Babel by R.F. Kuang

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5) – It Completes Me! 

I don’t jump on many bandwagons, I tend to be that person who refuses to even pick up a book if it gets too much attention, but a good number of Booktubers I trust were talking about R.F. Kuang’s “Babel” this fall and I decided to give it a try. To be clear this book is a biggy. Big books are not my bag, but folks I was NOT disappointed.  “Babel” is an incredible speculative fiction that dives deep into the mess that is colonization. 

Kuang creates a near historical world that includes a tower of Babel where the brightest and the best from the far flung English colonies are recruited to learn language and its mystical power in relationship with silver. This stand-alone novel uses the breadth and depth of 500+ pages to tell a full story of characters as they mature from children to adults and the complications that occur while coming of age. 

What makes this novel stand apart is the care and intentionality for the characters’ emotional range, experiences, understandings and inner and external conflicts especially for the young people torn from their homes and raised to continue to perpetuate the values, ideals and hegemony of colonization.  Throughout this book the effects of colonization on these characters’ mental, spiritual, physical and social health is unflinching while never losing sight of the tender humanity each of them carries and struggles to live fully into. 

There is something for everyone in this novel:

  • Respect for language? Check
  • Social commentary? Check
  • Historical environments? Check
  • Character driven? Check
  • Mystery & suspense? Check
  • Mystical & Magic? Check
  • Complex human emotions & relationships? Check

Kuang has crafted a novel that lingers. I find myself thinking about the characters, the social commentary and my own culpability in the colonizing values. Kuang offers the reader so much in this absolutely stunning novel. I highly recommend everyone take the time to read every single one of these pages.

Happy Reading!

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