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Stories of Your Life: and Others [Paperback]

Ted Chiang
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 26 2010

This new edition of Ted Chiang's masterful first collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, includes his first eight published stories plus the author's story notes and a cover that the author commissioned himself. 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 readers 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, 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.

Ted Chiang is one of the most celebrated science fiction authors writing today and is the author of numerous short stories, including most recently "Exhalation," which won the Hugo, British Science Fiction, and Locus awards. He lives near Seattle.

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From Amazon

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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I can read 'Story of Your Life' over and over Nov. 19 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 time I read it, which I do every so often. Each time it captures me afresh.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars talented but glum Feb. 13 2003
(WARNING! I am a science-fiction writer in economic competition with Mr. Chiang. All my gripes must be taken with a grain of salt.)
Eight well-crafted stories with engaging and interesting ideas are marred by weak endings. Each story ends with tepid pessimism.
First, the "Tower of Babylon" tale engages the reader with solid characterization and a thought-provoking description of what the mighty engineering feat of "building a tower to heaven" would have been like, had the world been flat. It is filled with amusing and authentic touches, like the Egyptian stone-masons brought in to chip through the hard surface of the sky-dome, or the description of how mid-levels of the tower rendered inhospitable by the too-near approach of the fiery sun. But the ending is weak, and the immense tower turns out to have been built in vain.
In "Understand" the super intelligent man is obsessed with finding a perfect expression of linguistic philosophy that will express the universe. The depiction of a mind smarter than any mind of man is wonderfully well-done, and the story is worth reading just for this alone. The super-mind discovers a second super intelligent man. One man wants nothing but to be left alone while he pursues his research, while the other wishes to use his powers to benefit mankind peacefully. Neither one is threatening or interfering with the goals of the other. For no apparent reason, and without any plot-purpose, these two "superior intelligences" both mutually agree that there is no possible way they both can exist, they duel, and one murders the other. What a waste. Maybe they were not so bright after all.
In "Story of your Life" a mother, through the study of an alien language, learns how to see the universe from a timeless point of view.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Writer Nov. 9 2011
By CJClink
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. I would commend anyone who wants to be a published author to read this book. Study how a master does it. Be amazed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great short sci-fi! Feb. 19 2004
By A Customer
Possibly the best collection of SHORT science fiction that I have ever read! All of the stories are engrossing and intellectually stimulating.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Hard SF Jan. 2 2004
To my taste, Ted Chiang is SF's preeminent working hard SF writer, and one of the best creators of thought experiments the genre has ever seen. He doesn't write much, and so far all he's produced has been short fiction; it's hard to imagine his particular techniques--and his focus on following premises to their logical conclusions, and not a word farther--working at greater length. I especially recommend him to people who like Connie Willis' "At the Rialto" and "Schwartzenchild Radius"; like Willis, he is very fond of structuring stories as the living exemplars of scientific theories. Depending on how you look at the stories, they are either using science as a metaphor for human experience--or using human experience as a metaphor for science.
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely creative and unique literature Dec 8 2003
This is a great book. All of the stories collected here are excellent, but there were three that I especially liked:
"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.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Chiang's rep is well-deserved, but many stories I didn't dig
For years I've been hearing wonderful things about this fantastic writer named Ted Chiang. Ted, the wunderkind whose first published story won a Nebula (accepted before he went to... Read more
Published on Nov. 20 2003 by KTB
5.0 out of 5 stars Brain and heart
Ted Chiang has two gifts.
First, like Greg Egan, he has the uncanny ability to take a seemingly innocuous scientific fact and turn it into a story. Read more
Published on Nov. 10 2003 by Stephane Bura
5.0 out of 5 stars greatness does not mean bland optimism
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 more
Published on Oct. 17 2003 by Arthur Rozum
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!
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 more
Published on April 20 2003 by Bill F
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories of Your Life and Others.
--Tower of Babylon, 1990. Nebula.
--Understand, 1991.
--Division by Zero, 1991.
--Story of Your Life, 1998. Nebula, Sturgeon.
--Seventy-Two Letters, 2000. Read more
Published on March 24 2003 by Haplo Wolf
5.0 out of 5 stars Fiction Done Very Well
I picked up Ted Chiang's "Stories of Your Life and Others" after reading a few synopses of the stories within. Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2003 by Clayton E Kroh
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best recent collections I've read . . .
I gave up a decade ago on trying to keep up with the science fiction magazines, so I only recently became aware of Ted Chiang's wide range of ideas and considerable proficiency at... Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2003 by Michael K. Smith
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