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Babel
Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of The Oxford Translators' Revolution | R. F. Kuang
325 posts | 177 read | 5 reading | 95 to read
From award-winning author R. F. Kuang comes Babel, a thematic response to The Secret History? and a tonal retort to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell that grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of language and translation as the dominating tool of the British empire. Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal. 1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day hell enroll in Oxford Universitys prestigious Royal Institute of Translationalso known as Babel. Babel is the world's center for translation and, more importantly, magic. Silver workingthe art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation using enchanted silver barshas made the British unparalleled in power, as its knowledge serves the Empires quest for colonization. For Robin, Oxford is a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge obeys power, and as a Chinese boy raised in Britain, Robin realizes serving Babel means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress, Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to stopping imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence?
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review
katcalvin
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Pickpick

I‘ll just join the chorus of millions singing the praises of this brilliant, brilliant book. What an absolute genius and true gift. R.F. Kuang is a marvel.

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dabbe
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#2024Bracket
@Catsandbooks

BABEL again for the win! 🤩

TheSpineView It's a good book! 3w
dabbe @TheSpineView It sure is! 3w
Catsandbooks Awesome! 💚 3w
51 likes4 comments
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dabbe
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#2024Bracket
#march
@CSeydel

BABEL for this month's win. 😃

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Traci1
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Pickpick

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I think the first half could have been considerably shorter. You can tell Kuang is a huge etymology nerd, and I think people who have similar interest in language and its history will probably feel that it scratches that itch. For me, it was just too much. The story itself, though, was really good, and the final 1/4 of the book was much faster paced and more interesting to me personally.

I'm glad I stuck with it.

dabbe 🤩🤩🤩 3w
58 likes1 stack add1 comment
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Traci1
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I'm really struggling with this one. It's not that it's not good. But it just feels so long. And normally I love long books, but for some reason I keep wanting to put this one down. Ever feel that say? What do you do? Push through? Set it aside for a bit? Ugh. I just kinda want to be done with it.

Leftcoastzen That‘s why I‘m hesitant to start it though some people really loved it! 4w
dabbe I did feel that, too, but then all hell broke loose at the end! Do what feels right to you, though. There are too many other good books out there that might not do that to you. Life‘s too short as it is. 🤩🤩🤩 4w
Traci1 @dabbe I'm not giving up just yet. And I do feel like there'll be a payoff in the end. I just think what I've read so far could have been cut down by half with no real loss. 🤷‍♀️ 4w
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Traci1 @Leftcoastzen I think in the end, I'll be happy I read it. But I think it's longer than necessary. 4w
dabbe @Traci1 Agree 💯!!! 4w
Suet624 I keep plugging along but I whine the entire time. 4w
50 likes1 stack add6 comments
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coffees
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Pickpick

NGL, I'm still gathering my thoughts on this book. I really love that it's focused on linguistics and I need a physical copy! but it's also a story that takes a while to develop. That said, it's interesting from start to finish but I think that's my "problem" with it. It's just so...perfect? LOL. does that make sense? It's obv a 5/5 read but it doesn't *feel* like a 5/5 read. It feels more like a 3.5 read?? But it does have some powerful messages

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majkia
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I enjoyed this at times, got frustrated with it at times, but persevered to the end. Imaginative, but heavy handed at certain points.

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dabbe
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#weeklyfavorites
@Read4Life

Definitely this one. 😃

Read4life Adding it to my TBR! Thanks for participating 💙💙 1mo
dabbe @Read4life It was simply stunning. 💚💙💚 1mo
Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks I‘ve been debating this one! 1mo
dabbe @Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks It's night and day compared to YELLOWFACE. I can't even believe the same person wrote both of them! 🤩 1mo
62 likes1 stack add4 comments
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dabbe
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#Two4Tuesday
@TheSpineView (thanks for the tag!) 😘

1. Sherlock Holmes, of course. I'd try to be his gal Watson. 😃
2. BABEL: talk about roommates! #sheesh

Play? @AmyG @IndoorDame @Cupcake12 @Catiewithac @Sleepswithbooks

TheSpineView Great choices. Thanks for playing! 2mo
AnnCrystal 👏🧐👍. 2mo
dabbe @TheSpineView 💚💙💚 2mo
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dabbe @AnnCrystal 💚💙💚 2mo
Cupcake12 Thanks for the tag x 2mo
dabbe @TheSpineView 🤩😍😃 2mo
dabbe @AnnCrystal 🤩😍😃 2mo
dabbe @Cupcake12 😘 2mo
48 likes8 comments
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dabbe
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Pickpick

STUNNING. Kuang's ode to Oxford is also a love-hate relationship––just like the two sides of the silver bars used magically in this novel to support England's Industrial Revolution in the 1830s as well as their arrogant pursuit of colonialism. Dark academia, meticulous etymology, bildungsroman, speculative fiction that reads like fiction and NF at the same time ... I am completely gobsmacked. I'll be reeling from this one for a long time.

Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks This has been on and off my tbr!! 🖤 2mo
dabbe @Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks I sat on my butt and read 300+ pages yesterday because I just couldn't put it down! 🤩 2mo
lil1inblue This is my favorite read this year so far. I still think about it. Just... WOW. 🤯🤩 2mo
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dabbe @lil1inblue 💯 agree! 🤩 2mo
IMASLOWREADER this is on my list...on waitlist from library 2mo
dabbe @IMASLOWREADER Can't wait to read what you think of it! 🤩 2mo
61 likes6 comments
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CollapsingLibrary
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I‘m really enjoying the book so far but want to know about the stylistic choices of the physical book! Someone who read the book, if you could please help me I‘d greatly appreciate it. In the audiobook, there will be pauses and then a different narrator will speak with more information on a point. Connected but not directly. Are there footnotes? Annotation? Brackets? Why does a woman narrator come in randomly? Haha I like it, just curious!

rabbitprincess Yes, there are footnotes from what I remember 🙂 2mo
dabbe Yes, there are TONS of footnotes. I‘m reading it now, too! 🤩 2mo
55 likes2 comments
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CollapsingLibrary
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Audiobooks have been my savior this month. I‘ve been working long days with long commutes so listening on my drive and then when I get home to cook dinner has been the most reliable way to get any reading in. Though I have been keeping to lighter audiobooks, I think I‘m ready to attempt attacking this novel next with the new headphone my momma got me. Have seen tons of great reviews so I‘m excited!

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ChaoticMissAdventures
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Pickpick

Wow this was so good. I loved that the book was completely immersed in Etymology. The world building - taking such a familiar places and building it out with just a bit of magic was so well done. I listened and read this so that I could get a feeling for the sounds of the non-English words and names, highly recommend the story was a bit too complex for full audio but the narrator does an amazing job.
I will continue thinking about this one.

BkClubCare Extremely ambitious work 👏👏👏 2mo
dabbe I just started Part 2! 🤩 2mo
ChaoticMissAdventures @BkClubCare yes! I kept thinking that as I was reading, very ambitious with her characters, her themes and the creation of the world. 2mo
ChaoticMissAdventures @dabbe I hope you are enjoying it too! I had high hopes and I feel like they were met. I am very impressed that she can write such different books, I read her Yellowface last year and this is so incredibly different. 2mo
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dabbe
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#WondrousWednesday
Thanks for the tag, @Eggs! 😘

1. Scarlett O'Hara from GONE WITH THE WIND. #tomorrowisanotherday
2. Joe Gargery from GREAT EXPECTATIONS. #everthebestoffriendspip
3. Tagged: BABEL.

Play? @Aimeesue @Read4life @BeeCurious @TieDyeDude @WildAlaskaBibliophile @JenReadAlot @The_Penniless_Author @Librarybelle ... if you've read this far, consider yourself also tagged! 🤩

The_Penniless_Author Thanks for the tag, but I already responded. 😊 2mo
lil1inblue Ooh, great picks! I just finished Babel and week and a half ago and I'm still thinking about it. So good. 2mo
SpellboundReader Thanks for the tag. 😍 I will have to think about this one before posting an answer. 2mo
See All 12 Comments
dabbe @The_Penniless_Author You're too popular! 🤩 2mo
dabbe @lil1inblue I'm reading it slowly and savoring it. So well-researched! 🤩 2mo
Librarybelle Thanks for the tag! 2mo
Eggs Thank you for playing and sharing 🤗🤗 2mo
The_Penniless_Author That's certainly the impression I'm trying to cultivate. 😆 2mo
dabbe @Eggs 😘 2mo
45 likes12 comments
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EmmaMae
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Pickpick

A slow first half with strong world building and then an action packed final half/third.

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lil1inblue
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Pickpick

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (5/5)
I cannot stop thinking about this book. It was so ambitious, and RF Kuang executed every element to perfection. I was struck, of course, by the powerful statement it makes about colonialism, but it was the bits about the power and limits of translation that really tickled my brain. I'm simply in awe of this book.

Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks Great review! Stacked 📚 2mo
dabbe I'm reading it right now and absolutely loving it! ❤️💜🩷 2mo
16 likes2 stack adds2 comments
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dabbe
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#BookNotes
@Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks
#LitsyLoveReads

To go along with BABEL (the tagged book), how about “Land of Confusion“ by Genesis? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yq7FKO5DlV0

For those interested, here's a link to a Spotify playlist for all #booknotes tunes:
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0BweE8nr34nXd8ooqLtjey

Care to play? @AnnR @Amieesue @AmyG @itchyfeetreader @Crazeedi @IndoorDame + any and all! 🤩

AmyG Thanks for the tag but I am off to SF. 2mo
dabbe @AmyG I thought you were already there. Safe travels! Hope your daughter is doing better. 🩷💜❤️ 2mo
Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks 🎤📀🎵 2mo
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Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks How is this one? I stacked it! 2mo
dabbe @Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks I am digging it! It reads like history, but it has magic. In a way it reminds me of A NIGHT CIRCUS. And I loved her book YELLOWFACE, so I had to read this one, too. It's long, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it. 🤩 2mo
Crazeedi Thanks for the tag! Not sure I can think of a song for the book I'm reading 2mo
Crazeedi @AmyG safe travels Amy!! 2mo
48 likes8 comments
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dabbe
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#FirstLineFridays
@ShyBookOwl

“By the time Professor Richard Lowell found his way through Canton's narrow alleys in the faded address in his diary, the boy was the only on in the house left alive.“

lil1inblue This is one of my current reads. It's so good! 2mo
ShyBookOwl I've heard good things about this one! 2mo
64 likes2 comments
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jen_the_scribe
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1. I‘m easy to please so no big deal for me, just feeling thought of is nice… even just a nice card will do. But I also love giving gifts to my hubby and our kids.

2. Tagged. The point of the book isn‘t about love, but the MC and his friends love each other dearly and connect on a deep level throughout all the chaos.

#Two4Tuesday @TheSpineView

TheSpineView Loved Babel. Thanks for playing! 2mo
13 likes1 comment
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jen_the_scribe
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Pickpick

This was almost a so-so for me because there were slow parts and some redundant/repetitive parts. I also wished we had seen more of the Hermes Society and more of the magic. But I loved the characters (except for one but I won‘t spoil it for anyone) and loved the historical/academic references. The narrator was great too. The overall theme calling out colonialism and all its trauma was a powerful and necessary one.

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BarkingMadRead
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Today‘s haul from the New Orleans book crawl that my hubby organized for me 🥹🥹 we still have a few more to visit, probably tomorrow

AnnR Nice! I'll look forward to your thoughts about How to Save Time. Based on the reviews it looks like readers really, really loved it or were incredibly disappointed in it. 3mo
BarkingMadRead @AnnR I feel like that‘s all of his books 🤣 I loved Midnight Library, so I‘m hopeful 3mo
5feet.of.fury Some day I‘m actually going to read The Witching Hour 3mo
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5feet.of.fury I really liked both Blacktop Wasteland & Babel 3mo
Bluebird Great haul! I loved Babel and The Witching Hour 3mo
Leftcoastzen Woo Hoo! 3mo
56 likes6 comments
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rachelk
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Pickpick

I enjoyed this ambitious, sweeping novel — Oxford in the 1830‘s, a good cast of diverse characters and informed writing regarding language, history and culture. I only regret having had big expectations for magic, fantasy and world building. Instead, enchanted silver bars were mostly a stand in for the Industrial Revolution, leaving our reality relatively unchanged. However, as a fan of dark academia and historical fiction I found it quite good.

41 likes1 stack add
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Texreader
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From HPB today for #authoramonth @Soubhiville

5feet.of.fury Babel was good! I‘m hoping to read Poppy War for #authoramonth too! 3mo
Texreader @5feet.of.fury I‘m very excited about Babel. 3mo
Soubhiville I‘m planning to read Babel as well. It‘s hefty, but I hear it‘s excellent. 3mo
54 likes3 comments
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Lovelylottereader
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Pickpick

This is probably the most brilliant piece of historical fiction I have ever read and could very well be the best book I read this year. It‘s the first one.
There‘s too much to praise about this book for me to make a coherent statement. The characters, the plot, the setting, the depiction of friendships, the betrayals, the list goes on. It‘s so well written.
Let‘s just say it‘s been a while since a book has impacted me this much emotionally.
5⭐️

Texreader Yay!!! I just bought this one today 3mo
Lovelylottereader @Texreader Great choice!! 3mo
2 likes2 comments
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Lovelylottereader

We‘re not the only ones.

