This is the best collection of short stories I've ever read. (Really. I promise.) I initially picked it up to read Stories of Your Life, the basis for the movie Arrival. I ended up reading and loving all of them. There isn't even an "eh" story, each one is a tiny masterpiece. While all contain roots of science fiction, the tone and prose varies. A few stories are super-techy futuristic and others lean toward the contemporary. All are philosophical to some degree; no crazy action or explosions within these pages. Right now this is Ted Chiang's only piece of work and I dearly hope he continues to write more! I can only read this collection so many times. (That's a lie, I can read this over endlessly.)
Modern sci-fi with a big SCI in it and clear discourse that reads like the best of the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy. These short stories were a delight
I'm conflicted about this book and am probably letting my hatred for the story "Understand" unfairly influence my rating for this book, which maybe deserves four stars. This is a collection of scientifically minded, idea-driven stories, and most of the time the ideas are interesting enough to make the stories compelling even though the characters are hard to connect with.
The standout stories for me were "Story of Your Life," about learning to communicate with an alien civilization whose language is so fundamentally different that learning it results in a changed understanding of reality; "Seventy-Two Letters," about golems and imbuing matter with life through the power of naming; and "Tower of Babylon," about a miner who becomes the first person to dig from the top of the Tower of Babel into the vaults of heaven and learn the true nature of the relationship between earth and heaven. Most of the other stories were interesting but resonated with me less, generally because they tried to be more about human relationships but didn't create convincing characters. The only flop for me was "Understand," a sort of [b:Flowers for Algernon|18373|Flowers for Algernon|Daniel Keyes|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1367141311s/18373.jpg|3337594] narration from a man whose mind has been dramatically enhanced; your mileage on this one may depend on how much you like listening to a monologue from a man who just can't believe how amazingly smart he is.
Overall I liked the writing style, loved the ideas, but didn't feel much of a connection to the characters.
This is by far one of the most philosophical pieces of short fiction I've ever read, and I majored in Philosophy & Religious Studies in college.
This collection of short stories embodies everything I love about science fiction. Ted Chiang explores some fantastic ideas in these, many which left my brain buzzing at the end.
Most of the stories I want to give 6 out of 5 stars, but a couple fell flat for me which is why I chose the 4 star rating.
Tower of Babylon - 3.5 stars
Understand - 3 stars
Division by Zero - 4 stars
Story of Your Life - 5 stars
Seventy-two Letters - 4 stars
The Evolution of Human Science - 3 stars
Hell is the Absence of God - 2 stars
Liking What You See: A Documentary - 5 stars
I read this collection of short stories when it first came out in 2002. Over the years, I've periodically checked back in to see if Ted Chiang has any new collections or any novels out; it makes me sad that such a fantastic writer publishes so rarely and that his publications, other than this collection of short stories, are so hard to find. Although I own the printed version of this, I purchased the e-book so I can re-read it. I'll check back in after reading the collection to say if I enjoyed it this time as much as I have on previous reads.
The StoryGraph has a mobile app! 🎉Find out more