Wednesday, January 8, 2020


by Ted Chiang
Alfred A. Knopf, 2019, 350 pages, Science Fiction

This fascinating collection of science fiction short stories tackles questions such as, what is the nature of the universe? what does it mean to be human? and what would you do if you could travel through time? In the titular story, an alien learns grave news that will affect the outcome of his people. In another, a woman with a robotic pet debates about the characteristics that make someone human. In yet another, people confront moral dilemmas when they get the opportunity to speak to other versions of themselves in different timelines.

I’m not a big fan of science fiction or of short stories, but this collection had me hooked. Each story went in directions I didn’t anticipate, and asked questions I didn’t expect to confront in such engaging stories. The characters in each of Chiang’s stories are interesting and sympathetic, and they have multiple layers. It wasn’t until after I’d read these stories that I learned a different short story of Chiang’s was the inspiration of the movie Arrival, but it definitely makes sense. Beautifully written and captivating, this is a great book for those who like reading fiction that ponders deep questions in an approachable manner.


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