It took me quite some time to really gather my thoughts after finishing Babel, I think this is one of those books that is going to stick with me for a while. Although it’s written in a fantasy version of our world, some of the issues are ones that make you think about our own history.
Babel takes place in an alternate version of the world, in which silver enhanced with magic in the form of engraved words, is partially responsible for the rise of the British Empire.
The story is told mainly from the view of Robin, a boy born in Canton China and taken to England after the death of his entire family. There he is tutored in several languages, and when he is old enough he is sent to Babel, a school for translation in Oxford, where he is taught to use his translating skills in the the magical art of silver working.
The first half of Babel is a bit slow, as we watch Robin grow up and see him spend his first few years at Babel. At about the halfway mark, the story really starts to gain speed, as Robin and his small circle of friends become part of a secret society which disagrees with how the British Empire uses their translating skills to conquer the homelands of the translators, and become richer in the process.
I really enjoyed how much detail there was about the history of language in this novel. I also liked how much this book made me think about our own history, and the effects of colonization on various parts of the world. This was an emotional and thought provoking read.