Wow.  So I’m reading the new mind expanding/blowing novel by China Mieville.  It’s quite an experience.  I’d only read one other China novel; Kraken, and I’m still on the fence of what I thought of it.  What I can say with some assurance is that I fell in love with certain characters that were supporting roles more than I loved the entire world.  Reason being is that China’s creations are so … otherworldly.  I, personally, have a difficult time being dropped into a world that is so different from mine and expected to try and sludge through half the book till I even remotely begin to understand what is going on.  Kraken took place in a lovecraftian (of being like H.P. Lovecraft, if your unsure what I meant) England that was really cool for the most part, the other part was that I didn’t understand the parts that were not of this (our) world till. … well I still don’t know.  That is what this new book is like, but I feel; that it’s simply genius and It’s my lack of understanding that is holding me back.

At this point (I’m half way through.  Page 200/340) I feel like a person who is not used to watching a Bergman film or Cache by Haneke.  They may stop the movie and turn to me and say “what the hell is going on?  Is this a dream or reality.  Who’s dreaming, who is that person?”  and so forth.  And my only reply would be; “keep watching, most will make sense at the end.  And what doesn’t.. well you have to watch it a few more times to really get it”.  That is what I have to do with this; keep reading and maybe reread it again some time in the future to fully grasp it.

So the book so far – It takes place on a far off world that is essentially so far off into known space that it’s kind of “backwater”, a place that no one really cares about and doesn’t really want to visit.  The human colonizers (and current residents) are not the big dogs in town.  The “Hosts” are the indigenous life forms of this world and support the humans with much, if not all, of their livelihood.  The catch is, they cannot communicate with each other (the hosts and the humans).  The “Hosts” speak a language that is formed by their two mouths working simultaneously, a mechanism which humans cannot replicate.  Until we are introduced to the Ambassadors (I must agree with a review I read stating that these characters are by far one of the most interesting and original characters I’ve ever read about).  Prior to the Ambassadors (and even some of the Ambassadors) when two humans tried to speak together to achieve Language (yes Language, not the language but Language) the Hosts would understand something was being said but not what was being said. Also, the Hosts can’t lie.  They can only speak the truth, as in what has happened, future tense is rare.  All this to the extent that not only do they have Lying contents but must make humans living similes in order to explain certain ideas.

Confusing?  Yeah I know, but enthralling just the same.  Not to mention I’m trying to give an overview of an extremely confounding book without giving certain details away that I found wildly cool to read and trying to simplify it for a brief review (not easy).

Our narrator is a young lady (I say young without any comprehension of her age; everything is stated in terms of hours (mega hours and so forth) when we meet her she is 7 years old, then later she is 11 and married three times ( two husbands and one wife).  We are dropped in to her memoir of sorts; she doesn’t bother to explain many things to us, we learn through other characters that come into contact with her and via other means.  This took me some time to get used to.

update : So I finished it.  And I’m confused.  I hate to say it but it lost me.  I really loved what I understood, as for the rest of it; I really only have an inkling to what exactly happened and how it came about.  It, like many action/sci-fi novels the pace sped up to where there were things I didn’t understand and those things kept coming and in warp speed flew past me.

That said I would suggest it for those into speculative / science fiction.  It had me gripped with the characters, the mystery and the philosophy of language and how language is an interaction many of us take for granted.  I will pick this up in the future and try again.  I will search out some reviews (good and the bad) to see if I can glean some new information.  I will continue to read Mieville because I think it would be a disservice to myself as an avid reader and student of all things not to.

I understand this review may not be the greatest – it was a tough book to understand (for me) and therefore a tough review to write so here is one (with spoilers) that really does a great job —

Other books that came to mind — Anatham by Neal Stephenson (AMAZING), the Ender series by Orson Scott Card, the movie District 9 (I liked most of it).