Friday, June 24, 2011

I wanted to go to Embassytown, but I wasn’t smart enough

embassytownI’m no dummy, but the other night, I sure felt like one.

I went off to the library and picked up a book by an author that I wanted to get to know: China Mieville. His novels take place, mostly it seems, in London, but they’re an interesting twist of science fiction and fantasy in a very different sense.

His latest novel, Embassytown, which came out this year, sounded like something I could get into – or so I thought. It’s premise is a bit difficult to describe, but it’s about a girl who becomes a living simile (yes, that simile, the comparison of two things using like or as) in the language of the Hosts, which are the original inhabitants of this alien planet. These Hosts speak a complicated language and cannot tell lies. The only humans that can speak this language are the so-called Ambassadors. The book is about a new Ambassador that has come to Embassytown and apparently he turns things upside-down.

Out of the many books I got from the library, I picked it first because it’s a 14-day book. Those books aren’t normally renewable.

As I snuggled up with the first 26 pages, I had no clue what was going on. I read all these words and I could visualize some of it, but the whole? I was clueless. What is happening? What is going on? What’s immer? What’s an immerser? How can someone be a living simile? Why don’t I understand anything?

I dozed off reading it, and then picked it back up. Then I gave up. I just finished a frustrating book called “Swamplandia!” and I didn’t want to be frustrated again. Not yet.

And then I started reading reviews. I didn’t care about spoilers. I just wanted to know how this book got 4 and 5 stars. It’s not that I disbelieved it. I just wanted to see what I was missing. I realized, I wasn’t alone in my confusion with the first 26 pages.

I read further to find out that was the point!

(And with this, I realize China’s genius and creativity…which makes me want to read him even more.)

He wanted the reader to deal with the linguistics and culture shock one would feel jumping into this new world. That’s exactly what I was feeling! After about 100 pages, I think the reader finally is let in a bit, but China doesn’t just spoon feed it to you. You have to work for this book. And the reviewers loved that. I want to love that, too.

But I felt instantly dumb.

Because of all of this, I am determined to read that book. I want to challenge myself, but not right now.

(Isn’t that how it goes? I will conquer the world, but I will do it tomorrow.)