The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Embedding weaves together three plot lines. Chris Sole, researcher in linguistics for the Haddon Neurotherapy Unit, conducts experiments on four orphans (Rama, Vidya, Gulshen, and Vasilki), teaching them an “embedding language.” Soles former fellow researcher and friend, Pierre, is at the same time doing fieldwork in the Amazon, where the existence of a small tribe of Indians, called the Xemahoa, is threatened by a dam built by Brazilians but sponsored by Americans. The Xemahoa tribe speak a two-tiered language, Xemahoa-A and Xemahoa-B, the latter of which is inspired by a fungus, maka-i, and resembles the “embedding language” Sole teaches the children. The third plot involves contact with extraterrestrials.

After an American radio dish picks up strange signals from outer space, Sole is recruited by Tom Zwingler, an American agent for national security, to unscramble the coded messages. Meanwhile, the Americans and Soviets together send astronauts to investigate an object that seems to be the source of the signals. The astronauts land on the alien ship, and then, after being taken aboard, negotiate with the aliens to land a small craft in the Nevada desert while their main ship goes into parking orbit.

The aliens, who call themselves the Spthra, have been on a mission to discover all the languages in the universe and superimpose them in an attempt to find the entire signature of This-Reality and thereby escape it. As...

(The entire section is 533 words.)