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Babel-17 / Empire Star Paperback – January 8, 2002
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“The most interesting writer of science fiction writing in English today.”–The New York Times Book Review
From the Inside Flap
e bestselling Dhalgren and winner of four Nebulas and one Hugo, Samuel R. Delany is one of the most acclaimed writers of speculative fiction.
Babel-17, winner of the Nebula Award for best novel of the year, is a fascinating tale of a famous poet bent on deciphering a secret language that is the key to the enemys deadly force, a task that requires she travel with a splendidly improbable crew to the site of the next attack. For the first time, Babel-17 is published as the author intended with the short novel Empire Star, the tale of Comet Jo, a simple-minded teen thrust into a complex galaxy when hes entrusted to carry a vital message to a distant world. Spellbinding and smart, both novels are testimony to Delanys vast and singular talent.
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The book is very much about language and how we use it and has undertones in that language can be used to control or as a weapon. This is true of all languages. Our protagonists come to discover the subtlety of words and it gave me pause and made me reflect upon all the times I didn't choose my words wisely. So many unintended consequences arise from poor word choice. Sometimes I think the Queen's English would be much cleaner and nicer if every word had only one meaning, but then where would Shakespeare be?
No spoilers here, but I will say the only disappointment, for me, was in how neatly the book was wrapped up. That may be a 1960s thing. Not sure. But even without the tidiness of the last 10% the first 90% makes it a wonderful, thoughtful read.
I like the novel, and I recommend it to any modern SF reader who enjoys a well-written tale that's mixes equal parts fanciful and nostalgic with very well-constructed character development.
If you were to criticize this book, you could say that the action is a little disjointed. This is a book about an idea and about characters, where the plot takes a back seat. If that's a problem then this book is probably not for you.
There are some very dated things (the book was written in the 60's after all), like telephone booths, cassette tapes and the like. But otherwise, very progressive and future oriented.
I read this aloud to my husband, which was sometimes difficult. Some things were only effective when reading the, with your own eyes...