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Mark Llobrera

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Cover art forBabel


R. F. Kuang

Started Reading
Mar 19, 2023
Finished Reading
Apr 01, 2023

Whew. I have a lot of thoughts about Babel. It feels like three (four?) different books smushed together:

  • A coming-of-age novel
  • A scholarly rumination on colonialism and language
  • A speculative fiction/alt history of the British empire with a secret society devoted to resistance
  • An argument for labor organizing

I like all of those things! And…they didn’t quite come together for me, but I admire the ambition. I feel like the overarching ideas and world were great, but the ground-level character work didn’t resonate as much with me. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve been reading two other series that do a great job of world-building,1 and Babel doesn’t quite manage the same balance. It feels weird to say this given that the book is over 500 pages long, but…it probably should have been longer? With a little more room to breathe I think the characters and relationships would have attained some real depth, and the big political machinations might have had a little more opportunity to play out in detailed character interactions.

  1. Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota books and Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun. ↩︎