You don’t have to have read any Ferdinand de Saussure to enjoy this book, though it would help. This book is a fascinating exploration of the Other and of the nature of language. Embassytown is the story of Avice Benner Cho, an “Immerser” who travels the gnarly regions of space outside the universe and all previous universes. But the greatest strangeness encountered is back on her old home planet with the “Hosts,” a people whose relationship to language is profoundly different from our own. For the Hosts, Avice is actually a simile.
Embassytown explores the relationship of language to mind and spirit. But this by no means means the book gets tied down with abstractions. The action is dynamic, and the character development is sound.
One of the blurbs on my copy says the book describes things well. Given the strangeness of the world Mieville describes, one of the strengths of this book is what it leaves undescribed: just the right balance of presenting the reader with enough material to make his or her own visualizations.
The pacing of the novel is good, though perhaps it does slow a little past the half way point, where the action climaxes, though I would say this is largely a matter of the reader’s taste. This is, on the whole, one of those exciting reads that one is loathe to put down.