Book Review

Embassytown by China Mieville

i suppose this book is excellent?

cw: mental illness, depression, self harm, suicide ideation, methods of suicide, advocating suicide, advocating self harm, body image, alcohol abuse, advocating substance abuse

I have absolutely nothing in my life [outside of the home] of any interest at all right now (whoops lol haha (notice those square brackets earlier in sentence as there’s no shade on my lover or my dog tho (for real for real) but life doesn’t end at the front door, does it?)), but that’s the way it is.

In some ways it’s a relief, tho, right (who else is with me?), the absence of meaningful pressure or presence? Isn’t it a relief, yeah? A relief, right? Right? Is this thing on?

I could – and I would adoooore to – die tomorrow, die right now (please, please die right now 😜), and not only would the wider world barely notice, but I would barely notice. Again, lol, whoops!

Everyday I wake up genuinely a little irritated at myself for still being alive lol. Whaddamah loike????

It’s like, y’know, who the eff am I kiddin’ y’all?

Cuz I’m not effin delusional, right, I’m not some effin happy clappy zappy optimist dullard who seems to believe that the evidence of life’s unfindable pleasures is something I’ve misinterpreted.

I’m not a fool, right, lol, y’know? I know that I cannot be happy, I cannot be content – and neither can you, right, this is relatable material, right? – when you are railing against a day-to-day life that is unsustainable.

Can I imagine a life that would be enjoyable?

No, not really. I certainly can’t imagine one here. And so, in a worthy middle class and ultimately self-sabotaging manner, rather than follow my instincts and just a) kill myself quickly with an act of terrifying violence (sounds icky and I ain’t got time for ick, y’know? I’d looooove to kill myself but why all the suggestions so messy, come on, right? Riiiiiiiight??? Let me buy a quick acting poison at the mallllllll ammaroight and gimme a seat over an industrial incinerator to fall into afterwards, riiiiiiight? You with me? We are allllllllll sayin it! You know wadd I’m talking bout rofl lmao innit lol???) or b) become an old, fat, bald partybxy until misadventure eventually kills me-

Instead of either of those better, wiser, more fun options, I have instead just begun to study all the time instead, in the hope that education will afford me a fresh avenue for escape. Which is like literally the dumbest thing I could think lol.

I’ve done it again.

Obviously, learning more things won’t get me out of “my life”, will it? Education never saved anyone, it merely offers a clearer picture of the cage and though – for some – an awareness of the cage is a spur to focus on living within it, for others the knowledge of the cage merely makes conscious something best left ignored or forgotten.


Why do I even know even how to even read? Why even? Even whyyyyyyyy?

Why have I learned grammatic and linguistic means by which to express the agony of existence lol lmao aha?

Why do I wake, why do I exist when I must constantly effin constantly every single effin second of every single effin unbearable day effin pretend.

Pretend pretend pretend.

Pretend this is fine.

Pretend I don’t want to stab myself with every fork, slice with every knife, lie in front of every train, jump in front of every bus, suffocate myself with every plastic bag, hang myself from every effin sturdy structure I see that’s a little taller than I am, y’know right? Uuuuuuu noooooooooo.

Every day I acquiesce to my own existence I am so effin angry at myself for allowing it to happen I- I- I- I-I-I-I

It’s just, ohhhhhhh soooooooo just, oh so just barely bearable.

Like, every day I just about make it through. I may have to hide under a table for a bit or do exercise or (when I’m being kinder to myself, being generous to myself, which I’m not being at the moment because I don’t deserve joy lol (I deserve nothing, everyone deserves nothing, I don’t like the word deserve, it’s a silly word) drink until I throw up (because nothing feels better than that, right, except for cutting my arms or punching bruises into my – thankfully slightly thinner than before – thighs, but self harm is another kindness I do not yet “deserve”), but I make it through, even tho tomorrow will be the same and the day after tomorrow too and the day after that and they’re all shit and I have no interest in the days or what happens on them or in them or whatever, they’re all a waste of time and a waste of life and I honestly wish each day was worse because then there would at least be friction and friction would at least be interesting because friction burns, friction hurts and hurt is a feeling, hurt is something, hurt is a very real thing to experience and without even hurt you’ve really got nothing, right? Not just nothing that’s worth being alive for, but nothing that feels like being alive feels.

