Exhalation by Ted Chiang

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Exhalation by Ted Chiang

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Wilson
Reviewed by Ruth Wilson
Summary: These nine science fiction short stories are a beautiful, diverse range of themes and ideas about love, life, autonomy and identity. They challenge us about the importance of having a voice and the importance of using it. They question not just humanity but the universe as a whole. They are beautiful and challenging and a book you absolutely must read at least once.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: July 2019
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-1529014488

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Over the past twenty-eight years Ted Chiang has published fifteen science fiction short stories. These magnificent stories have won twenty-seven major science fiction awards so if you are a science fiction fan it is likely that you have already come across some of the work by Ted Chiang. I cannot speak highly enough of this collection of short stories, they are so wide ranging in their themes and so beautifully written, Chiang has written an absolute masterpiece of a collection. If you come across Chiang's work before, take this opportunity to do so now. Trust me; your imagination will be grateful.

This book is a compilation of nine of Chiang's short stories. Some are super-short, only a few pages long, whilst others last for several chapters. None are related, all have a different feel, time, sense, and flavour and that richness is what makes this book so interesting. I enjoyed this book immensely, Chiang includes his short stories first, and then afterwards he includes his author's story notes. This was fascinating. Personally, I chose to read the book as laid out. I read the stories, none of which I had read before, and then I read his notes, which added an extra layer of depth, after. I decided to do this so I would not spoil any impressions I may have had myself whist reading the book as a whole, but if you chose to you could quite easily skip back and forth and answer any questions about a short whist you are going along.

As a reader I had my favourite stories based on my own narrative preferences, I thought The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate was incredibly beautiful, inspired by Arabian Nights it covers themes of fate and time travel but in a beautiful, romantic tale-within-a tale style. I thought The Great Silence was tragic and beautiful and I loved it, then I was almost disappointed when I read the author's note about how the story came about in the most clinical, business-like way, I wish I hadn't read it and kept my own romanticised version! I loved The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling, which looks at the importance of memory and language and I loved The Lifecycle of Software Objects', which managed to portray some fabulously rounded characters in such a short story. I suppose the key thing to note is that there was not a single short story that I did not enjoy. They were all different, and they were all interesting. There was not a single slow story in the group.

Perhaps most notable for science fiction stories, the themes they dealt with were universal. Love, acceptance, autonomy and basic right versus wrong, they challenge us about the importance of having a voice and the importance of using it. They question not just humanity but the universe as a whole. These themes were so well written and so engrossing, that whilst short, they certainly made their point. This collection of short stories is interesting, and intellectually challenging and incredibly beautiful and is a must read for all fans of reading, not just science fiction. For something similar you could try, Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams or for something different you could try The City In The Middle Of The Night by Charlie Jane Anders.

Buy Exhalation by Ted Chiang at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Exhalation by Ted Chiang at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Exhalation by Ted Chiang at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Exhalation by Ted Chiang at Amazon.com.

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