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Stories of Your Life and Others (original 2002; edition 2003)

by Ted Chiang

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1,264526,249 (4.34)1 / 59
Member:kmaziarz
Title:Stories of Your Life and Others
Authors:Ted Chiang
Info:Orb Books (2003), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, Short Stories, Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:short stories, sf, sci fi, science fiction, contemporary science fiction, science fiction short stories

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Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (2002)

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English (46)  French (4)  Hungarian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (52)
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Really good collection of speculative fiction. I particularly enjoyed Story of your life and Hell is the absence of God. ( )
  csmith0406 | Mar 18, 2016 |
A patron recommended this author and his short story "Story of Your Life," which is being made into a movie with Amy Adams, so I checked it out. I had to read "Story of Your Life" twice, it was pretty deep with the science. The way the science meshed with the literary aspect was thought-provoking, too. If this actually does become a movie I would be interested in seeing how they do that! Also read the story "Liking What You See: A Documentary." From what I've read so far, Chiang definitely puts the science into science fiction!
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
If you want to keep up with the Joneses in the scifi reading community you will have to read this short story collection. Considering he has published less than 50 stories and not a single novel Ted Chiang is one of today's best known sf authors among sf readers, this does not make him a household name but he is a force to be reckoned with. It is also remarkable how many major sf awards he has won given the relatively small number of stories he has published. In other words he is terrific without being prolific.

Stories of Your Life and Others is the only collection Mr Chiang has published at the time of writing, he also has a few other stories published which are not included in this volume. Having read this collection it is easy to see why he is so revered among the sf readership. All these stories are based on ideas which range from damn clever to ingenious, they are all beatifully written and most of them feature well developed characters. I will just briefly comment on each one:

"Tower of Babylon" (Nebula Award winner)
The collection starts with a wonderful fantasy story that reads like scifi thanks to the logic employed. Imagine climbing the Biblical Tower of Babel to the very zenith, way above the clouds, all the way to where you would imagine heaven to be. Well, you don't have to imagine it, Mr. Chiang has done it for you with some amazingly visual description and immersive story telling.

"Understand"
A sort of [b:Flowers for Algernon|18373|Flowers for Algernon|Daniel Keyes|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1367141311s/18373.jpg|3337594] crossed with the Cronenberg movie "Scanners" with a literally mind blowing climax. It is very intelligently written and fast paced. I do wonder if Ted Chiang himself is a recipient of "Hormone K" therapy, his intellect does seem to be superhuman. A riveting novella-length tale.

"Division by Zero"
Obsession with maths can drive you mad. Not really my favorite story here, but like all the others it is clever and well written, short too!

"Story of Your Life" (Nebula Award and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award winner)
One thing I hate about aliens on scifi TV is how goofy and anthropomorphic they tend to be. If they didn't have have green skin or furry faces you would not know they are aliens. They are often just money grubbing, lusty, greedy, noble, heroic or vain as the human characters, and their language tend to be just as translatable into English as Chinese or Italian. The aliens in this story are very alien, they are beyond comprehension and if you want to speak their language you have to alter your entire way of looking at the world. This story is about more than just "first contact" however, it is also about the perception of time, fate and predestination. I have said too much already, you really have to wrap your head around this one.

(This story is being adapted into a movie starring Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams.)

"Seventy-Two Letters" (Sidewise Award winner)
Another weird story set in a world where golems can be animated when embedded with names. This story is more about ideas than plot and moves at a stately pace. Again not a personal favorite but it is still interesting and not very long.

"The Evolution of Human Science"
More like an essay or journal article written in a fictional world than a (very) short story. It is basically about posthumanism and well worth reading and pondering afterward.

"Hell Is the Absence of God"
Another gobsmacking story, the fourth one in this short volume! A mind blowing fantasy set in a world where angel visitations and miracles are well known and documented facts. Religion, faith, good and evil are portrayed here in an intelligent, compassionate and logical manner. The most emotionally charged story in this collection. This one will stay with you for the rest of your days.

"Liking What You See: A Documentary"
Not really a documentary, but a story about how different our perception may be if we can filter out facial beauty and how "lookism" is ingrained in our lives. Written from multiple viewpoint and partly in journal style for that "macro" effect. Another excellent thought experiment.

This collection of stories is generally very readable, erudite, fascinating and memorable. A book like this is the reason most of us read sf/f books. What we have here is a real "sensawunda" merchant, one of the all-time greats.

After finishing this collection I immediately downloaded and read Chiang's [b:The Lifecycle of Software Objects|7886338|The Lifecycle of Software Objects|Ted Chiang|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1367177716s/7886338.jpg|11102380] which the author and publisher have kindly made available to be read online. It is also amazing and a must-read. ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
Please read the full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It...

This collection of stories is highly polished, and certainly shows the author’s skill to compose short stories – at the same time, it’s all fairly standard composition: Chiang surprises you in the story when you expect to be surprised. So, polished, yes, but sterile too. Moreover, there’s hardly any interesting characterization.

Yet the real reason this collection won’t be read anymore 50 years from now, when the hype has passed, is that Chiang is first and foremost a writer of artificial ideas and philosophical concepts, not of stories. This became obvious fairly quickly when reading this book, and the author’s ‘story notes’ at the end confirmed it. Basing art on ideas is not necessarily a bad thing, as most literature starts with an idea or a message an author has or wants to convey. The problem is that Chiang doesn’t try to hide his ideas, but leaves them out in the open, glaringly obvious. Nothing is left to the reader’s own mental devices. A story shouldn’t be a treatise nor a sermon. I am of the firm conviction that most Great Literature uses ideas as an invisible base on which to build a plot, not as the explicit surface level message. It’s the difference between a Book that makes you think, and a book that tells you what to think.

My thoughts on the individual stories:

(...) ( )
  bormgans | Dec 15, 2015 |
Halfway between Borges and Neal Stephenson, although he doesn't really deliver the poignancy that makes Borges so good. Intriguing ideas are not dramatized so much as plot-ized. Still worth reading, and a clever talent I'm surprised isn't read more. If you're really looking for an amazing work along the same lines, try The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason. ( )
  gregorybrown | Oct 18, 2015 |
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For Brian Chiang and Jenna Felice
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Were the tower to be laid down across the plain of Shinar, it would be two days' journey to walk from one end to the other.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Collects these stories
"Tower of Babylon"
"Understand"
"Division by Zero"
"Story of Your Life"
"Seventy-Two Letters"
"The Evolution of Human Science"
"Hell Is the Absence of God"
"Liking What You See: A Documentary"
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0765304198, Paperback)

This marvelous collection by one of science fiction's most thoughtful and graceful writers belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in literary science fiction.

Collected here for the first time, Ted Chiang's award-winning stories--recipients of the Nebula, Sturgeon, Campbell, and Asimov awards--offer a feast of science, speculation, humanity, and lyricism. Standouts include "Tower of Babylon," in which a miner ascends the fabled tower in order to break through the vault of heaven; "Division by Zero," a precise and heartbreaking examination of the disintegration of hope and love; and "Story of Your Life," in which a linguist learns an alien language that reshapes her view of the world. Chiang has the gift that lies at the heart of good science fiction: a human story, beautifully told, in which the science is an expression of the deeper issues that the characters must confront. Full of remarkable ideas and unforgettable moments, Stories of Your Life and Others is highly recommended. --Roz Genessee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:07 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Ted Chiang's first published story, "Tower of Babylon," won the Nebula Award for 1990. Now, collected for the first time, are all seven of this extraordinary writer's extraordinary stories--plus a new story written especially for this volume.

(summary from another edition)

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