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Babel Seventeen (Babel-17) (S.F.Masterworks…

Babel Seventeen (Babel-17) (S.F.Masterworks S.) (original 1966; edition 1999)

by Samuel R. Delany

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1,442365,205 (3.74)92
Title:Babel Seventeen (Babel-17) (S.F.Masterworks S.)
Authors:Samuel R. Delany
Info:Gollancz (1999), Edition: Re-issue, Paperback, 193 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:language_fiction, ling, nebula, read, sf, sfmw_l, space, x8mj, african-american

Work details

Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany (1966)

  1. 30
    Embassytown by China Miéville (kevinashley)
    kevinashley: Both these books take the relationship between language and thought as central themes. They explore it in different ways but with a similar thoroughness; both really explore just how 'other' alien can be.
  2. 30
    The languages of Pao by Jack Vance (burschik)
    burschik: If you are interested in the linguistics, that is.
  3. 00
    The Centauri Device by M. John Harrison (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: The same ephemeral beat prose. And of course Space Opera, updated. Strange mystery, assemble a crew of lively characters, go explore it.
  4. 11
    Sundiver by David Brin (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: Space Opera, updated. Strange mystery, assemble a crew of lively characters, go explore it. Sound familiar?
  5. 11
    Ringworld by Larry Niven (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: Space Opera, updated. Strange mystery, assemble a crew of lively characters, go explore it. Sound familiar?

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English (33)  Italian (2)  German (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Delany expresses himself in creative and poetic prose, but there is still a pulpy, somewhat old-fashioned tone to this book. The characters are interesting for what they do, and not what they are. The ending was a complete miss.

Not quite in the class as Wolfe or Banks. However, I am willing to try more of his works, especially Dhalgren and Nova. ( )
  crosbyp | Nov 14, 2015 |
After reading Dhalgren, this novel is just like summer beach reading. Not that it's easy, but for the most part the effort is worth it. One of the few SF books to deal with the relatively esoteric topic of language and how it defines us (which really seems to be a natural SF topic, being that they deal with aliens and stuff so much), something it sort of shares with Ian Watson's The Embedding. Delany however won a deserved Nebula for this book (actually he tied with Flowers for Algernon, also a fine book, but as different from this as can be), which probably wasn't at all what readers were expecting in 1966 when this was published. But who cares what the readers want, as long as it's good? And this is. As I mentioned before it's a mediation on how language defines us, both to ourselves and in relation to other people, all cloaked in a Space Opera type story. The Invaders (who are never really seen, weirdly enough, but I think they're human) are attacking the Alliance and are using a mysterious weapon called Babel-17. What is it? Nobody is really sure so the military recruits famous poet Rydra Wong to figure out what's going on. She has little idea either but has come closer than most people. What follows is layer upon layer of story as Ms Wong examines her own life as she tries to unravel the mystery of Babel-17, examining both the roots of language and doing her best not to get killed. Rydra is a rarity in SF, a three dimensional woman who stands on her own as a strong character who doesn't come across as an emotional maelstrom or an ice-cold witch. She's one of the most enjoyable and well-rounded characters to come down the pipeline in SF and there are very few characters since who can match up to her. Delany's story just a bit wacky toward the end and he makes up more than a few SF twists to explain the ending but the story holds together really well and it has brains and a soul underneath all the deep thinking. It's also very short, so all the people scared off by Dhalgren can come over here and see what the man can do in small doses. Then they can move on to the big stuff. - Michael Battaglia ( )
  fredjryder1946 | Oct 26, 2015 |
A book that both scares me and leaves me grinning hugely? No question about it, this can only mean I've been reading Samuel R Delaney's Babel-17 yet again. Rydra Wong, ex-refugee, 26 year old poet (famous across five galaxies), translator and code breaker is hired to crack Babel-17, an unknown language recorded in snatches during Invader sabotage episodes. When I first read this book in my early 20s, I was quietly terrified by the possibility that language could do that. It's still a scarily interesting concept. (Not telling! Just go read the book.) And the reason for the grin? Space opera: interstellar war, aliens, space battles, hugely advanced weapons, space pirates, extreme body modification. And if that scares you? As the Customs Officer puts it: “I saw a bunch of the weirdest, oddest people I had ever met in my life, who thought different, and acted different, and even made love different. And they made me laugh, and get angry, and be happy, and be sad, and excited, and even fall in love a little myself... And they didn’t seem to be so weird or strange anymore.” ( )
  Bernadette877 | Apr 7, 2015 |
In the far future, the galactic empire is at war with the Invaders, and the military turns to beautiful, accomplished, slightly telepathic poet Rydra Wong to help with a new code the Invaders have developed to aid their sabotage efforts; however, the code is actually an artificial language, Babel-17, with frightening properties.

