chapter  16
18 Pages

Language Makes and Breaks Worlds: China Miéville’s Embassytown

ByGerard Hynes

The exploration of fantastical places has been central to China Miéville’s literary career since its inception. His works have featured the worlds of Bas-Lag (Perdido Street Station [2000], The Scar [2002], and Iron Council [2004]), versions of London (King Rat [1998], Un Lun Dun [2007], and Kraken [2010]), the intertwined cities of Besźel and Ul-Qoma (The City and the City [2009]), and the railsea (Railsea [2012]).1 Miéville claims to be “continually fascinated by the project of secondary world creation” and has been praised for the richness and plausibility of his world-building.2 Rich Paul Cooper has described Miéville’s world-building technique as “generic overdetermination”, with Bas-Lag, for example, a “radically hybrid result of the heterogeneous voices, styles, and genres of the texts that present it.”3 Similarly, John Clute has noted how Embassytown (2011) invokes and problematizes several science fiction tropes and subgenres, from space opera and planetary colonization to hyperspace and time abyss.4 As Carlo Rotella has noted, however, Miéville often appears to be as interested in his worlds’ underlying forces – colonialism, development, cultural syncretism, urbanism – as in the worlds themselves.5