Tower Of Babylon
Chiang’s first story of his short story collection, Tower Of Babylon left me a bit bewildered. I like the spare style here but the narrative is too limited for a successful short story. I believe it won the Nebula that year for the ‘religious’ tones of this piece (you’d be surprised how often that ‘itch’ must be scratched!) and not for this stories content. I liked the idea very much, of an actual Babylon but not enough depth here.
All of Hillalum’s senses were disoriented by the sight of it. Sometimes when he looked at the vault, he felt as if the world had flipped around somehow, and if he lost his footing he would fall upward to meet it. When the vault did appear to rest above his head, it had an oppressive weight. The vault was a stratum as heavy as all the world, yet utterly without support, and he feared what he never had in the mines: that the ceiling would collapse upon him. Too, there were moments when it appeared as if the vault were a vertical cliff face of unimaginable height rising before him, and the dim earth behind him was another like it, and the tower was a cable stretched taut between the two. Or worst of all, for an instant it seemed that there was no up and no down, and his body did not know which way it was drawn. It was like fearing the height, but much worse. Often he would wake from an unrestful sleep, to find himself sweating and his fingers cramped, trying to clutch the brick floor.