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Stories of Your Life and Others (2002)

by Ted Chiang

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,2602102,375 (4.23)161
This new edition of Ted Chiang's masterful first collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, includes his first eight published stories. Combining the precision and scientific curiosity of Kim Stanley Robinson with Lorrie Moore's cool, clear love of language and narrative intricacy, this award-winning collection offers listeners the dual delights of the very, very strange and the heartbreakingly familiar. Stories of Your Life and Others presents characters who must confront sudden change-the inevitable rise of automatons or the appearance of aliens-while striving to maintain some sense of normalcy. In the amazing and much-lauded title story (the basis for the 2016 movie Arrival), a grieving mother copes with divorce and the death of her daughter by drawing on her knowledge of alien languages and non-linear memory recollection. A clever pastiche of news reports and interviews chronicles a college's initiative to "turn off" the human ability to recognize beauty in "Liking What You See: A Documentary." With sharp intelligence and humor, Chiang examines what it means to be alive in a world marked by uncertainty and constant change, and also by beauty and wonder.… (more)
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» See also 161 mentions

English (198)  French (4)  Hungarian (2)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (208)
Showing 1-5 of 198 (next | show all)
Ted Chiang gets a A for originality. Every short story but that hellish one was just really great. I loved the movie "Arrival", and didn't know that this book's title short story was its genesis, until I was reading the third or fourth page of that story on my ereader. Interesting to compare the story line (or loop) of the text to the movie. I still prefer Bradbury as my favorite short story teller, but Ted Chiang has some serious chops. ( )
  bobunwired | Nov 19, 2022 |
The four stars are for the stories I mostly enjoyed and found scientifically appealing which were "Understand", "Story of your life" and "Liking what you see: A documentary". I loved the futuristic thinking in these stories, while the others (except for the short one) were either violating the rules of genetics (seventy-two letters) or I found too sad or boring. Especially the religious ones weren't satisfying to read (hell is the absence of god) since I felt the inevitability in a world where the rules don't make sense. Maybe a second read would change my mind, but for now this is my opinion. The Understand story reminds me of the movie "Lucy", maybe it was inspired by it, I do not know. The story of your life is of course the beautiful movie "Arrival" and what made me buy this book in the first place ( )
  Ihaveapassion | Oct 25, 2022 |
Workman-like writing (in the stock US sci-fi voice). Overly long "short" stories with so-so endings. .

The standout story in this collection is 'Stories of Your Life' from which the film Arrival was derived. This actually has some meat on it and characterisation. It's a story!

There's nothing bad here. Mostly it's the length and unengaging prose. I suspect US-style sci-fi is just not for me. ( )
  ortgard | Sep 22, 2022 |
A collection of inventive and genuinely intellectual high-concept novellas occasionally let down by a lack of storytelling meat. Ted Chiang's book begins promisingly with 'Tower of Babylon', a Borgesian interpretation of the Biblical story which derives its creativity from taking a literal view of the firmament and running with it. Unfortunately, Chiang's collection doesn't hit these heights again (pun intended).

The second story, 'Understand', is another high point, but I found I could only compare it unfavourably to Flowers for Algernon, which has a similar concept. The deficit which Chiang's novella has with Daniel Keyes' novel is in its heart; Algernon is emotionally devastating not only in its sweep but in its smaller moments, whereas 'Understand' largely neglects the human factor. I found this to be a common theme in Stories of Your Life and Others, and the third story, 'Division by Zero', a clever but soulless mathematical parlour game, confirmed it.

The fourth story, the titular 'Story of Your Life', is the one that comes closest to introducing the human factor, but again pushes its emotional core out to the mantle in favour of an intellectual stone. It's a clever construction, but I wonder how the sci-fi film Arrival, which is based on the story, drew any character-based familiarity from it.

