Samuel R. Delany

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Samuel R. Delany

Samuel Delany is an author whose fierce and voracious intelligence leaves marks on every page of his prose. He is known mostly for science fiction, and Babel-17 is one of his earlier novels. Rydra Wong, a poet known in every galaxy, is the heroine who is asked to help decipher the language known as Babel-17. This unusual language is connected to an interstellar war going on between the Alliance and the Invaders. Rydra's investigations get her put in the middle of this conflict, bringing her to places like a lavish party which devolves into an assassination attempt and to a 'shadow-ship' where she engages in some dicey battles with Invader ships. What is most remarkable is that Delany has shaped his story around concepts found in linguistics. One of the most amazing scenes in the novel is between Rydra and the bestial and primitive character of 'the Butcher' who has no word for, and thus no concept of, 'I.' As she teaches him the difference between 'I' and 'you,' she falls in love with him. For all the intellectual concepts that Delany plays with successfully, he is still able to tell a riveting story and create a richly imagined world which will seduce any reader. Any fan of the sci-fi genre would do well to check out any novels of his but this is a good place to start. Recommended.

Druga recenzija: "Babel-17" by Samuel R. Delany

It is well known that Eskimos have 610 different words for "snow." And I wonder what it means when you find someone compiling a list of English words describing, say, certain body parts. Anyway, imagine if you had a language where, merely to have a word for an object, meant to understand that object. What if this language was extremely compact, so that complicated objects could be described and comprehended quickly? What if the precision in the 987 Eskimo words for snow was extended to the entire language? What if this language was known as Babel-17?

This is the best book I've read in a long time. By about page 3, we're introduced to a language which nobody on Earth understands, "Babel-17". Interpreting this language is crucial to winning a vast intergalactic war. Our heroine, Rydra Wong, is humanity's best linguist, and best poet. She also has an amazing talent for reading body language. She assembles a motley but competent crew, and proceeds into the midst of the ongoing war in order to learn more about the alien language. To make things harder, her quest is harried by ongoing acts of sabotage aboard her spaceship.

Where to start the praise... the characters are all interesting; even the minor characters are all unique. Even for the incidental characters, you still have a good feel for who they are, without the description being obtrusive. The plot moves quickly. There is a love interest which is unique, and took me quite by surprise. There is a hint of aliens which are barely comprehensible to humanity, something which I always like. The book has a pleasant handful of intriguing sf concepts which fit well together, and go well with the plot. The ending is great, and wonderfully plausible. Babel-17 won the Nebula Award (awarded by the writers); from me, it gets 4 stars.

One thought about this book, and about the books I consider 4 star books in general. I seldom think a book is truly outstanding unless it has some sort of interesting ideas or ethics or in some way is thought-provoking. The thought-provoking ideas of this book are all about linguistics, 1597 words for snow, and other related topics. As far as I can tell, Delany really knows alot about linguistics, and he does a good job exploring the sf implications of the language Babel-17. The discussion strongly centers around how the vocabulary of a language determines how one thinks, perhaps even what topics one is able to think about. This is a top-notch science fiction novel; hopefully you've read it already, but if not, go get it! (And to be honest, the book never once mentions the Eskimos and their 2584 words for snow.)