Ian Watson seems to me a horror writer in his heart. The things that happened in this book are more gruesome than even Steven King would dare to put on paper. Here’s just one: eating a mutant baby-brain. But unlike Steven King, the author seemed incapable (or unwilling) of creating likable characters. I would love a character’s description up until the last sentence, which then made me back away emotionally from the character. Another weird thing: Watson beats an analogy to death. I also never really understood the title concept of “embedding,” and that seems like it should be a priority.
The story is about a linguist experimenting on children to create “embedded languages,” while in the meantime his old partner visits a tribe in the Brazilian jungle with a unique language, while in the meantime aliens arrive on earth who want keys to the very nature of communication.
This was also another first novel with a strong and compelling voice. I did enjoy that the ending – very high energy, emotional, and real. In retrospect though, I found the author’s website story of indentured servitude to Stanley Kubrick more compelling: why is he enemies with Brian Aldiss?
Endings pick up energy; they don’t lose it. It’s also important to make sure reader’s understand key concepts.