Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

October Books 7) Babel-17

7) Babel-17, by Samuel R. Delany

I've read only one Delany novel before, one of his minor ones (either The Towers of Toron or The Fall of the Towers, not sure which) and wasn't wildly impressed. This is miles better, and helps me understand why he developed the early reputation that he did. I had been expecting something like a half-way point between Zelazny and Dick; in fact, Delany comes across as more disciplined than either. A lot of Babel-17 is about sensing the universe in a different way - Delany's spaceships require three navigators, an Eye, an Ear and a Nose, who experience space by visual, auditory and olfactory means; and the language Babel-17 itself, the centre of the whole mystery, is also about a new way of understanding the universe. Where a Dick novel would leave you wondering if it all made sense, Delany leaves you in no doubt that there is a real universe out there and it's just a matter of how you choose to interact with it. As for the Zelazny comparison, Zelazny would sometimes let his joy of writing get in the way of having a sensible plot; but Delany's plot is actually rather simple, and as it turns out almost cliched. There's also an aspect all Delany's own, which is the polyamory of several key characters - indeed, one former lover of our heroine is the rather transparently anagrammatic writer Muels Aranlyde.

OK, only 8 more Nebula winners to go...
Tags: bookblog 2005, poc, sf: nebulas, writer: samuel r delany
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