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Inbox fPosted at HeradasTed Chiang s name continually comes up in lists of great short stories He s never written a novel but his shortiction has won nearly every SF award that exists 4 Nebulas 4 Hugos John W Campbell Locus and on and on He s greatly admired among authors and almost entirely unknown by most readers I ve heard him referenced as an inspiration by several authors that I enjoy reading Specifically Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham who collectively write the Expanse series under the pseudonym James S A Corey cite him as the best SF writer I igured I should probably do myself a service and check this collection out After reading it I have to agree that his writing is mind blowing High concept science iction that is grounded heavily in the real world A writer of ideas Every single story is incredibly uniue tonally diverse and powerful in different ways If the uality among these 8 stories wasn t at such a consistently high level I d say that Chiang was merely a ghostwriting team comprised of 8 different authors all exceptionally talented each with different interests politics and prose styles Every story genuinely A Touch of Gold feels like it could be penned by a different author I ve never come across a creative powerhouse like this guy He impressed the hell out of me with every sentenceTower of Babylon 55Killer story The Old Testament cosmology was especiallyun to hear described passing beyond the moon sun and stars etc A telling of the construction and journey up the tower of Babylon and what lies beyond the vault of heaven Blew my mind right open Seriously creative I get why it won all kinds of awardsUnderstand 55Again with the uniue approach to storytelling While reading this one I started realizing how some of these concepts have clearly influenced other stories Most obviously the movie Limitless and the Max Barry novel Lexicon I particularly liked how the language and vocabulary of the story evolves as the protagonist s intelligence and recall increasesDivision By Zero 45An examination of loss of belief mental illness suicide and math What happens when everything you ve worked or in your life every kind of order that you ve relied on is suddenly incorrect Story of Your Life 65Stop what you re doing now and read this This is the absolute best short story I have ever read Chiang s grasp on the English language is deeply integrated into the story itself causality and omniscience It s insanely good This was the basis or the Denis Villeneuve Hunch: Turn Your Everyday Insights Into the Next Big Thing film Arrival Seventy Two Letters 35Interesting concepts but storywise it was a little boring The power of language to shape action and perception Reminded me a lot of early 50s Asimov All conceptual not much character developmentThe Evolution of Human Science 35Interesting and extremely short little tale about a scientific understanding breaking down between regular humans and meta humans Conceptually cool but too short to really be that interesting Hell is the Absence of God 55The moral of the story God is a maniacal motherfucker who doesn t give a shit about humans and you should love him unconditionally This one was a real brain twister I loved itLiking What You See A Documentary 55Advertisers elective localized brain damage culture jamming politics coming of age concepts of beauty love relationships This was terrific and heavily subversive Loving ImperfectionsIf arithmetic were consistent love could not exist That is to say if arithmetic were undeniably logical in itsoundations logic would rule the worild and love would be eliminated as the irrational thing it is This is how I read the moral of Chiang s marvellous storyMathematicians tend to view numbers as the natural constituents of the universe existing independently in a Platonic realm of perfection Such a universe is orderly reliable and comprehensible even if it is than occasionally painfulBut the existence of love is overwhelming evidence that the universe is not constructed according to entirely consistent principles Love appears to have no principles It arrives randomly and dissipates the same way Love contradicts itself by denying its own self interest and inherent irrationalityThe existence of love therefore brings into uestion the undamentals of mathematics even the most basic idea that 112 Love demonstrates that one number can be euivalent to any other number one wishes Love exists in short because arithmetic is inconsistent The greatest living short story writer in my humble opinion Update Saturday the 12th November 2016I just watched the movie The Arrival and OMG it was amazing I cried Like a lot I had chills and sat on the edge of my seat and I was totally engaged What s worse The personal aspects of the movie just blew me away And even worse The mental ones were profound and beautiful and amazing I AM SUEEEINGNow here s the big uestion Am I a anboy because the movie only improved my appreciation of the original story Or
