- File Size: 863 KB
- Print Length: 353 pages
- Publisher: Picador; Main Market edition (June 19, 2014)
- Publication Date: June 19, 2014
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00L2EQODK
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,268 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Stories of Your Life and Others Kindle Edition
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Collected here for the first time, Ted Chiang's award-winning stories--recipients of the Nebula, Sturgeon, Campbell, and Asimov awards--offer a feast of science, speculation, humanity, and lyricism. Standouts include "Tower of Babylon," in which a miner ascends the fabled tower in order to break through the vault of heaven; "Division by Zero," a precise and heartbreaking examination of the disintegration of hope and love; and "Story of Your Life," in which a linguist learns an alien language that reshapes her view of the world. Chiang has the gift that lies at the heart of good science fiction: a human story, beautifully told, in which the science is an expression of the deeper issues that the characters must confront. Full of remarkable ideas and unforgettable moments, Stories of Your Life and Others is highly recommended. --Roz Genessee --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
Todd McLaren was involved in radio for more than twenty years in cities on both coasts. He left broadcasting for a full-time career in voice-overs, where he has been heard on more than 5,000 TV and radio commercials, as well as TV promos, narrations for documentaries on such networks as A&E and the History Channel, and films.
Abby Craden is a professional actress and voice artist who can be heard in numerous TV and radio commercials, video games, and audiobooks. An AudioFile Earphones Award winner as well as an AudioFile Best Voice of 2012, Abby is an award-winning stage actress and a resident artist with the prestigious theater A Noise Within. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
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OVERALL REVIEW: the collection is excellent. This actually feels a bit like reading a collection of Black Mirror episodes; each story is a sort of runaway exploration of a singular "what if?" concept. In fact, each story is written in a distinct style, especially impressive since these were written over the course of many years. Several are in first person, some are told in a distant, omniscient 3rd person, one is told in a confusing 1st and 2nd person narrative. Some are distinctly emotional and colored in vivid emotional tones, some are distant and cold and detached feeling. The stories run the range of ancient, Biblical settings to late 19th century, to modern day, to near future. But overall, this collection of short stories feels satisfying in the sense of each one being standout.
Now I'll give short reviews on each individual story, spoiler free:
TOWER OF BABYLON
This takes place in ancient Babylon, and is ostensibly historically accurate; all the place and people names are real. But this story centers around these ancient people improbably building an enormous tower to heaven, to LITERALLY open the vaults of heaven. The story is told from such a mechanically sound and realistic sense, with so much detail, that as the reader, you're more than willing to set aside some disbelief and go with the premise. The twist to this story is actually just as mechanically mindful as the rest of the telling of the story was, and despite the nature of it, I found it oddly satisfying and quaint.
This story, like Tower of Babylon, and most of the stories, starts out on solid footing before shooting into the sky. The premise is solid and instantly believable in today's world of medical breakthroughs, and involves a patient being brought back from a vegetative state with an experimental drug. But the drug results in some unexpected side-affects ... Ultimately, I found the ending to be bizarre and just about senseless. It's one of those endings that makes me wonder if I'm just too dense or slow to read into it enough to be blown away. That said, the author's literary style during the telling of the story is spot-on, perfectly illustrating through narrative structure the rapid changing of the character themselves.
DIVISION BY ZERO
This is one of the less fantastical stories in this collection, but still uses a specific narrative design to tell a story both literally and figuratively. Of course, this story is also about math, one of my weakest areas, so much of the story kind of flew over my head. However, one of the two characters is not a mathematician, so this creates an opening for some exposition for the less versed readers. In the end, the story is not as much about math ... and I sort of got the ending to this story, but it's one of those things where it would probably help to discuss this with a reading club or a literature class to tease out all of the layered meanings.
STORY OF YOUR LIFE
This is the short-story that is inspiring the movie "Arrival". It's also one of the more interesting and mind bending stories, since it switches narrative styles constantly, and involves flashbacks. Essentially (without spoilers, but this helps first-time readers), there are two time-lines: the main story, in which communication occurs with aliens, and various flashbacks. Making this more intriguing is that the main story is told in 1st person, but the flashbacks are told in 2nd person, in a strange sort of future tense. There's a reason for this, be assured. The eventual ending is emotional in a way I didn't expect and left me wondering about the implications set up. I look forward to seeing the movie version of this, because, like several of these short-stories, this deserves a full-length movie and/or novel adaption.
This takes place in an alternate reality version of late 19th century / early 20th century England. It's hard to say, because the central premise is that the world is built on using combinations of the Hebrew alphabet (a 72 letter combination) to invoke a "name" to induce certain magical qualities in things. I know what I said must sound stupid, but like all of these short stories, the author sets this up in a way that is well grounded, logical, and believable enough for you to set aside disbelief. The author also does a fantastic job of adopting the type of language, slang, and style that would be appropriate for a story told in this time era, making it that much more immersive. That said, I thought the ending was too sudden and weak and like the central conflict was barely resolved.
THE EVOLUTION OF HUMAN SCIENCE
This is the shortest story in the collection, and is written in the style of a magazine article. Thus, it's also only a dozen or so pages in length. Therefore, this functions less like a story, and more like a bit of open-ended speculation on the author's part. This makes this entry the weakest and least satisfying in the collection.
HELL IS THE ABSENCE OF GOD
This is one of the more fantastical and imaginative stories in this collection. It's heavy on the religious speculation, but not preachy by any means. In fact, I liked this story for it's rather interesting and almost darkly comical depiction of a real-world Christian God and his angels. I can't say much more without spoilers, but suffice to say, I rather liked this story. The ending feels trite and odd, but I think I kind of understood it in the context of the rest of the story. And the author's narrative style is perfect, taking on a detached but wizened sort of air, like that of a classic parable or fable.
