For the simple joy of a well-executed thriller, Babel is worth putting on one’s to-read list. However, the questions the novel raises are impossible to ignore, and readers should be ready to engage issues of race and politics that remain relevant today. Even though the novel is set in the mid-nineteenth century, it is evident that Kuang’s writing is responding to the concerns of the twenty-first-century West. These questions are undoubtedly important and the way we think about them and shape them in storytelling has a hand in how their answers play out in real life. 

R. F. Kuang’s novel Babel tackles questions of power, language, and race.