am I just blown away by the better presentation of the original storyThe mathematical implications in the original story and the I just blown away by the better presentation of the original storyThe mathematical implications in the original story and the it described what was going on is not to be discounted at all mind you I loved what the text could do and did But the movie got me on a whole different level and I was laughing and crying and it was soooo damn bittersweet and glorious all at the same time I was MOVED Jeeze I m amazed evenSo Best movie of the year I think so There were a lot of great ones out there too but this one took the cake shiver Old ReviewI can t believe that I took so long to check out this story collection In Cancer Has Its Privileges: Stories of Hope and Laughter fact I don t believe it For one good reason I read one of his short stories when it came out and hadn t remembered that I had until aew pages in AND I remembered loving it Golems Names of God MURDER That was one hell of a pleasant surpriseAs Az éltető étkek arany szutrája for the rest I admit to wanting to know the story that The Arrival is based on before I watched the movie this weekend And here s the strange part While I loved it I loved all the other stories even shockSeriously this man is a walking powerhouse of sharp as hell storytelling and erudition all wrapped up in an utterlyascinating intensity and A Grid for Murder focus on singularly awesome issues I ll skip discussion on the stories that didn t blow me away but that still leaves almost all the stories in the bookWhat do I mean Okay take Tower of Babylon If having a world where the building of the tower wasn t hampered where reaching the city of God at the top takes than aull year of pilgrimage where we re immersed in ancient Babylon is twisted with one singular difference can you guess what that difference is I laughed out loud after I discovered it Just imagine the old joke of half glass ullempty when applied to engineers The glass didn t meet design specifications Oh my god "Anyway Then There Was Understand Which Made "Then there was Understand which made think of Flowers or Algernon with a seriously different bent Let s go ultimate intelligence with the Appetite focus on understanding the real nature of thought Hell yeah I mean we didn t even need the techno thriller aspects of this modern retelling or theight between ultimate intelligences Not really But it was also un as hellWhat about Stories of Your Life The one that is tied to the new movie It s about linguistics and the nature of
#SIMILAR CONCEPTS LINKING THE WAYS WE #concepts linking the ways we about higher physics and the act that we need to make that bridge before we could even speak to this alien intelligence Or how our conception of time of cause and effect is completely useless inside their language If we actually begin to understand it that heavy concept how can that change our lives It really is gorgeous Seventy Two Letters Golems as a great twist on artificial intelligence Cooking the Whole Foods Way: Your Complete, Everyday Guide to Healthy, Delicious Eating with 500 Recipes, Menus, Meal Planning, Techniques, Buying featuring the problems of reproduction and natural selection as a linguistic issueocusing on the Kabbalah as the key to unlock the power and creative Pure Grit force of God And it s a great adventure too Liking What You See A Documentary Oh goodness this was a blast It s allocused on the nature and the use and misuse of beauty with a major twist What if we could block the paths in our brains that let us see and Apple-Picking Day! feel the effects of beauty Purpose To see people as they really are below the skin No pre judging assholes as really great people because they re pretty No ignoring the uglies who might be great people Level the playingield and judge people by their actions Great huh Well this documentary ocuses on pilot schools and whole social movements or the treatment and the backlash of whole industries that want the slavery to continue Really great tho. Stories of Your Life and Others delivers dual delights of the very very strange and the heartbreakingly amiliar often presenting characters who must confro.
