Audiobooks, ratings, reviews (beta)

Babel : or the necessity of violence


a statue in Oxford, decorative

Author: R.F. Kuang –

Publisher: HarperAudio –

Genre: Speculative Fiction –

Overall rating: 5/5 –

Writing: 5/5 –

Duration: 21:46 h (long) –

Narrators: Billie Fulford-Brown, Chris Lew Kum Hoi –

Narrator/performance: 5/5 –

Impressions: 5/5 –

Performance errors: 0/5 –

Complexity/reading level: 3/5 –

Audience: General


The full title of this work is “Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of The Oxford Translators’ Revolution” (2022).

I categorized it as speculative fiction, not sure whether it is fantasy or science fiction. The book’s action takes place in alternative XIXth century where certain kinds of industrial magic are possible. I believe it is, nevertheless, not steampunk.

I am not going to disclose any parts of the story here. I was fortunate to dive into this book without any preparation or warning. I was intrigued by Author’s introduction concerning his description of Oxford (by the way, if you like fiction situated in Oxford, try Inspector Morse). I was delighted to find the book filled with Chinese and Cantonese words and sounds (they are a little addictive, you know). I was happy that the story featured actual etymology discussions (as opposed to only trying to). I enjoyed the story until the end.

The story is, perhaps unfortunately, for a young reader. It is very serious, at times heavy handed and very long. Despite being serious, it remains rather brisk and bright. I am not sure whether this was the right choice (eat the cake and have it too?). Perhaps the story could be a little darker after all. The ideas contained in the book are, however, so original that the book can only be given the highest praise. It is written with a flair and produced with dedication and confident professionalism.

Babel audiobook cover

All “Babel” covers are very nice. This one is possible the least informative which is pretty adequate for an audiobook cover. The colors are perhaps too plastic, I would not mind a little more artistic choice on it.

Cover Photo by Samuel Isaacs on Unsplash