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Reviews Round-up

The critics’ verdicts on China Mieville and Anatol Lieven.

Embassytown by China Mieville

"It's a joy to find this young author coming into his own, and bringing the craft of science fiction out of the backwaters where it's been caught lately," notes Ursula K Le Guin at the Guardian praising China Mieville's latest book Embassytown. The novel, she writes, "works on every level, providing compulsive narrative, splendid intellectual rigour and risk, moral sophistication, fine verbal fireworks and sideshows, and even the old-fashioned satisfaction of watching a protagonist become more of a person than she gave promise of being."

Stuart Kelly at the Scotsman is equally complimentary noting the novel "is a melange of high-brow ideas and pulp settings and tropes; it is a radically unromantic version of fantasy with a pedigree encompassing both HP Lovecraft and Italo Calvino."

But for James Lovegrove at the Financial Times although the novel has, "pacey narrative action and sharp characterisation," the real force of Embassytown lies in its portrayal of language. With prose that "bristles with verbal invention and at moments verges on a sort of dense polyglot poetry," he commends, "what emerges from the wordplay and the exotic drama is an argument for tolerance."

Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven

"In the light of knee-jerk rhetoric emerging in Abbottabad's aftermath," notes Arifa Akbar at the Independent, "Lieven's penetrating study is more relevant." The author, Akbal writes, argues "that Pakistan might be a near-failed state, but we need it to keep existing ... for the stability of the subcontinent." He countenances the books central argument that, "not to go in guns blazing, is in itself a mature antidote to the neo-conservative "cut them adrift" policy," and that, "tiny niggles apart, this nuanced analysis should be read, and learned from."

"Lieven's book," notes Pankaj Mishra at the Guardian, "is refreshingly free of the condescension that many western writers, conditioned to see their own societies as the apogees of civilisation, bring to Asian countries, assessing them solely in terms of how far they have approximated western political and economic institutions and practices." He compliments the book as a "blow for clarity and sobriety," and notes that despite, "some blind spots of his own," the author "overturns many prejudices, and gives general readers plenty of fresh concepts with which to think about a routinely misrepresented country."

Pakistan: A Hard Country will be reviewed in next week's New Statesman

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