Chiang's book then takes a dip, with the interminable 'Seventy-Two Letters' (another intellectual – perhaps indulgent – thought experiment, and one with very little to sustain a restless reader) and the brief, storyless 'The Evolution of Human Science'. Things improve with 'Hell is the Absence of God', which returns to the Biblical well that helped make 'Tower of Babylon' a success. 'Hell' is a disturbing story that imagines a world like ours but with angelic visitations (both good and bad) an accepted fact of life. The attempts by the people in Chiang's story to reconcile this phenomenon with their own morality and meaning in life reminded me of the uncomfortable emotional rawness of Season One of The Leftovers, and, like The Leftovers, it proves unable to answer its proposition. 'Hell' ends limply; its message an arbitrary dud.

The collection ends with 'Liking What You See: A Documentary', a story about a new piece of genetic engineering that can stop its users from discriminating others based on physical beauty. It encapsulates the collection as a whole: it's a neat concept and one that Chiang backs with genuine thought and qualification, but it lacks any storytelling heart to really sell it to the reader. I really enjoyed engaging with the ideas in each of Chiang's stories, but they are ideas without any lasting flavour. The writing is tidy but bloodless, and the reader will find their mind stretched and stimulated but rarely excited. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Sep 11, 2022 |
I hate the phrase "instant classic" but if I was to write a two-word review of this book I could not find a better one. This collection of short stories is reminiscent of works of such writers as Asimov, Lem, or Sturgeon, yet completely original and unique.

While the level is not even and some stories were more of a miss than a hit for me, I highly appreciate their variety. If you had told me that these are pieces from 8 different authors, I'd believe it without a shadow of a doubt! Ted Chiang not only never uses the same setting or character archetype twice but also changes the structure, narration, style, and explores themes and questions that I'd consider very distant from each other. I respect the effort of stretching oneself so broadly, even when the end result is not always mind-blowing.

What I enjoyed the most is that almost every story is grounded in the personal drama of the main character. Even when larger-than-life events shake up the reality all around, we perceive it through the focused lens of a person trying to keep their life straight or trying to fulfill their dream/duty/needs. This makes each story very humane, easy to follow, and does not overwhelm the reader with a heavy sci-fi concept. And those concepts are indeed thought-provoking, intriguing, and sometimes really majestic, sometimes subtle but never boring.

I think this is one of the best things that modern sci-fi has to offer. This anthology received all the major awards that sci-fi short stories can get and I'm sure we still haven't seen the best of Ted Chiang. He rejected the nomination for the Hugo Award for the last story of this book, claiming it was rushed and released prematurely. I hope that with the recognition that he got after this book and movie based on its titular piece, he won't ever need to publish before he finds his work done. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to reading his second anthology soon! ( )
  sperzdechly | Aug 31, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 198 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (39 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chiang, Tedprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Craden, AbbyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Manchess, GregoryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McLaren, ToddNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wong, JoanDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Brian Chiang and Jenna Felice
In memory of
Brian Chiang
and
Jenna Felice.
First words
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.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
The movie Arrival is based on the novella Story of your Life, not this anthology.
This collection contains eight (8) stories. Please do not combine with a similar collection that has a different set of stories.
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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

This new edition of Ted Chiang's masterful first collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, includes his first eight published stories. Combining the precision and scientific curiosity of Kim Stanley Robinson with Lorrie Moore's cool, clear love of language and narrative intricacy, this award-winning collection offers listeners the dual delights of the very, very strange and the heartbreakingly familiar. Stories of Your Life and Others presents characters who must confront sudden change-the inevitable rise of automatons or the appearance of aliens-while striving to maintain some sense of normalcy. In the amazing and much-lauded title story (the basis for the 2016 movie Arrival), a grieving mother copes with divorce and the death of her daughter by drawing on her knowledge of alien languages and non-linear memory recollection. A clever pastiche of news reports and interviews chronicles a college's initiative to "turn off" the human ability to recognize beauty in "Liking What You See: A Documentary." With sharp intelligence and humor, Chiang examines what it means to be alive in a world marked by uncertainty and constant change, and also by beauty and wonder.

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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"
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