Library Staff Recommendation

Babel, by R.F. Kuang

Cover of Babel, by R.F. Kuang.

I started Babel because I was expecting an interesting Fantasy novel.  I became fascinated by Babel because it is a complex literary fiction.  Throughout, Kuang presents this tale through excellent prose and superb pacing.

Babel is set in an alternative version of the real world during the 19th Century, where scholars at Oxford University have found a way to use words inscribed on silver to create a magical form of technology.  This technological advantage is used as the explanation behind the British Empire’s dominance across the world.

Where Babel gets interesting is through its diverse main characters, and the themes explored through them.  Three of the four main characters are from British colonies; the fourth is a young English woman born to privilege.  Through these characters, the book explores themes such as racism, classism, colonialism, and, late in the story, terrorism and the justifications behind civil unrest.

4/5 Stars

Reviewed by Rebecca.