Review of “Tower of Babylon” (1990)


Ted Chiang (writer).

Read in 2017.

The mythical tower in Genesis (ca. 500–400 BCE).

Very well written, with a concept of Yahweh similar to “The Sun and Moon Must Make Their Haste” (1864/1865). The story’s test of the (now) Abrahamic notion of freedom within hard and unexplained rules brought to mind the wrapping coordinate systems typical of early video games like Asteroids and is foregrounded to great effect, whereas in older SF, such as The Door into Summer (1956), a similar rule is posited as a mere plot convenience. Compare “The Edge of the World” (1989), which is much more interested in character and mood than in the idea of flat-earth worldbuilding.

References here: “Story of Your Life” (1998), “Seventy-Two Letters” (2000).

text fiction