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Stories of Your Life: and Others Paperback – Oct 26 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Small Beer Press (Oct. 26 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931520720
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931520720
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 358 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #148,781 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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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Ted Chiang has an innate gift; he has the ability to write wonderfully lyrical stories about real people in situations generally caused or effected by mathematics and language. And that, really, is the theme in all of his work. For the title story, he combines the two subjects to make math and language inextricably linked, meant for each other as if they had been created that way. Mathematics as language also appears in other stories, such as "Understand," about an ordinary man suddenly gaining abnormal powers through a complicated medical procedure. (Not a very good description, granted; but I recommend you read it for yourself. After all, descriptions never really do a written work justice.)
Among the standouts here include the beautiful "Division by Zero," a story about a woman who struggles with a relationship that is falling apart, partly because of her own studies--where she has just discovered that all mathematics, no matter how complicated or revolutionary, is obsolete, meaningless; the wonderfully provocative "Story of Your Life" about a woman's encounter with an alien language which forever destroys her perception of time; and "Tower of Babylon," a story that is filled with the "Sense of Wonder" that so many SF fans are now craving--I could feel the singular enormity, the mass of stone and wood and work, and I could feel a distinct sensation of vertigo as the miners climbed the tower to the vault of heaven.
All in all, a wonderful collection, certainly worthy of a spot on your SF shelf.
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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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Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book. Chiang's writing style is a bit off the wall, which I find appealing, and he isn't afraid to include hard science.

-- Tower of Babylon. One of my favorites, about the building of the Tower of Babel.

-- Understand. A new drug creates a super-human. Shades of 'Flowers for Algernon', but better.

-- Division by Zero. A mathematician proves that math is not consistent. Best explanation of Gödel's theorem I've seen.

-- Story of Your Life. Contact with aliens provokes a new mode of causality.

-- Seventy-Two Letters. Story takes place in a world where automata are powered by Jewish letters.

-- The Evolution of Human Science. Short piece on how scientific research is affected by the advent of meta-humans.

-- Hell is the Absence of God. A different version of the trials of Job. Takes place in a bizarre universe where God is much more active.

-- Liking What You See: A Documentary. What life is like when we can disable the part of the brain that interprets human beauty.
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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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