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The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories Paperback – October 4, 2016
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From Publishers Weekly
Questions of identity galvanize the 15 stories in this outstanding collection of fantastical fiction, giving them extraordinary gravity and resonance. In "Good Hunting," the human companion of a supernatural creature from Chinese folklore contrives an ingenious way to help her adapt to a steampunk future. The title tale (which swept the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards), in which a mother expresses love for her son through the magically animated origami animals she creates, is one of several in which the author uses Chinese-American experience to explore how all individuals assimilate into society. Whether writing about Asian culture and history, as in "The Literomancer" and "All the Flavors," or extraterrestrial civilizations, as in "The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species" and "An Advanced Reader's Picture Book of Comparative Cognition," Liu (The Grace of Kings) universalizes the experiences of his characters, who realize at some point, as the protagonist of "Mono No Aware" does, that "we are defined by the places that we hold in the web of others' lives." Gracefully written and often profoundly moving, these stories are high-water marks of contemporary speculative fiction. (Mar.)\n --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"I know this is going to sound hyperbolic, but when I’m reading Ken Liu’s stories, I feel like I’m reading a once-in-a-generation talent. I’m in awe." (Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet)
Questions of identity galvanize the 15 stories in this outstanding collection of fantastical fiction, giving them extraordinary gravity and resonance. In "Good Hunting," the human companion of a supernatural creature from Chinese folklore contrives an ingenious way to help her adapt to a steampunk future. The title tale (which swept the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards), in which a mother expresses love for her son through the magically animated origami animals she creates, is one of several in which the author uses Chinese-American experience to explore how all individuals assimilate into society. Whether writing about Asian culture and history, as in "The Literomancer" and "All the Flavors," or extraterrestrial civilizations, as in "The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species" and "An Advanced Reader's Picture Book of Comparative Cognition," Liu (The Grace of Kings) universalizes the experiences of his characters, who realize at some point, as the protagonist of "Mono No Aware" does, that "we are defined by the places that we hold in the web of others' lives." Gracefully written and often profoundly moving, these stories are high-water marks of contemporary speculative fiction. (Mar.) (Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW Feb 29, 2016)
These remarkable stories highlight Liu’s themes of family, love, and politics and gathered in one collection pack an even bigger punch. Those who revere shorter speculative works will definitely want this book. (*STARRED REVIEW, Library Journal February 26th, 2016)
Emotionally unpredictable, Liu's stories take off in unexpected directions and arrive at destinations both startling and satisfying. (Shelf Awareness, *STARRED REVIEW March 25th, 2016)
Liu’s wondrous tales eloquently explore the place where ordinary and the extraordinary meet. (The Washington Post March 22nd, 2016)
Selected as “14 of the Most Buzzed About Books of 2016” (BuzzFeed March 30th, 2016)
There is a dark and sometimes shocking edge to some of these stories, but nearly all are provocative, and several are brilliant. (The Chicago Tribune April 6th, 2016)
Liu's book compiles brilliant stories written in several different, overlapping modes, a technically dazzling collection of compulsively readable narratives, presenting characters with agonizing moral dilemmas and never forgetting the heart. (The Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee) March 18th, 2016)
Liu’s talent in evoking atmosphere and culture make these tales more than stories – they’re journeys. If you’re looking to dream of another world, or reflect on our own, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of The Paper Menagerie. (Muggle.net March 8th, 2016)
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Top Customer Reviews
"Mono no aware" was my favorite story. It translates to (according to Wikipedia) "an empathy toward things" or "awareness of the transience of things" with an obviously sad connotation. This story was worth the price of the collection, but that's not to say that there aren't plenty of other gems.
It's important that we read short fiction as well as novels, because short stories are where authors are the most playful with styles, genres, plots, etc. With the shorter works we can witness great experimentation. That said, I greatly respect Mr. Liu's writings, and am currently reading The Wall of Storms, his epic fantasy.
Now, if you want pure science fiction at the highest level, please read Ted Chiang's collection, Story of Your Life. THAT is a 5-star collection. Lamentably, he is not as prolific as Mr. Liu.
