Maree's Reviews > Babel-17

Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany
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Nov 01, 11

Read from October 31 to November 01, 2011

The discussion of communication in this book was fabulous. How language shapes us and our impressions with incomplete meanings and how some words are simple to one culture and incomprehensible to another. I realize that in the context of this book, we're talking about alien cultures, but really, this could be applied so close to home it's not even funny. We've gotten better in recent years as we've come closer to single uniting language, but English (or French) is still not perfect for exact expression like Babel-18 and until we can better tailor our language, we're still going to have problems.

I loved the protagonist, the language juggernaut, a poet who applies her knowledge of languages to code breaking for the government. But the way she made me feel, she made everyone around her feel, because she understood them completely and opened new worlds to them. There's a yearning in everyone to be fully understood, and Rydra can give them that because of her ability to read people and know what they're going to say.

Her impulses seem very haphazard and she kind of jumps into things on a whim. I had a difficult time making the same connections Rydra did, and it felt like the book was doing a lot of jumping without much explanation from place to place. I don't know if it was just because I was reading too quickly and missed half a sentence here or there, but once they were somewhere, there wasn't much contemplation on it. And she wasn't doing something a normal civilian should be able to do, not with the similar-to-today's military structure. So the logistics of everything but the language description were difficult and didn't always seem to work, but the discussions of language I would say made up for it overall, though it did prevent me from further enjoying the book.
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