Exhalation: Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, 7 May 2019
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“A collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feel more human. The best kind of science fiction.”
—Barack Obama, via Facebook
“Illuminating, thrilling. . . . Like such eclectic predecessors as Philip K. Dick, James Tiptree, Jr., Jorge Luis Borges, Ursula K. Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, China Miéville, and Kazuo Ishiguro, Chiang has explored conventional tropes of science fiction in highly unconventional ways. . . . Individual sentences possess the windowpane transparency that George Orwell advocated as a prose ideal. . . . It is both a surprise and a relief to encounter fiction that explores counterfactual worlds like these with . . . ardor and earnestness. . . . Human curiosity, for Chiang, is a nearly divine engine of progress.”
—Joyce Carol Oates, The New Yorker
“Masterful and striking. . . . A fusion of pure intellect and molten emotion. . . . Represents the ideal definition and practice of all science fiction. . . . [Chiang’s] career thus deservedly joins those of only a handful of past masters who likewise did their best work in miniature: Edgar Allan Poe, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon. . . . His challenging and rewarding fiction proves that a sizable and appreciative audience exists for the kind of speculative fiction that doesn’t merely offer cosmic explosions, but instead plucks both heartstrings and gray matter in equal measure.”
—Paul Di Filippo, The Washington Post
“Deeply beautiful. . . . These stories are carefully curated into a conversation that comes full circle, after having traversed extraordinary terrain. . . . [Exhalation] is as generous as it is marvelous, and I’m left feeling nothing so much as grateful for it.”
—Amal El-Mohtar, The New York Times Book Review
“A master of the form. [Chiang’s] new collection of nine stories—theming free will and choice, virtual reality and regret—is so provocative, imaginative, and soulful that it makes Black Mirror look drab and dull by comparison.”
—David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly, “The 10 best books of 2019...so far”
“Delirious and exciting as hell . . . [Chiang’s] stories brim with wonder and horror, spectacle and mundanity, philosophy and religion. Tapping into a range of speculative traditions, from pulp and fantasy to the rigorous scientific accuracy of hard sci-fi and the popcorn thrills of soft sci-fi, his work has a profound richness.”
—Stephen Kearse, The Nation
“A handful of living science fiction writers have attained godlike status—N.K. Jemisin, Cixin Liu, and Ann Leckie, to name a few. But Ted Chiang is the only one who’s done it without writing a novel. In fact, he’s published far less than his neighbors on the genre’s current Mount Rushmore, usually just one short story every two years. But oh, his stories. They’re a religious experience. . . . In Exhalation, which could be subtitled ‘Black Mirror For Optimists,’ every story seems crafted with one objective in mind—pure awe. . . . A moving book about fate and free will that is destined to become a literary landmark of the 2010s.”
—Adam Morgan, The A.V. Club
“These are humane, skillfully assembled stories, populated by vivid and memorable characters. . . . [Chiang’s] best stories boast a beguiling mix of compassion and awe. . . . His versatility and intellectual restlessness have yielded an immensely pleasing book.”
—Kevin Canfield, San Francisco Chronicle
“As much thought experiments as stories, Ted Chiang’s exquisite mechanisms employ science fiction as an instrument to probe the human condition. Like the chronicler of Exhalation’s title narrative, he opens the back of his own head and lays bare its mysterious golden motion for the hushed appreciation of an awestruck audience. Beautifully written and conceived, this is a marvelous, astonishing collection that we would do well to read before the worlds it conjures are upon us. Urgently recommended.”
“Exquisite. . . . The stories in Exhalation are a shining example of science fiction at its best. They take both science and humanism deeply seriously.”
—Constance Grady, Vox
“Ted Chiang writes with such a matter-of-fact grace and visionary power that one simply takes on faith that his worlds and his characters exist, whether they are human or robot or parrot; he is the rare author who makes me feel, also, that he believes in his readers, in our integrity and our imagination.”
—Karen Russell, author of Orange World
“Ted Chiang has no contemporary peers when it comes to the short story form. His name deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Carver, Poe, Borges, and Kafka. Every story is a universe. Every story is a diamond. You will inhale Exhalation in a single, stunned sitting, because true genius doesn’t come along nearly as often as advertised. This is the real thing.”
—Blake Crouch, author of Dark Matter
“Exquisitely crafted. . . . One after another, Chiang’s stories claim their place in your mind until you’re completely swept up in his provocative and at times even charming world. . . . Each story is a carefully considered, finely honed machine. . . . What makes Exhalation particularly brilliant is that not one of the stories feels like it’s designed to be thought-provoking in a stilted, academic way. Chiang is an entertaining, empathetic writer first, before being one of contemporary sci-fi’s intellectual powerhouses, and each story reads that way. . . . [Chiang is] one of the most exciting voices in his field.”