LIKEING WHAT YOU SEE: A DOCUMENTARY
This story is told in a faux documentary style, like the sections are transcripts of recordings taking from various people being interviewed, along with a few news broadcasts and speeches. There is no back and forth question style here, but more like someone was asked to give their full-length thoughts on something and the story here is that. It actually works pretty well for the premise, which is that a neural implant is developed which deprives people of the ability to recognize facial beauty. This is actually based in true observational science of people that have suffered a brain lesion in a particular part of the brain that controls this. Anyway, the idea is interesting, and explored evenly from both sides of the issue, as to whether such a technology is good or bad. This is less a story and more of a work of speculative, train-of-thought type of story, but it's still very satisfying as a work of fiction.
Overall, I recommend buying this collection of stories. I'd love to see a few of them optioned as TV shows, movies, or full length novel adaptions (beyond just Story of Your Life / Arrival).
Since I did jump to “The Story of Your Life” it approaches its subject, aliens making contact with humans deftly. Chiang makes the aliens, alien, not some anthropomorphic proxy that is supposed to be representative or illustrative of some human characteristic. Chiang is a writer who takes both aspects of the phrase science fiction seriously. The challenge of Louise Bank in “The Story of Your Life” is to find a way to communicate with the aliens, called heptapods. Chiang is well-versed in semiotics. In other stories Chiang very well distills mathematical theory (“Division by Zero”). However, he also doesn’t shy away from fantastic scenarios such as in “Hell is the Absence of God” which posits what the human race and faith would be like if God was a known entity and angels frequently visited earth or at least the physical plane and what their effect on life and lives would be, as well as the effect on faith.
The stories included in “The Stories of Your Life” are so unique and exciting to read I was ready to recommend the book even before I finished “The Story of Your Life.” I’m glad I stuck around to read the other stories as well.
Top international reviews
The collection is a mixed bunch, but if one word can sum it all up it is this: original.
This is a mixture of science-fiction, philosophy, fantasy, possibly metaphysics, and probably other things that is not seen often enough. The collection covers xenolinguistics (OK, we knew that, because of Arrival), golems and the kabbala, mathematics, religion. It neatly weaves all these things and more into stories that surprise, and in combinations that you simply wouldn't expect to find. Some stories are stronger than others, but all are worth reading. For example, I loved Tower of Babylon, but found the ending extremely predictable from very early on, which was a little disappointing. Division by Zero appealed to me (as a mathematician by degree).
If you like your science fiction wide ranging and eclectic, then this is the collection for you.
That story is so much more than just about aliens. You have to read it for yourself to appreciate the brilliance of the way time is manipulated even in the way it is told. All the themes and concerns in the stories are imaginatively and almost preternaturally examined in thought-provoking and startling ways; whether it’s about the value of beauty, the creative power of language and preformation, the question of time (based on the variational principles of physics, no less, as Chiang tells us in his story notes at the end of the collection), how the consistency of maths relate to the way we hold on to absolute truth, and the metacognitive repercussions of finding meaning and pattern in everything you see and understanding your own mind. He even deals with tougher issues like the inherent contradictions of a benevolent God (and His angel visitations) and innocent suffering.
It’s not often that you get a blend of science and literary fiction so richly and seamlessly intertwined. While I struggled to keep up with the expository bits on hard science, I could see how they were integral to the stories. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys science fiction and literary writing.
Moreover, I didn't feel the capacity to foresee the future was fully explored: what changes it triggers in the person, how they adjust to it, how it influences the people around one, etc. I think the author could have made more of that. This must be a totally life-changing skill or personality trait, an alien meme that gets passed on to a human telepathically and not inserted under the skin somehow. It would have been fascinating to see how this dress could fit the human psyche? So I felt a bit let down in this respect.
I liked the ideas behind all the other stories, especially the one which challenges the idea of physical beauty, that was my absolute favourite, although I did not like the ending. It's about a reversible medical procedure that can enable or disable people to recognise beauty either in themselves or in others. It's only about facial beauty, not beauty in nature or art. The idea is that it helps protect children as they grow up from this peer pressure to look a certain way or to be popular, etc, and it shifts the focus away from physical beauty to other personal assets.. Only, there is this snag: the boy who dumps his girlfriend in the story for other girls was quite ugly, but he didn't know it. Both of them have the power of recognising beautiful facial features disabled in the beginning of the story, but later the girl becomes curious about her place in her group of friends and reverses the procedure: she sees with relief that she is beautiful and feels good about it, but also notices that her ex boyfriend is unattractive. She talks so enthusiastically to him about her reversal, that the boyfriend has his medical procedure reversed, too, hence, becoming aware of his own unattractiveness. He quickly gets his procedure done again to find relief from the distress of knowing he is unattractive. I thought he was a bit of a coward to retreat into the lazy option, but was even more perplexed when the beautiful girl decides to have her "beauty-blinds" switched back on for his sake, so that he wouldn't feel upset:( How silly is that?!
But that is my point with all the stories! They start so well and they become so engaging and then the author spoils it all with some weird ending that's supposed to be provocative or super smart, etc. The endings are not good, but everything else is awesome:) I recommend this book: even if you don't like the endings, at least it will make you think about why you don't like them! Great for book groups, I guess, it will keep people talking for ages:))
Though not a jab between the eyes, say like a Philip K Dick short, these are more subtle, like a virus that starts as a tickle in a part of your body before it takes control and lays you out. My personal favourites were Understood, closely followed by Liking What You See; both genius and I suggest you leave the best till last.
If you like to have your world view rocked in lots of different directions, I recommend this.
Like many, I came to you via Arrival - you have a new fan and I will be reading more ... p.s. some of what you describe I actually experience and can induce the same in others. I am sure some of this is not so much fiction as might be thought.