perverse romanticism is nearly entirely absent. Perhaps the best way to think of the book is as a kind of hard science-fiction, where the ‘hard’ theory that is being played with is linguistic theory rather than speculative physics (now that I think of it, Mieville’s suggestion that his imagined universe is a ‘parole,’ of the ‘langue’ that is the under-lying meta-universe is an obvious hint in this direction). Mieville is not trying himself to contribute to literary theory – but then, when Alastair Reynolds uses weird bits of information theory to come up with a justification for a cloaking device, he is presumably not doing this for the purposes of peer reviewed science. He’s having fun – and so too is Mieville. Some of the concepts – people literally being incorporated into Language as similes by aliens who _need_ concrete referents to think and to speak – are quite wonderful.

I’m not going to write a review of the book (I don’t think it would be possible to top Sam Thompson’s “excellent piece”:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n12/sam-thompson/monsters-you-pay-to-see for the LRB) – but I do want to point to one interesting resonance between the book and _Iron Council_ (which of course we did a “seminar on”:https://crookedtimber.org/category/mieville-seminar/ a few years back. Since there are spoilers, the rest is below the fold.

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Pass the Ferrero Rocher

by Kieran Healy on June 13, 2011

Via Jonathan Davis on the Twitter, the Registration form for the Royal Opera House, which comes with the best drop-down box ever devised. Choose your title! I fear “HE The French Ambassador M” may be taken, however.

Your Majesty