Nothing! I’ve got nothing! I’m literally a literal ghost. Litt-err-all-eeeee

I’m getting to the point where I’m going to start picking fights with strangers again. Someone stab me and throw me in a canal! Something to make me feel!

There’s nothing right now! Nothing at all!

There were meant to be more feelings without the medication but there’s only a continual despair! Whoops lol omg!

I betrayed myself! I let myself down! Coming back to the UK and then coming off my meds was the personal psychological equivalent of, I dunno, getting outed for doing war crimes (I don’t think anyone doing war crimes feels bad for doing war crimes (I don’t think you get to that point if you’re consequence or conflict averse, right? Any war criminals in tonight? Did you feel bad when you did it? No, you felt nothing, of course you did, otherwise you wouldn’t’ve done it‽) but everyone who’s done war crimes seems to feel uncomfortable when others find out), like-

it didn’t matter that I’d done something to myself that I found unforgivable (returning to England) until I’d stopped taking the medication (in the metaphor this is keeping the war crimes secret?) and realised with horror, with gut-wrenching and pant shitting horror, that I’d utterly effed myself. And the eff-uence was everywhere.

How does one move on?

People who get outed for doing war crimes at least get the censure of the entire global populace (except for fascists with near-exact politics and – this seems to be crucial – the same first language) and the accommodation at the ICJ (or swift extrajudicial justice) to back up their (however repressed) self-knowledge that they’ve crossed an unforgivable line. But I don’t have that.

Plenty of (some) people are perfectly happy living in England, many more are content, and lots of people are ambiguous about the whole thing.

I’m not ambiguous, though. I fucking hate England.

I hate the attitudes and the environment and the people and the ideologies and the culture and the politics and the opportunities and the shape of fucking life. I hate it. I fucking hate it. I fucking hate it and I hate myself for coming back here knowing that I hate it.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive myself because what I’ve done to myself, where I’ve put myself is, to me, unforgivable.

(“Ooh you’re being melodramatic.” Yes, I am. I’m a mentally ill poet and failed rapper so of course I’m melodramatic.)

But, and this is the thing about myself that I fucking hate more than the hairloss, more than the repression, more than having been born, is the fact that I continue to persist.

Instead of learning how to tie a slipknot and finding a tree far away from anywhere innocentish people might be walking, I’m instead going to classes.

Instead of googling which proximate station has the fastest non-stopping train service passing a publicly accessible platform, I’m instead working on my noise project. I’m instead exercising. I’m instead going to work. I’m instead batch cooking. I’m instead maintaining the output on my blog even though I’ve run out of original ideas to express (that happened a while ago and sometimes I worry I’m literally retyping the same sentences) and I am unlikely to find any originality ever again while I’m reading only one (or two) books a week for the next two months while I’m doing almost eight hours of classes every week and spending more time than that again studying; it’s more self sabotage.

If I keep denying myself joy and pleasure and fun, then is there a freedom to be found eventually? Maybe, but when? Where?

Who will I be if I continue accepting this tedium in a place I cannot be? Nothing happens to me, I can’t have anything happen to me, I don’t want anything to happen to me here except I get out I get out I get out.

It looks unlikely that I will get out.

Every day I fail to get out, a life away from here looks more unlikely and my failure to have already killed myself or have already permanently escaped looks ever more, more and more, evermore, like a cruel sign that I’ll never do either.

What a situation, ey, readers!!?!?!?!? 🤠


I don’t mean this remotely facetiously, but how the fuck do people tolerate going to work everyday if they’re not hungover?