This was a fun, short read, but I think a little dated now. It is remarkable for having a female lead character who is not treated like window dressing, something sadly lacking in other classic science fiction from the same time period. The big idea regarding the power of language to manipulate thought and experience is pretty interesting, although I wish it had been more fleshed out. I also found most of the characters other than Rydra to be fairly underdeveloped, and there seemed a lot of jumping from action scene to action without taking the time to fill out the transitions, making the story slightly dissatisfying. For its time, it's a fun action-adventure story that hits all the right notes, but modern sci-fi readers demand more. ( )
  sturlington | Feb 15, 2015 |
Simply great science-fiction that reminded me why do I like the genre.

In a far future, language becomes a weapon and humanity defenses end up in the hands of a poet. This future universe is nicely hinted in details everywhere, setting a rich and interesting background without losing track of the real story.

Awesome reading. ( )
  ivan.frade | Jul 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
If Babel 17 were published now as a new book, I think it would strike us an great work that was doing wonderful things and expanding the boundaries of science fiction. I think we’d nominate it for awards and talk a lot about it. It’s almost as old as I am, and I really think it would still be an exciting significant book if it were new now.
added by paradoxosalpha | editTor.com, Jo Walton (Jun 23, 2009)

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Samuel R. Delanyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Podwil, JeromeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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--this one, now, is
for Bob Folsom,
to explain just a little of
the past year--
First words
It's a port city.
A language, however, has its own internal logic, its own grammar, its own way of putting thoughts together with words that span various spectra of meaning. There is no key you can plug in to unlock the exact meaning. At best you can get a close approximation.
If there's no word for it, how do you think about it? And, if there isn't the proper form, you don't have the how even if you have the words.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
The commander of the Earthpeople's Alliance journeyed into the bizarre depths of Transport Town to seek Rydra Wong, the cosmic poetess whose words reached across space and whose mind could perceive the meaning of all the world's tongues. And his request placed her into the heart of the vile interstellar war between the Alliance and the Invaders.
The new weapon of the Invaders was Babel-17, a menacing hum clogging up Alliance space communications. Rydra had to decipher the communications power of Babel-17 before it could lead to intergalactic defeat. And to do that, she would have to be the target of the next outer-space attack. a fascinating tale of a famous poet bent on deciphering a secret language that is the key to the enemy’s deadly force, a task that requires she travel with a splendidly improbable crew to the site of the next attack.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553201565, Mass Market Paperback)

Author of the bestselling Dhalgren and winner of four Nebulas and one Hugo, Samuel R. Delany is one of the most acclaimed writers of speculative fiction.

Babel-17, winner of the Nebula Award for best novel of the year, is a fascinating tale of a famous poet bent on deciphering a secret language that is the key to the enemy’s deadly force, a task that requires she travel with a splendidly improbable crew to the site of the next attack. For the first time, Babel-17 is published as the author intended with the short novel Empire Star, the tale of Comet Jo, a simple-minded teen thrust into a complex galaxy when he’s entrusted to carry a vital message to a distant world. Spellbinding and smart, both novels are testimony to Delany’s vast and singular talent.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:38 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In a war-riven world, why will saving humanity require . . . a poet? At twenty-six, Rydra Wong is the most popular poet in the five settled galaxies. Almost telepathically perceptive, she has written poems that capture the mood of mankind after two decades of savage war. Since the invasion, Earth has endured famine, plague, and cannibalism—but its greatest catastrophe will be Babel-17. Sabotage threatens to undermine the war effort, and the military calls in Rydra. Random attacks lay waste to warships, weapons factories, and munitions dumps, and all are tied together by strings of sound, broadcast over the radio before and after each accident. In that gibberish Rydra recognizes a coherent message, with all of the beauty, persuasive power, and order that only language possesses. To save humanity, she will master this strange tongue. But the more she learns, the more she is tempted to join the other side . . . This ebook features an illustrated biography of Samuel R. Delany including rare images from his early career.… (more)

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