Stories of Your Life and Others Paperback – Aug 2 2003
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Here's the first must-read SF book of the year. Chiang has acquired a massive reputation on the basis of very few pieces of short fiction. This collection contains all six previously published tales, including the Nebula Award-winning "Tower of Babylon," plus a new story, "Liking What You See: A Documentary." It's rare for a writer to become so prominent so fast. In this case, though, the hype is deserved. Chiang has mastered an extremely tricky type of SF story. He begins with a startling bit of oddity, then, as readers figure out what part of the familiar world has been twisted, they realize that it was just a small part of a much larger structure of marvelous, threatening strangeness. Reading a Chiang story means juggling multiple conceptions of what is normal and right. Probably this kind of brain twisting can be done with such intensity only in shorter lengths; if these stories were much longer, readers' heads might explode. Still, the most surprising thing is how much feeling accompanies the intellectual exercises. Whether their initial subject is ancient Babylonians building a tower that reaches the base of Heaven, translation of an alien language that shows a woman a new way to view her life as a mother, or mass-producing golems in an alternative Victorian England, Chiang's stories are audacious, challenging and moving. They resemble the work of a less metaphysical Philip K. Dick or a Borges with more characterization and a grasp of cutting-edge science.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
There's one weak story here, "Understand," which wastes a very intriguing Flowers for Algernon/Camp Concentration-like setup of the creation of superintelligent beings on a cliched contest for supremacy among supermen: the notes indicate this was the earliest written, if not the earliest published. The earliest published was "Tower of Babylon," a matter-of-fact SF-like practical recounting of the construction of the Tower of Babel; it won a Nebula award. Other stories include "Seventy-Two Letters," a similarly SFnal investigation of a fantasy premise (What if medieval theories of human reproduction were true? And the answer is: If Nature hadn't invented DNA, humans would have had to); "Hell Is the Absence of God," a cruel, utterly matter-of-fact story set in the universe of fundamentalist Christianity; "Division by Zero," the story of a mathematician who learns mathematics is not true; and "The Evolution of Human Science," a scientific article wondering what's left for humans in a future where posthuman evolution (a la Ken MacLeod) has succeeded.Read more ›
"Understand" is about acquiring high intelligence through advanced technology, which is a pretty common topic in science fiction, but this one was different in how detailed and downright imaginative it was. In fact it almost convinces you that the author is actually writing from experience; his ideas seem so close to reality.
"Division by Zero" is not science fiction; instead it presents a fascinating mathematical concept that requires a lot of (rather enjoyable) brain-bending to grasp, though still managing to tell a story that touches your heart.
"Hell is the Absence of God" is an intriguing thought experiment, telling the story of what the world and what people would be like if the Christian form of God not only existed but actively participated in everyday life.
I also really liked the story notes at the end.
Though I was kind of bothered by the hasty endings to most of the stories. I don't mind being made to draw conclusions and mentally tie up strings, but sometimes here they were ended just too abruptly.
Overall, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes creative, character-centered science fiction unlike anything you've ever read. I look forward to reading more of Ted Chiang's work.
Oddly, my reaction was mixed.
Part of this collection pleased me to no end; part of it elicited no more than a 'meh'. Why the mix? I'm not sure. The first three selections did not thrill me. I think that I felt as though the stories were high on the idea axis, but low on the other axes. In fact, when I finished reading Babylon I felt kind of cheated, as it seemed to me a long set-up for a punchline-type ending.
But then I read Story of Your Life and everything changed. Oh, how I loved that story. This is where I felt Chiang really got it right. The idea and the characters and the plot and the everything in perfect harmony. I also felt this way about Hell is the Absence of God and Liking What You See: A Documentary (even though this is, apparently, not one of Ted's favorite stories). With these three I saw all the marks of really great talent and storytelling.
Seventy-Two Letters and The Evolution of Science didn't hold any big fascination for me, but didn't produce the same disappointment as the first three I read did.
Chiang's reputation is well-deserved. These are fine stories, and good examples of what they are. Even the ones that I didn't like still had an energy to them that I can't help but admire.Read more ›
First, like Greg Egan, he has the uncanny ability to take a seemingly innocuous scientific fact and turn it into a story. You'd think that would be a given for sf writers but few can actually pull it off. The trick is to not show the reader what the world would be if some law were changed, but to make him think about it. Ted Chiang's stories are not rides, they're challenging, they change you while you read them. You quickly get into the main protagonist's frame of mind even when it's very alien (like the all-knowing character in "Understand" or the one who "chrono-synclastically" remembers the future in "Story of your Life") and you fully understand its problem. Moreover, you start to logically follow its train of thought, deftly guided by the author's hand.
Each one of these stories is built around a simple but brilliantly developed hypothesis (except for "72 Letters", which is built around two simple but brilliantly developed hypotheses, and that's maybe why it's the less emotionally engaging of the book): What if maths were inconsistent ("Division by Zero")? What if the tower of Babylon had reached Heaven ("Tower of Babylon")? What if you could choose not to perceive the beauty of a face ("Liking What You See: A Documentary")? What if Heaven was a certainty but you couldn't bring yourself to love God ("Hell Is the Absence of God")?
In an interview for Locus, Ted Chiang said that he aimed for the sense of wonder that discovery brings. That's exactly what I felt reading his stories: each time, I discovered something about the nature of an imaginary world and, conversely, about the nature of ours.
Ted Chiang's second gift is empathy. Not only do we understand why the protagonist has a weird predicament, but he also makes us care about it.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Jam packed with creative and hilarious stories, this book keeo you entertained!Published 4 months ago by Theodore Shin
This is worth buying just to read 'Story of Your Life," which is just haunting. I can't say why I connect so much to this story, but it tears me apart and builds me back up each... Read morePublished on Nov. 19 2013 by morgan1824
I only just finished reading this book on my Kindle. I was in awe as I read these stories. First, they are excellent, but in addition, they are incredibly well written. Read morePublished on Nov. 9 2011 by CJClink
Possibly the best collection of SHORT science fiction that I have ever read! All of the stories are engrossing and intellectually stimulating.Published on Feb. 19 2004
As I get older, it is less and less often that I find a book that really grabs my attention, that is pure joy to read from cover to cover. Read morePublished on Oct. 17 2003 by AR
Chiang's ability to take one aspect of our world or from our history and twist slightly and let the rest of the world follow, without forcing it, creates some of the most driving,... Read morePublished on April 20 2003 by Bill F
--Tower of Babylon, 1990. Nebula.
--Division by Zero, 1991.
--Story of Your Life, 1998. Nebula, Sturgeon.
--Seventy-Two Letters, 2000. Read more
I picked up Ted Chiang's "Stories of Your Life and Others" after reading a few synopses of the stories within. Read morePublished on Feb. 16 2003 by Clayton E Kroh