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Stories of Your Life and Others Paperback – 30 September 2020
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United by a humane intelligence that speaks very directly to the reader, and makes us experience each story with immediacy and Chiang's calm passion. ― China Miéville, Guardian
Ted is a national treasure... each of those stories is a goddamned jewel. ― Cory Doctorow
Meticulously pieced together, utterly thought through, Chiang's stories emerge slowly...but with the perfection of slow-growing crystal. ― Lev Grossman
Chiang writes seldom, but his almost unfathomably wonderful stories tick away with the precision of a Swiss watch - and explode in your awareness with shocking, devastating force. ― Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
He puts the science back in science fiction - brilliantly. ― Booklist (Starred Review)
[Chiang] confirms that blending science and fine art at this length can produce touching works, tales as intimate as our own blood cells, with the structural strength of just-discovered industrial alloys. ― Seattle Times
Essential. You won't know SF if you don't read Ted Chiang. ― Greg Bear
Chiang is the real deal. His debut collection, Stories of Your Life and Others is one of the finest collections of short fiction I have read in the last decade. These tales possess the imaginative frisson that is a trademark of the best conceptual fiction, but, also bespeak a confident prose style and a willingness to take chances in tone and narrative structure. ― Ted Gioia
His stories mirror the process of scientific discovery: complex ideas emerge from the measured, methodical accumulation of information until epiphany strikes. . . . The best science fiction inspires awe for the natural properties of the universe . . . Mr Chiang's writing manages all of this. ― The Economist blog
From the Back Cover
With Stories of Your Life and Others, his masterful first collection, multiple-award-winning author Ted Chiang deftly blends human emotion and scientific rationalism in eight remarkably diverse stories, all told in his trademark precise and evocative prose.
From a soaring Babylonian tower that connects a flat Earth with the firmament above, to a world where angelic visitations are a wondrous and terrifying part of everyday life; from a neural modification that eliminates the appeal of physical beauty, to an alien language that challenges our very perception of time and reality, Chiang’s rigorously imagined fantasia invites us to question our understanding of the universe and our place in it.
‘United by a humane intelligence that speaks very directly to the reader, and makes us experience each story with immediacy and Chiang’s calm passion.’ China Miéville
‘Essential. You won’t know SF if you don't read Ted Chiang’ Greg Bear
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- Publisher : Picador (30 September 2020); MACMILLAN DISTRIBUTION (MDL) BRUNEL ROAD, HOUNDMILLS BASINGSTOKE Hampshire RG21 6X S01256 329242
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1529039436
- ISBN-13 : 978-1529039436
- Item Weight : 220 g
- Dimensions : 13 x 2.4 x 19.6 cm
- Country of Origin : United Kingdom
- Generic Name : Books
- Best Sellers Rank: #65,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Let me start with Story of Your Life. This is not another alien invasion story. It addresses a different scenario altogether. How to communicate with a species whose language is entirely different from any language that exists on the Earth? The way Ted Chiang introduces the beauty of science and linguistics along with love and relationship of a mother and a daughter is brilliant and beautiful. The way Louise explains watching her daughter grow up makes you fall in love with the character!
I can write a three-page review just about this story. But I shouldn't limit this to just one story. Although I loved this one the most, I liked all the stories. Each story centres around a particular theme. It could be a problem, facet of the society in the present or past, varying from myths and religion to beauty and science.
Two of my other favourites are ‘Hell Is the Absence of God’ and ‘Liking What You See: A Documentary’. The former focuses on religion while the latter deals with the perception of humans based on others' looks, or as he describes in the story, 'lookism’. The first is set within a world where the concepts of religion and faith are built upon facts and logic. Both are wonderful!
Sometimes, I felt like I was watching an episode of 'Black Mirror' while reading these stories! If you have time to read, think and comprehend, I recommend you this book. This is the best Sci-Fi short story collection I've read so far.
1.) “Tower of Babylon:” The Biblical myth re-imagined. What if god didn’t sabotage construction by introducing varying languages and spreading humanity to the four winds? What if, instead, the tower did eventually reach to the heavens?
2.) “Understand:” A man who suffered severe brain damage due to a fall through thin ice, is put on an experimental medicine that begins to stimulate neurogenesis on a massive scale. The protagonist becomes preternaturally intelligent, realizes that such super-intelligence is considered a threat, but is able to keep one step ahead of the ordinary minds who pursue him. That is until he runs into another patient who had a similar accident and treatment. A thinking man’s “Lucy” (referring to the Scarlett Johansson movie), this piece considers the question of how different people would use such a gift, and whether differences could be reconciled.
3.) “Division by Zero:” If a scholar’s life was invested in an idea or way of thinking about the world, but then the scholar proved that that way was in error, might it cause a descent into madness and even a crumbling of one’s world?
4.) “Story of Your Life:” This is the story that the Amy Adams’ movie “Arrival” is based upon. The protagonist is a linguist charged with helping to communicate with a newly arrived alien species that has a very different approach to language. In the process of learning their language and interacting with them, she begins to see the world as they do – time being an illusion. Stories from her daughter’s life, which the lead character has seen in full before conception, are interspersed with the description of her work with the alien language.
5.) “Seventy-Two Letters:” This is a golem story. In this world, names have the power to animate matter and golems can be created. (A Golem is a living being created from inanimate matter; the idea comes from Jewish folklore.) The story ads a layer to the question of what would be created if humans could make a simulacrum of themselves – e.g. Frankenstein’s Monster style – and asks the reader to consider what would be the reaction to the dawn of an era in which the golems might be able to make themselves.
6.) “The Evolution of Human Science:” This is one of the shorter pieces and is also the least story-centric entry. It considers philosophical questions around the development of meta-humans.
7.) “Hell is the Absence of God:” This story is also not as story oriented as most of the others, but it is thought-provoking. It revolves around a support group for people who’ve lost significant others in tragedy and asks one to consider the various approaches to belief in the wake of tragedy.
8.) “Liking What You See: A Documentary:” This clever piece imagines a technology that prevents wearers from being able to recognized beauty (and ugliness as well.) As the subtitle suggests, it’s presented as if it were a documentary that is following a college’s debate over whether to require the student body to use said technology.
I enjoyed this collection of stories. “Understand,” “Stories of Your Life,” and “Seventy-two Letters” are gripping stories, and all eight are thought-provoking and well-written. I’d highly recommend this book for readers of short fiction, particularly speculative fiction.
I took half a day off work to finish this book.
Top reviews from other countries
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:))