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The Dragons of Babel

by Michael Swanwick

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: World of the Iron Dragon (2)

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4611941,708 (3.79)11
Enslaved by a war-dragon of Babel, young Will evacuates to the Tower of Babel where he meets the confidence trickster,Nat Whilk, and becomes a hero to the homeless living in the tunnels under the city. As he rises from an underling to a politician, Will falls in love with a high-elven woman he dare not aspire to.--From publisher description.… (more)
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» See also 11 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Well, I tried to read it. I just didn't connect with the writing style at all in the first 60 pages, so I'm not going to finish because I have approximately eleventybillion and twelve other books on my to read list. Give or take. Still, I will rec it for teens who are into steampunky sorts of things.
  bookbrig | Aug 5, 2020 |
This sequel to [b:The Iron Dragon's Daughter|25781|The Iron Dragon's Daughter|Michael Swanwick|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1288125591s/25781.jpg|522367] shares practically every wonderfully skewed fantasy AND SF tradition from the first book, but don't expect anything quite like the same story. We've still got demon cyborgs who are airships wanting to see the world burn while ostensibly under control of the war effort, mythical half-mortals who are absolutely in the minority in this Elf-rich land and highly coveted for their ability to withstand the iron, and so many richly thought-out stage pieces that make these novels truly delightful and subversive at the same time.

They're not your standard fantasy, even while so many of the tropes exist in outline, or perhaps in inverted colors.

The same thing is true even for the main plot of this book, where we have the poor orphan in his quest to become king. Sound familiar? Well, not the way this is told, because Will is a Dragon's dupe, an ignorant exile, a burgeoning and later quite skilled con-man, hero to the people, star-crossed lover of a princess, and the executor of the biggest heist in history.

The crown.

And the twist was so worth it. Every step of the way, this novel was an inverted mirror to so much classic SF and classic fantasy, full of rich ideas from every corner of both fields, and written with such style and competence and rich, rich myth, that I can do nothing but bow to a master storyteller.

I've read a good number of Swanwick's novels, now, and a collection of short stories, and I can honestly say that there isn't a bad or an even mediocre one in the bunch. They're all fantastic and my trust is now boundless. :) ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
This 2008 novel is set in the world of Swanwick's 1993 The Iron Dragon's Daughter, though it's not a direct sequel. That earlier book envisioned a world of faerie wherein sentient dragons are not born, but constructed of cold iron in giant, Dickensian factories. Dragons are merciless, jet-propelled weapons of war, equipped with missiles and firebombs to use against the chosen enemies of the ruling, high-elven lords. Some reviewers thought Daughter pointed out a new direction in fantasy, but the future belonged more to George R. R. Martin. I decided to read Babel now because The Iron Dragon's Mother will be published in June.

Protagonist Will's life is upended by the arrival of a dragon in his rural village; he becomes its unwilling servant. Calamity follows disruption, Will becomes homeless, and a migrant to the capital city, Babel. Starting as a member of a criminal gang in the city's dark sewers, he rises through the brutal society of faerie and the vast, vertical tower itself, all the while raging against the rulers who destroyed his home and killed his family. As Will finds revenge within reach, he must ask whether he wants it.

Swanwick is hugely inventive in imagining the varied sorts of paranormal beings and places in his world. Allusions abound to other stories of the fantastic - e.g., that Will's home district is called the Debatable Hills is a nod to Jack Vance. Digressions include a brief police procedural, and a fantasia on what story one of the Public Library's stone lions might tell.

The Dragons of Babel is less dark than its predecessor. It didn't change the direction of modern fantasy either, but it's an excellent book. Swanwick is an amazing writer, and I clearly have no excuse for having so many of his books lying unread around the house. ( )
1 vote dukedom_enough | Jan 8, 2019 |
Set in the same world as [book: The Iron Dragon's Daughter]. Will is a happy-go-lucky fairie peasant boy--until a draconic cyborg machine of death crash lands in his village. The dragon chooses Will to be his mouthpiece and spy, which makes him grow up very fast and very dark. Eventually, Will escapes to the city, where he adventures first as a vigilante in the sewers and then as a conman in high society.

Unfortunately, this book doesn't hold together quite as well as The Iron Dragon's Daughter. It began as short stories, and the link between each set of adventures is a bit thin. Will himself doesn't really have a set personality. That said, however, Swanwick is not equalled in feypunk. There is no one else with his verve or craft. Even when he's a little off his game, he's still the best in town. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Swanwickprimary authorall editionscalculated
Martiniere, StephanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my father, John Francis Swanwick,
who gave me life

And for William Christian Porter,
who gave me something even more precious
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The dragons came at dawn, flying low and in formation, their jets so thunderous they shook the ground like the great throbbing heartbeat of the world.
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Enslaved by a war-dragon of Babel, young Will evacuates to the Tower of Babel where he meets the confidence trickster,Nat Whilk, and becomes a hero to the homeless living in the tunnels under the city. As he rises from an underling to a politician, Will falls in love with a high-elven woman he dare not aspire to.--From publisher description.

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