Samuel R. Delany
Babel-17 Cover



Some random thoughts on Babel-17

My initial reaction, at the beginning of it, was that it was like Ted Chiang's The Story of Your Life, but then, it diverges, and it really isn't like that at all.

I found the shifts a little jarring. There are changes of scene, story shifts without segues. It takes awhile to realize what's going on now with the story, but then it gradually begins to flow again, until the next shift.

I was amused at a couple of interesting what-they-can-do-in-the-future things. A character has his shoulder joint replaced in a nightclub. The surgeon tells him it might sting a little bit for an hour or so. (My spouse had her shoulder replaced three months ago, not in a nightclub. She still feels considerably more discomfort than a little stinging.) Wouldn't it be great if they could really do it that easily. In another instance we are told that the ancient Mayans used knotted ropes to store and send instructions, but now we (in the far future) use punch cards.

Our 26-year-old heroine, Rydra Wong is pretty amazing. She worked as a military code breaker for several years, is a well known poet, an exceptional linguist, a licensed starship captain, and a burgeoning telepath.

Delany makes several references throughout the book to polyamorous relationships. Could this be, along with his female protagonist, why Babel-17 was nominated for but did not win the Hugo in 1967? Were the Sad Puppies just getting started?