The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species: A summary of how alien civs read and view books. Maybe a reread. 3.5/5
State Change: What would happen if your soul was a separate, everyday object, and yours was an icecube? Interesting magical realism story. 4/5
The Perfect Match: Tilly watching you all the time, knows how you like to wake up, your favorite foods, who would make the best match, and you invited her in, just like (almost) everyone else has. Until a new neighbor moves in who has a different opinion about Tilly. Well written, good story, if a bit familiar. 4/5
Good Hunting: A boy forges a friendship with a fox-girl as children, a friendship that lasts as they grow, when industrialization takes away the magic in their lives. I could've read an entire novel with this story. 4.5/5
The Literomancer: When Lily moves to China with her military family during the 1960s, she misses Texas. The girls at the base school pick on her, and she wants to be a bull rider. But when she tries to ride a water buffalo one day, she makes unexpected friends with some locals. I have mixed feelings about this one. I loved the first part, but in the last 3rd people started having conversations that I didn't believe the characters would have, and that sounded nothing like dialogue. I just didn't believe the end. But the beginning was soo good. 4/5
Simulacrum: The inventor of the simulacrum, a program that records people and projects them into real life, has problems with his daughter. 3/5
The Regular: A Chinese escort is murdered, and her mother hires a private detective to find out why and who. To numb her pain and make her body better, the detective has artificially enhanced all her body parts, and installed a regulater--that regulates emotions so you can make calm decisions. This is common practice, though she uses it more than recommended. 3.5/5
The Paper Menagerie: A boy's Chinese mother makes him origami animals that move after she breathes into them. Touching magical realism story, and a reread. 4.5/5
An Advanced Reader’s Picture Book of Comparative Cognition (previously unpublished): How the brains work of various aliens, combined with the story of a child and mother who wants to go to the stars. 2/5
The Waves: A ship is on a 400 yr. course to a new planet, when they're informed of a new tech on Earth that will make humans immortal. This short story explores the ways humans can be remade and still be human. Very interesting read. 4.5/5
Mono no aware: Reread, but still cried. With earth's imminent destruction coming, countries hurriedly build spaceships, but the US is the only one to build one in time. The young narrator is the only Japanese member of that crew to another planet. 5/5
All the Flavors: A Chinese legendary hero moves to the US West to mine for gold, and makes friends with a little girl. I like the characterization on this one, though it didn't seem to have an ending. 3.5/5
A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel: Reread. A worker remembers the time he spent building a tunnel connecting countries beneath the Pacific ocean. Depressing story. 3/5
The Litigation Master and the Monkey King: A lawyer takes up the cases of the poor, but when his poor neighbor asks him to help her outlaw brother, he has to choose how much of a hero he wants to be. 3/5
The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary: The story of Unit 731--where more than 250,000 people (Chinese mostly) were experimented on and tortured by the Japanese during WWII. This is a documentary of a man who created a time machine that enables a person to travel into the past and revisit a moment of history, but once they've been, no one else can revisit. Very depressing, but also much needed. I was aware of some of the atrocities, but not this one in particular. It's hard to accurately 'rate' this one, because I think it's an important short story, but at this point in the collection, I'm completely burned out on death, and this is the most depressing of them all. 3.5/5
I am not normally a reader of short stories because the stories are often (too-often for me) widely varying in both quality and interest. And, I do not read books of short fiction from cover to cover over a few days like novels. They make great reading when I'm between novels. Well, I started this with all that in mind. That plan didn't last long. The pages turned themselves making me (making me!) read and read and read. (This book made me do it!)
The quality of the writing is far beyond what I was expecting. The variety is amazing. There is a special skill needed to write short fiction. Each word must be carefully chosen. Each paragraph must move the story forward. Ken Liu knows how to do those things. There is fantasy, there is science fiction, there is even some mystery thrown in, plus there are some that I won't try to slot into any genre or hyphenated-sub-sub-genre. What was impressive was the consistency of the internal logic of each story.
I had volume one of his “Grace of Kings” series on my Amazon Wish List since it came out. At about page 20 of this book I went ahead and bought it. It will join my TBR pile that already has a couple of hundred books in it – but really close to the top. This is a writer to watch as he heads for the top of his profession, and he will stay there.