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Lovelylottereader

She learned revolution is, in fact, always unimaginable. It shatters the world you know. The future is unwritten, brimming with potential.

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Lovelylottereader

“That‘s just what translation is, I think. That‘s all speaking is. Listening to the other and trying to see past your own biases to glimpse what they‘re trying to say. Showing yourself to the world, and hoping someone else understands.”

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Lovelylottereader

Language was just difference. A thousand different ways of seeing, of moving through the world. No; a thousand worlds within one.

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Lovelylottereader
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His thoughts flew about, casting desperately for anything to think about that was not this. He landed not on coherent memories but on hyperspecific details — the salty weight of the air at sea, the length of Victoire‘s eyelashes, the hitch in Ramy‘s voice just before he burst out into full-bellied laughter. He clung to them, lingered there as long as he could, refused to let his mind go anywhere else.

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Lovelylottereader
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“Tell them what we did. Make them remember us.”

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Lovelylottereader

“Be selfish,” he whispered. “Be brave.”

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Lovelylottereader
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“I want to live.”

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Lovelylottereader
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“We have to die to get their pity,” said Victoire. “We have to die for them to find us noble. Our deaths are thus great acts of rebellion, a wretched lament that highlights their inhumanity. Our deaths become their battle cry. But I don‘t want to die, Robin. […] I want to live.”

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Lovelylottereader
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“I don‘t know how to go on.”
“Day by day, Birdie.” Her eyes filled with tears. “You go on, day by day. Just as we‘ve been doing.”

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Lovelylottereader
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They were no longer a cohort. Now they were only a wake.

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Lovelylottereader
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“You have to believe there‘s an after,” she murmured. “They did.”
“They were better than us.”
“They were.” She curled around his arm. “But it all still wound up in our hands, didn‘t it?”

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Lovelylottereader

“I just don‘t like thinking of us as history when we haven‘t even yet made a mark on the present.”

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Lovelylottereader
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“This country can‘t last a month without us. We strike until they bend.”

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Lovelylottereader

“Dead pigs don‘t fear scalding water.”
She gave him a wan smile. “In for a penny, in for a pound.”
“We‘re dead men walking.”
“But that‘s what makes us frightening.” She set the lamp down between them. “We‘ve nothing left to lose.”

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Lovelylottereader
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He had a sudden, very clear vision of the tower in ruins. He wanted it to shatter. He wanted it to, for once, feel the pain that had made possible its rarefied existence. “I want it to crumble.”
Victoire‘s throat pulsed, and he knew she was thinking of Anthony, of gunshots, of the wreckage of the Old Library. “I want it to burn.”

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Lovelylottereader

Power did not lie in the tip of a pen. Power did not work against its own interests. Power could only be brought to heel by acts of defiance it could not ignore.

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Lovelylottereader
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It seemed to deny the laws of physics that Ramiz Rafi Mirza could be silenced by something so tiny as a bullet.

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Lovelylottereader

Grief suffocated. Grief paralysed. Grief was a cruel, heavy boot pressed so hard against his chest that he could not breathe. Grief took him out of his body, made his injuries theoretical. He was bleeding, but he didn‘t know where from.

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Lovelylottereader

Defying empire, it turned out, was fun.

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Lovelylottereader

“It‘s hard to accept what you don‘t want to see.”

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Lovelylottereader

“Have you ever considered you might better make your point by being nice?”
“Nice comes from the Latin word for “stupid”,” said Griffin. “We do not want to be nice.”

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Lovelylottereader

Anger was a chokehold. Anger did not empower you. It sat on your chest; it squeezed your rubs until you felt trapped, suffocated, out of options. Anger simmered, then exploded. Anger was constriction, and the consequent rage a desperate attempt to breathe.
And rage, of course, came from madness.

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REPollock
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Pickpick

The pacing in this novel is odd and sometimes plodding. The concept and plot are engaging enough that I still read it avidly.

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Lovelylottereader

“You fly no one‘s flag. You‘re free to seek your own harbour. And you can do so much more than tread water.”

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Lovelylottereader

“Languages aren‘t just made of words. They‘re modes of looking at the world. They‘re the keys to civilisation. And that knowledge is worth killing for.”