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