AUDIO

Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence; An Arcane History of The Oxford Translators’ Revolution

HarperAudio Aug. 2022. 21:46 hrs. ISBN 9780063021457. $44.99. FANTASY
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Kuang (The Burning God) is no stranger to tackling difficult topics. Her latest is set at a time of immense change and turmoil in a reimagined 1800s Britain. It tells the story of the Industrial Revolution and colonialism from the perspective of Robin, an orphaned Chinese boy who grows up as a ward in the home of an influential white professor who refuses to acknowledge him and holds racist views of other cultures. Robin is trained in multiple languages to prepare him for admittance to Babel, the prestigious program at Oxford for the empire’s translators. The best “Babblers” can use silver, along with their translations, as tools to power the machines and ships that keep the empire running. This alternate 19th-century Britain differs from our own, but the societal issues remain the same. While absorbing, this is not always an easy read, as it is grim and dense, filled with explanations of etymology and footnotes. The idea to use a separate narrator (Billie Fulford-Brown) to narrate the footnotes is ingenious, enhancing main narrator Chris Lew Kum Hoi’s phenomenal performance and making for a wonderful listening experience.
VERDICT Sure to please fantasy readers. Order this unique and absorbing book in all formats.
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