—BookPage (starred review)
“Chiang’s long-awaited second collection. . .continues to explore emotional and metaphysical landscapes with precise and incisive prose. . . . Chiang remains one of the most skilled stylists in sf, and this will appear to genre and literary-fiction fans alike.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“An instant classic. . . . Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Chiang produces deeply moving drama from fascinating first premises. . . . These stories are brilliant experiments, and his commitment to exploring deep human questions elevates them to among the very best science fiction.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Chiang is always thought provoking, and his latest collection is no exception.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
About the Author
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- Publisher : Knopf (7 May 2019)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1101947888
- ISBN-13 : 978-1101947883
- Item Weight : 544 g
- Dimensions : 15.04 x 2.62 x 21.72 cm
- Country of Origin : USA
- Best Sellers Rank: #306,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from India
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Most of these short stories had been published previously, but nevertheless, the range of ideas that these stories explore and the imagination behind them is extremely impressive. These nine stories cover a gamut of ideas that include a doorway that allows one to travel 20 years, intelligent digital objects, a robotic nanny, the ability to recall any memory instantly, and a device to communicate with oneself in other branches of the universe.
My favourite stories include The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate, written like an Arabian Nights story, that uses time travel to explore lessons learnt by the protagonists from their experiences. In The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling, Chiang explores the delicate balance between mimi (what one considers right) and vough (a precise fact) through two sub-stories involving colonised tribesmen's struggles with written words replacing oral memories and a modern world where humans can recall any memory instantly. Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom explores greed, regret and redemption using the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, in which humans can communicate and collaborate with versions of their self in other branches of the universe.
The problem with anthologies, as to be expected, is one of mixed quality of the stories. For example, and the reason for only a 4-star rating, The Lifecycle Of Software Objects takes up a third of the book and fails to grip. It talks about the gradual maturing of AI objects (called digients) and their ability to experience love, independence and even sexual attractions. But overall, Chiang's imagination, the variety in the stories, and the underlying messages in them make Exhalation a satisfying read.
Pros: Very imaginative, wide range of ideas, couples science fiction with human nature, well-written
Cons: Disparate quality with a less interesting story taking a third of the book
Exhalation takes off with a fabulous tale of time-travel and ends with an incisive commentary on free will and it's effect on our choices.
A number of stories deal with the subject of free will. The book explores quite a few possibilities how free will can affect our character, our future behaviour, and even time travel. The stories that I liked most are:
*The merchant and the alchemist gate* : A novel approach towards time travel.
*Exhalation*: Deals with how we can extract meaning even in the face of inevitability of death of our universe.
*Omphalos*: We know we are not the centre of our universe, what if we find someone else who is.
*Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom*:
And the book is...how do I put it... exhilarating. Even if you are not an sff buff, you should definitely read it. Since it's an anthology and each story has a different way of telling itself (which should say a lot about Chiang's writing prowess as he aces them most of the time) it would be hard to review them with just a sentence or two and unfair too, for this wonderful work.
Top reviews from other countries
That comment aside, this is a fine collection. ‘The Great Silence’ is a melancholy alternative perspective on communication with alien life and respect for her environment. ‘The Truth Of Fact, The Truth of Feeling’ explores the nature of memory and social relations. ‘What’s Expected of Us’ – previously published in the science journal ‘Nature’ – is both amusing and troubling. ‘The Lifecycle of Software Objects’ is full of good ideas but its length does make one wonder whether Chiang’s unique abilities actual work at anything beyond the short story form. (In this respect he reminds me of James Tiptree/Alice Sheldon.) ‘The Merchant And The Alchemist’s Gate’ is about time travel, and loss, and (that key Chiang interest) determinism. Finally, there is the title story, which starts as an intriguing scientific puzzle and ends with an exhalative view of existence that reminds me of Heidegger and which never fails to move me to tears.
The quality of Chiang’s work is very high. If he does not produce much volume then perhaps that is part of the equation. I still think that he is one of the most exciting things to have happened to SF in years. I’m happy to wait whilst he takes his time.
it is very hard to review short stories without spoilers, so I won't. But if you loved Story of Your Life, then there are things in here to delight you. As with that collection, this one isn't all perfect, but light and share matters in life.
At times the pace becomes laborious and takes some effort, but if you keep chipping away the structure that is revealed is magnificent. Each story is an epiphany.
The book feels like a philosophical treatise on current science extrapolated ab absurdum. Not a light read but a rewarding one