Samuel R. Delany
Babel-17 Cover



Interesting novel discussing the themes of language and thought, with the premise that in order to give 'existence' to a thought you have to express it in language.

Rydra Wong is a famous poet who is asked to translate a military code known as 'Babel-17'. She quickly ascertains that 'Babel-17' isn't a code but a language. The location and use of language always occurs around some kind of military disaster (there is a war going on between the Alliance and the Invaders - a bit of a simplistic Cold War dichotomy).

Rydra recruits a crew and goes to the site of the next disaster she can dechiper. The recruiting of the crew is fun and seems very much of the time in the 60's - a clash between conservatism and the breaking of boundaries of sexuality, gender and acceptance.

There's a healthy dose of space opera and in such a short novel quite a lot happens which doesn't particularly hang well or make sense as 'realistic'.

However, the novel isn't really about any of this - it's about language, ideas and the development of thought. The prose and poetry in the novel is beautiful and it's a joy to read. It's worthwhile reading experience but I'm not sure it's a story or novel I'd remember in the future.