Like, I haven’t been drinking properly (by which I mean drinking as much as I need to drink in order to make life feel interesting) for months now and in opposition to the claims you will have likely heard from anti-booze pious prohibitionists, it obviously doesn’t make things better.

It makes things worse.

There’s a reason why this is a planet full of alcoholics: alcohol fucking works. But it’s also very calorific, so best avoided while I’m still barely just inside the less fashionable end of the BMI “healthy weight” window. As soon as my weight is back below 70 kilos, though, I’ll get back to vodka sodas seven nights a week. A real and powerful weight loss motivator there!!!


Embassytown. What is Embassytown?

China Miéville is a writer whose fiction I’ve never read before. I’ve encountered his essay writing a few times (in left wing intellectual spaces innit like), but his novels – with the dark moody covers and sinister sounding names – always looked more horror than anything I would choose to read, even after I hit 30 and opened myself up to the experiences of genre fiction.

This is, I suppose, exactly what I expected Miéville’s novels to be like: this is what I imagine is meant by the term “hard sci fi”, even tho I know that it isn’t.

Embassytown is weightily intellectual and powerfully original and articulate, and it all takes place in a distant future in a human enclave on an alien planet. To describe its setting is to discuss premises within premises: there is nothing about this novel that is simple or staid, with complex descriptions of intradimensionalish space travel, of colonial set ups and governmental bureaucracy all included as background: what weaker writers would use as an entire novel (or, let’s be honest, even an entire series of novels!), Miéville uses as detailing, as background, as throwaway context.

Far away in time and space from our reality, Avice is the novel’s protagonist and narrator, a woman who has travelled around the universe from the colony of her birth, and returned there unenthusiastically with a linguist-academic husband obsessed with the communication style of the local indigene alien species. Their marriage quickly flounders and they separate, but this planet is so far away from the rest of the known universe that there’s no opportunity to head somewhere better for a long stretch of time. Avice settles in and, as someone who has travelled and returned, becomes a regular guest and consultant for local institutions.

The local aliens (well, they’re not aliens, are they, it’s their planet, but u no whaddamean) can only speak things that are true: their language is not representative, merely descriptive.

I don’t want to go into more detail about the ways in which these creatures communicate and the ways in which the novel’s humans have adapted and selectively-bred themselves in order to afford communication, because that is the novel and I think it was actually very good and therefore better than I can make it sound by regurgitating the setup.

Embassytown isn’t a trite horror novel about aliens and humans struggling to talk or whatever, it’s an articulate and intellectually engaging text on the nature of language itself, on the promise and pointlessness of language and communication, of how expression is tied to imagination, and thus both deceit but also development: one must be able to formulate expressions of hope and plans for change in order to feel hope and plan for change.

I don’t really communicate anywhere except here any more. It’s too much effort irl, it’s too boring to say things I’ve said before. It’s all trite, it’s all crap, it’s all fucking recycled and most of the time it’s all lies.

It was easier to not speak when I wasn’t in England and I wasn’t expected to speak. It is easier to be without language, without thought, without education, without soul.

Language has meaning, it functions through the shared knowledge of meaning.

To make language is to make meaning, is to form meaningfulness.

I think that’s an ambiguous statement. Language has meaning, but that doesn’t mean that the things language describes necessarily do.

I don’t think there is any meaning in anything except language.

I don’t think there is any purpose in life, though there is purpose in language and that purpose is communication.

I don’t think that being able to describe hopefulness makes hopefulness real.


Towards the end of Embassytown, many of the aliens begin self-mutilating themselves so they can no longer hear or speak, once the human influence on their previously pure and solely descriptive language has started to be felt, and I got that. I understood that. Maybe languagelessness is a good price to pay for the cessation of all these thoughts and words and feelings.

Without language, maybe things would be better?

I believe this, I feel this.

It’s why I don’t talk.

It’s why I don’t socialise.

Its absence is (the absence of language is), probably, why all I dream of is death.

I should talk more. But I won’t. I don’t want to hear the dull sound of my own dull voice. is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

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