- File Size: 227 KB
- Print Length: 47 pages
- Publisher: Beijing Qingse Media Co., Ltd.; 1 edition (April 16, 2012)
- Publication Date: April 16, 2012
- Language: English
- ASIN: B007V3M9TO
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #792,706 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Mountain (Short Stories by Liu Cixin Book 3) Kindle Edition
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Mountain is an interesting novella. I'm not all that fond of novella's, partially because it's difficult to know what to expect. Short stories have to move quickly to fill the reader in or not depending on the way the plot wants to go. Novella's have some time to build things but not really enough for the author to dawdle with.
I think that Liu shows quite a balance in this story. Mountain seems to be a story of a mans ambitions, exemplified by an analogue about a strange species of creature that was born of metal and electronics while housed in a vacuum space in a hollow world.
The story starts out aboard a ship, Bluewater, with the captain talking to Feng Fan. The captain is trying to find out what his geological engineer is all about. The man never takes shore leave.
We find out that Feng Fan was once an ambitious man who, along with a group of other young men had tried to conquer mount Everest. It turns out his real name is Feng Huabei and he was the sole survivor of that failed attempt. It also turns out that he was forced to cut his fellow climbers lines free in order to save his own life. As penance he has exiled himself from what he truly loves which is mountain climbing.
While conversing, a strange light in the sky comes ever closer until they realize that it must be as large as the moon and when it takes up an orbit with the Earth it is so close and so influential that it draws the water upward as if it's a huge watery mountain.
Suffice it to say while the Captain and crew try to escape the impending disaster that will come with an ensuing storm from this; Feng Fan takes a small boat to set out to climb( swim up) this mountain of water.
Finding the task easier than expected its not long before Feng Fan confronts the aliens who are threatening to suck up the Earth's atmosphere.
The rest of the novella is the story of this alien machine intelligence and it's struggle to explore and escape the confines of their small bubble world. Where they change from believing their universe is all solid to discovering a whole world of gases and water and the existential struggle as a species to constantly change their way of viewing their universe.
There are more than a few problems with some elements of their story, but it serves as an interesting different view of life. Though its mostly an allegory, of a sort, for life development of any race of beings.
It seemed to me there's a message and it's that the journey and the exploration are worth anything that you have to give up for it. I'm not sure I entirely agree, but apparently Feng Fan did.
It's interesting fiction and I can see myself reading more of Liu Cixin's work just because it's a fresh look at things seen differently.
Still i guess if you have a bit of time to kill it may be worth a read.
Some writers classify science fiction as either soft, with an emphasis on social situations, or hard, with an emphasis on science. "Mountain" is hard science fiction in its purest form and is best enjoyed by those who prefer that type. While I enjoyed the speculative description that constitutes the bulk of this story, because I prefer soft science fiction, I would have enjoyed it more if the main character was given more psychological depth.
As in "Taking Care of God" the plot revolves around the first contact of humankind with an alien race. However, in Mountain the focus is on the mystery surrounding the aliens and the history of their civilization. In less than 50 pages, the author manages to develop a complete (and amazing) cosmology and introduces more ideas than other authors in 500 pages novels.
Cixin's Mountain is somehow similar in theme and tone to "Exhalation" by Ted Chiang (one of my favorite short stories ever) with the best parts of Incadescence by Greg Egan added in for good measure. Some scenes even reminded me of Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon. Not a bad combination, is it?
Though Mountain is quite a different kind of story, closer to modern hard SF, there are some similarities with "Taking Care of God", especially in the underlying philosophy: both are recounts of the struggles that intelligent species have to face to survive in the Universe and both give a message of hope in spite of these difficulties.
Cixin's prose is fairly simple and functional and he relies maybe a bit too heavily on dialog and infodumps. However, it doesn't detract from the reading experience or from the overall enjoyment of the story.
All considered, Mountain is an excellent novella which reminds me why I love science fiction of ideas so much. If you like short fiction by authors such as Chiang and Egan I strongly recommend that you give Mountain a try. You won't regret it.
(Note: This review was originally published on my blog, Sense of Wonder)