The Story of My Life
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You have to read it for yourself to appreciate the brilliance of the way time is manipulated even in the way it is told. He even deals with tougher issues like the inherent contradictions of a benevolent God and His angel visitations and innocent suffering. While I struggled to keep up with the expository bits on hard science, I could see how they were integral to the stories. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys science fiction and literary writing.
I bought this book after watching the "Arrival" film as I was a bit confused about why the aliens really came to earth and it wasn't evident in the film, but the book is even more confusing and laconic.
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The film took a few liberties with the story which I thought were really cool, especially the way the girl dies. In the book it's a mountain climbing accident, but in the film, she gets a rare terminal disease. I thought it kinder to the mum in the latter scenario, as she gets a bit more time to get used to what's happening and to the inevitable ending Though, of course, one can argue that, since she always knew how the girl would die, even before she was conceived, she had enough time to prepare for it..
However, I think it's one thing to know it in your head and another to know it in your heart.. Moreover, I didn't feel the capacity to foresee the future was fully explored: what changes it triggers in the person, how they adjust to it, how it influences the people around one, etc. I think the author could have made more of that. This must be a totally life-changing skill or personality trait, an alien meme that gets passed on to a human telepathically and not inserted under the skin somehow.
It would have been fascinating to see how this dress could fit the human psyche? So I felt a bit let down in this respect. I liked the ideas behind all the other stories, especially the one which challenges the idea of physical beauty, that was my absolute favourite, although I did not like the ending.
It's about a reversible medical procedure that can enable or disable people to recognise beauty either in themselves or in others. It's only about facial beauty, not beauty in nature or art.
The idea is that it helps protect children as they grow up from this peer pressure to look a certain way or to be popular, etc, and it shifts the focus away from physical beauty to other personal assets.. Only, there is this snag: the boy who dumps his girlfriend in the story for other girls was quite ugly, but he didn't know it. Both of them have the power of recognising beautiful facial features disabled in the beginning of the story, but later the girl becomes curious about her place in her group of friends and reverses the procedure: she sees with relief that she is beautiful and feels good about it, but also notices that her ex boyfriend is unattractive.
The True Story of My Life - Chapter I. (by Hans Christian Andersen)
She talks so enthusiastically to him about her reversal, that the boyfriend has his medical procedure reversed, too, hence, becoming aware of his own unattractiveness. He quickly gets his procedure done again to find relief from the distress of knowing he is unattractive. I thought he was a bit of a coward to retreat into the lazy option, but was even more perplexed when the beautiful girl decides to have her "beauty-blinds" switched back on for his sake, so that he wouldn't feel upset: How silly is that?! But that is my point with all the stories! They start so well and they become so engaging and then the author spoils it all with some weird ending that's supposed to be provocative or super smart, etc.
The endings are not good, but everything else is awesome: I recommend this book: even if you don't like the endings, at least it will make you think about why you don't like them!
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Great for book groups, I guess, it will keep people talking for ages:. I'm so glad I have. What a talent. It almost pains me to write this review because, as a fellow writer, I'm really very jealous! If I ever write one story as good as the main one in this collection I'll be a very happy author!
Definitely recommend. Great little collection of deeply sophisticated and clever short stories. So clever in fact that the reader might be best off reading the end notes first. How the author's mind works is a wonder as he takes the reader to places few could describe let alone imagine. It is a mixed bag though with some stories coming over as basic sketches of ideas yet-to-be delivered.
The most "conventional" story here is the only one Hollywood adapted, no surprise.
What is surprising is that it is one of the least exciting stories of the lot. The rest are all fantastic ideas but the average cinema audience might be a little "what!? Wonderful although, at times, baffling. The first science fiction book I've ever truly liked. SF is a genre I find a bit wimpy, either a big idea padded out to pages or adventure slush, but Ted Chiang has the imagination and rigour to make the wildly varied science ideas contained in this collection stick. Or are they hanging onto it so they can say in years to come 'Oh, Ted Chiang, I remember reading him before he was a superstar.
So you know where I'm coming from, 'Nightcrawler' was my film of the year. Eternal thanks for these amazing stories Ted - you have given me the inspiration to stop writing non-fiction and dust my science fiction novel off!!
Like many, I came to you via Arrival - you have a new fan and I will be reading more I am sure some of this is not so much fiction as might be thought. Truly remarkable collection of speculative shorts first gathered together over 15 years ago and some dating back to the early 90s. I came to this through Arrival and while the title story in this collection is very different from the movie, it's clear they share DNA. I read so little science fiction these days that this was a treat. Great ideas, explored with compassion.
I bought this for the story Understand, which I really like. It's available on podcast too. Overall a collection of very strange stories, with niche interests, which strangely I seem to have an interest in. Almost like having some sort of connection with the author.
Either you get the hook in each story or you'll be left wondering what's happening. Mr Chiang doesn't seem to be a very prolific writer, but what he writes seems to have insight. This collection goes back to his early works, which tells me he must be an intelligent guy. Bought this on the basis of finding the film arrival stunningly beautiful to watch not a silly alien type film. Makes you think and star Amy Adams brilliant.
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