Embassytown by China Mieville is the first of his books I have read, and what a place to start. It is a science fiction story about space traveller Avice, who returns to her home planet Embassytown an outpost of larger planet Bremen with her husband Scile after years of travelling in the "immer".
Embassytown is a human colony where humans co-exist alongside several other species including main indigenous species the Ariekei, respectfully known by the humans as "The Hosts" The nature of the Language, meaning the Language of the Ariekei makes it difficult for the two species to inter-communicate, though the humans certainly do try and enter dialogue with their respected hosts. Scile, a linguist, is excited to meet these Hosts and discover more about their language.
Those humans who communicate with The Hosts are the leaders The Ambassadors, twinned men and women who operate as one. But during Avice's stay, a new Ambassador, EzRa arrives, when he attempts to greet The Hosts an unexpected reaction occurs and the humans panic, wondering if they have offended their Hosts. Embassytown rapidly descends into pandemonium, and as essential services stop enters an almost apocalyptic situation. Can Avice and her colleagues pull it back from the brink?
Embassytown is a really interesting novel with a lot to say. It's about linguistics and the essential nature of communication, but it also acts as metaphor for life here on Earth. It has sociological resonance regarding tolerance and interacting with those of different cultures and ideologies, and so feels grounded in something current despite being a future based novel.
At times it can be a difficult book. Avice, as a character can feel distant from the reader, instead of the heroine you root for, and at times it can be quite convoluted, and I think it would confuse and frustrate readers who don't read often or particularly in this genre. I can understand why some gave up on it. Personally, I really enjoyed it, am passing it on to one of my best friends and look forward to reading further Mieville novels. 8.5/10