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Stories of Your Life and Others Paperback – Aug 2 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books; First Edition edition (Aug. 2 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765304198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765304193
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.2 x 21.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,577,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
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 Clarion, even!) who keeps winning awards and is known by all and has the audacity to not write very many stories and not one novel. So, it was with some sense of anticipation that I picked up his first short story collection. I had heard of many of the stories in it--Tower of Babylon, Hell is the Absence of God, Story of Your Life--and was determined to like them.
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.
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Format: Paperback
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. 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.
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