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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
Babel-17 (SF Masterworks, #06) - Samuel R. Delany When you revisit something after a long interval, you never know what you're going to get. A few days ago, I read The Story of the Amulet, the third volume in the E. Nesbit trilogy that starts with Five Children and It. I had been meaning to check this out since I was about 7, but somehow never located a copy. I was worried that I'd left it too late, but in the event there was no problem: it was terrific.

So when I saw a copy of Babel-17 in a second-hand bookstore yesterday, I was optimistic. I remembered thinking it was great when I was 14, so why not re-read it? But this time - oh dear. I clearly recalled finding this novel intelligent and sophisticated, but now it was, I hated to say it, naive. The characters were flat. The ending was ridiculous. And, worst of all, the linguistics was all wrong. Since it's a novel where language is absolutely central to the plot, this was a disaster.

Maybe the problem was that I just liked the book too much as a teen. I thought Rydra Wong, the poetess/linguist heroine, was so amazingly cool that I must have unconsciously internalized some of her valuations. I think I became much more interested in languages partly as a result of reading Babel-17 at an impressionable age, so really it had a very good effect on me. (How about that? An SF heroine who's actually a positive role-model for a teenage boy?) It was unreasonable to expect the book to work a second time: I'd used it up.

I still love Rydra though. I wonder if a bit of her went into Lisbeth Salander? And I'm keeping the four stars I originally gave it. After careful consideration, I think my 14-year-old self judges the book more fairly than I do.