Babel-17February 19, 2014
This is my first Delany novel, and certainly will not be my last. It is not an easy ride, I stalled in some places, but in the end, it is a very good book, and a thought provoking one.
I might be a bit biased, because I tend to love novels which are using linguistics as theme (also read Snow Crash and Un Lun Dun). It is a nice reminder that linguistics is also part of science, and it plays a great deal in defining ourselves as human.
The plot in this novel, merely serves as a tool for conveying the idea. It is just a mission for finding a terrorist behind series of attack. And accompanying it, trying to decipher a mysterious language, Babel-17, found transmitted in the area of attacks. The lead is an poet, Rydra, which has an impossibly knack of language acquisition.
Beside long discussion on linguistics, this novel also introduces other concepts which is truly amazing. It includes discorporation, which is a process of separating body and soul, and keeping the soul intact even without the body; a triune marriage (one male two females or two males one female), which mean you can have threesome every day, and sailing through hyperdimension just like sailing the water. I found the exposition concept really refreshing, even thought they are not the main theme of this novel.
In the end, it is the discussion about language! We are so entrench in our own way of thinking forged by our own language. It is simply inconceivable to think in another way. I speak roughly three languages. Surprisingly, my mother tongue is in the lowest rank compared to other language mastery. But since it is my mother tongue, it is deeply connected with my primal feeling. So when I get scared, I scream in my mother tongue. But as a rational language, the languages which I learned and I used, especially in reading and writing, clearly surpassed my mastery of my mother tongue. So you can say that I THINK not in mother tongue. But I SWEAR and SCREAM in my mother tongue. This novel really makes me think about how our language shape our way of thinking, and therefore our way of being.
This novel is a clearly defined the ideal of a sci-fi novel. Sci-fi is not about space-ship and laser, but about the limit of science, thus the limit of humanity itself.
A clear 4 stars. I held my self from giving 5 stars because of the plot.
PS: anyone here speaks FORTRAN?