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R.F. Kuang creates an ingenious fantasy set up for Babel – fiendishly appealing to writers and lovers of books: set in nineteenth century Oxford, the industrial revolution in Britain is powered by words. Specifically, words inscribed onto silver bars and translated into other languages, the subtle differences in meaning between which, create magical dissonance that can be highly useful.Professor Playfair picked up the bar on the far right.“We’ve sold quite a few copies of this bar to fishermen. The Greek ‘karabos’ has a number of different meanings including ‘boat’, ‘crab’, or ‘beetle’. Where do you think the associations come from?”“Function?” Ramy ventured. “Were the boats used for catching crabs?”“Good try, but no.”“The shape,” Robin guessed. As he spoke it made more sense. “Think of a galley with rows of oars. They’d look like scuttling legs, wouldn’t they? Wait – scuttle, sculler …”“You’re getting carried away, Mr Swift. But you’re on...