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I don't read short stories that much or collections of short stories. I think it is because you need to reset your brain fairly often for another world building and I just prefer longer things. There are a couple of authors I love who excel at short stories - Isaac Asimov and Neil Gaiman come to mind. But otherwise I stick to novels. I did put Ted Chiang on hold in the library, however, because I wanted to read the short story the movie "Arrival" was based on. I haven't seen the movie yet but I plan to and I usually like to read the source material before watching a movie.

So I got the book on my Kindle from the library, read the story and figured I might as well read the whole book to add it to my book count. Plus a lot of his work is pretty renowned and I'm trying to read more sci-fi. (I put together an Excel file with all the books that won a Hugo, highlighted ones I've read and will use it to read more sci-fi books).

I'm mixed on this collection. There were stories I really enjoyed, a few I was "meh" on and a couple I just hated. But I'm glad I read it - some concepts were fairly good. I really liked his language on most of the stories - very easy to read and inviting (except in the stories I hated with tended to get pretentious to match the character but it didn't work for me). I'm going to break it down story by story for some brief notes.

1. Tower of Babylon - I enjoyed this story. I realize now that as with "Hell is the Absence of God" he takes the premise of reality of some religion, even though God is not visible here. But it is definitely an interesting premise to imagine the reality of the Tower of Babel and communities that spring there.

2. Understand - I hated this story with a passion. At first it seemed interesting to me with super intelligence but then the author wasn't taking a story in any new direction. It just seemed very predicable to me that I started to get bored. It was just "Lawnmower Man" in a way. And then the language because deliberately "smart sounding", although it is very thing people do it fiction. Smart people don't automatically start talking like that. Nor they become super logical. In fact, it is emotion that helps us make decisions, not logic. So I just ended up hating the story and couldn't wait for it to be over (I couldn't just skip the rest of it since I need to finish all of the book for it to count on my book list). I was happy when it's over and stopped caring for protagonist.

3. Division by Zero - meh. This story was ok. It didn't drive me crazy but I couldn't really relate to either of the two characters nor about the mathematics.

4. Story of Your Life - I loved this story. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the movie now. I liked that idea of variational physics and having both knowledge of the whole life knowing that one can't really change anything, you just act within in. And I found it poignant that she knew all her daughter's life - as a mother I could definitely understand her and feel for her. And the joy of having her daughter anyway despite knowing her destiny.

5. Seventy-Two Letters - I liked this story - I liked the concept and the idea of golem being real in this world (and again I'm noticing that the premise takes a religious concept and assumes it's real). I liked the dilemma of the main character and the problem of limited generations. It was just a neat concept and enjoyable read.

6. The Evolution of Human Science - meh. Couldn't care about this one. It felt overdone too in terms of concept. Mostly I just didn't care.

7. Hell is the Absence of God - I loved this one. I thought it was such a clever approach to religion and faith and the ending with Neil did pack a punch. That was truly a Hell. I want to know more about this world and how it all works with miracles and seeing souls leave the body and what it means for relationships. I'm not religious but I'm fascinated by all the religions and this was a very original take on it, I felt.

8. Liking what you see: A documentary - I liked it. The format was a bit weird - I'm not sure it is the right approach. But it was an interesting premise and gave both sides of the issue of "lookism" And raised all kinds of questions of political correctness too and what makes us people. I didn't love it but I liked it enough.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 4th, 2017 11:28 am (UTC)
Sounds like an interesting read
May. 8th, 2017 06:24 am (UTC)
I still haven't read very many stories in the collections, but it was interesting to compare thoughts on the ones I *have* read, as Chiang's stories tend to be very hit-or-miss for me. I love "Story of Your Life" an enormous amount, am meh on "Division by Zero", but "Hell is the Absence of God" is one I really hated (unfortunately, it was also the first Ted Chiang story I read, which made me leery of his other stuff, until "Story of Your Life" blew me away and I decided that I just have to approach every new story like it could fall anywhere on that spectrum from loved to hated -- not the way I normally read short stories from authors I know!)

Your write-up makes me want to check out "Seventy-Two Letters" and maybe "Liking what you see".

Also, I'm really looking forward to (whenever you get to watch it) your thoughts on "Arrival" as someone who's read the original short story. This was definitely an adaptation that gave me a lot of food for thought / desire to discuss the choices it made.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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