Invisible Planets by Ken Liu

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Invisible Planets by Ken Liu

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Stephen Leach
Reviewed by Stephen Leach
Summary: 13 science-fiction stories: translated beautifully, and Ken Liu’s opening essay provides a welcome introduction for those who aren’t familiar with the genre. The stories are dreamlike and hypnotic, evocative and inspiring.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: November 2016
Publisher: Head of Zeus
ISBN: 978-1784978808

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Invisible Planets is an eclectic collection, translated beautifully, and Ken Liu’s opening essay provides a welcome introduction for those who aren’t familiar with the genre. The stories are dreamlike and hypnotic, evocative and inspiring.

Many of these stories spiral outwards from a revolutionary surge forward in technology that aims to improve things – a robot that helps out around the house, a device that uses time distortion to retard the physical aging process. But despite these advances, this technology still cannot substitute human interaction and intimacy. In City of Silence the protagonist finds himself wishing he could speak to a real person, sick of the robotic voice of the phone. Worse still, the replacement of technology in their lives leaves them feeling hollow. The titular story,Invisible Planets plays with this idea beautifully, illustrating the sensation of connecting with another person by the description of an alien race that leave traces of their bodies inside each other upon contact, merging briefly into one.

Another way in which the void created by technology is the preoccupation with sexuality and repressed desire. For a country still grappling with its attitude to sexuality, it’s not surprising that this theme is so prevalent. This tends to be through a male perspective, projected onto mysterious or unavailable females, as in The Fish of Lijiang and The Flowers of Shazui, and at times feels confining. The constant need for touch, for physical closeness, is especially prevalent in these stories.

But while the advances made by technology are progressive, the visions of the future are rarely benign. Folding Beijing, for instance, shows a future where society is divided: the city’s population literally separated into classes, furthering the gap between the rich and poor. City of Silence takes this to an extreme: the automation of society and the strict policing of language has become physically oppressive, to the point where people rarely venture outdoors and physical contact is literally discouraged. The fear of censorship and authoritarianism hang heavy over them.

If there is a central theme to be found in the collection, it is this: when we have advanced and upgraded every aspect of our lives, when we have defied nature, how do we remain human?

I’d like to thank the publishers for sending a copy for review.

If sci-fi’s your thing, you might find What Makes This Book So Great: Re-Reading The Classics Of Science Fiction And Fantasy by Jo Waltonto be an interesting read, as a contemplative look at the genre.

Buy Invisible Planets by Ken Liu at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Invisible Planets by Ken Liu at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Invisible Planets by Ken Liu at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Invisible Planets by Ken Liu at Amazon.com.

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