Ted Chiang ☆ 4 reviewPrimarily about inner space and ideas especially seeking meaning by analysing patterns of language maths and nature That leads to theological and philosophical uestions about good evil God and what it means to be human and at what point we cease to be such see also Vonnegut s GalapagosThe reviews of individual stories are in spoiler tags America the Philosophical for easy scrolling but don t contain spoilersTower of Babylon 4Drilling through the vault of heaven in ancient Babylon view spoiler Theirst short story in a collection by a supposed sci The Northmans Bride (Sons of the North fi author is set in Old Testament Babylon andeatures nothing uturistic or alien It almost eels as if it were written in ancient times If you want a label you could use Atwood s speculative The Northman's Bride fiction or perhaps less appealingly mathsiction The Tower of Babylon has nearly reached the vault of heaven Miners are recruited to drill through so people can know Yahweh better The tower is so high it takes the team around our months of solid climbing dragging tools on cartsThe world building was believably detailed the mythology and psychology almost real Whole communities live at levels on the tower never coming down to earth with ingenious ways of growing ood At higher levels the light of day shone upward and plants grow sideways or down At the very top they walk among moving stars and the sight of the vault inspired unease They uestion the theology and conseuences of what they are doing might Yahweh punish their arrogance or be pleased at their aspiration and endeavour They continue cautiously using ancient techniues of ire setting and simple picks and drills slowly creating huge chambers in the smooth granite vault The dramatic conclusion causes a complete reappraisal of beliefs about God man and their relationship Ultimately By this construction Yahweh s work was indicated and Yahweh s work was concealed Image source or ancient cylinder seal hide spoiler 35 starsI don t often read science Leading the Way fiction and when I do those I ve chosen in the past are appropriately labeled as speculativeiction Stories that take place right here on our planet sans aliens Or if they do happen to occur in other worlds what is being examined is not so much the aliens themselves but the nature of our own humanity in comparison to these other beings These are the best kinds of stories and I ve ound some of my very avorites in this genre Having once read a short story by Ted Chiang in the past and The Single Girl's Guide to Marrying a Man, His Kids, and His Ex-Wife: Becoming a Stepmother with Humor and Grace finding it uite brilliant I was gameor giving this collection a go What I discovered was that Chiang has an inuisitive mind and a love When Red Cried Wolf for math and science which I thoroughly admire He makes you think and expand your mind to the point you will need to sit and ponder each storyor uite some time before moving on to the next Like an all you can eat buffet You want to take it all in but if you go too uickly you will be overwhelmed by your overindulgence Each story is so uniue Because I had very different reactions to each one I ll share some thoughts on each one individually Tower of Babylon 5 stars Based on the Old Testament story but with a resh angle this one transcends any time period Men try to reach the vault of heaven in order to better understand the secrets and mysteries of God The world building in this one was my avorite so visual and rich in detail especially The World in the Curl: An Unconventional History of Surfing for a short story What happens when you break through theloor of heaven I loved how this one ended Perhaps men were not meant to live in such a place If their own natures restrained them Song of the Forest from approaching heaven too closely then men should remain on the earth Understand 25 stars After sufferingrom a traumatic brain injury a man is given hormone K therapy to regenerate the damaged neurons As a result the man s intelligence is enhanced exponentially What does he do with this new gift and how does it isolate him rom others I liked the concept of this one better than the actual execution One of my avorite books ever Flowers A Constellation of Vital Phenomena for Algernon handles this idea with the added benefit of a pulling at the heartstrings kind of emotional draw that I ll neverorget Here the constraints of the short story just don t allow it to achieve that greatness I m reminded of the Confucian concept of ren inadeuately conveyed by benevolence that uality which is uintessentially human which can only be cultivated through interaction with others and which a solitary person cannot manifest Division by Zero 4 stars 1 2 What if you could prove otherwise What if all
Number Could Be Proved Eual To Onecould be proved eual to one A gifted mathematician grapples with a mathematical proof in conjunction with her ideas of love and marriage If all that we believed about mathematics is proved alse then order no longer exists and chaos rules This brought me back to my lonely days sitting in a math library pulling out obscure books in order to prove some confounding theorem She like many had always thought that mathematics did not derive its meaning Sextasy: Master the Timeless Techniques of Tantra, Tao, and the Kama Sutra to Take Lovemaking to New Heights from the universe but rather imposed some meaning onto the universe Story of Your Life 5 stars This story contains elements of what we naturally consider when we hear the term scienceiction Aliens visit Earth and teams of linguists and physicists among others are Still Life with Chickens formed to communicate and learnrom these so called heptapods This is the stuff that really intrigues me So much of our own communication among humans is not conveyed properly misunderstandings abound and cultures and countries are always in discord with one another How the hell are we supposed to ever truly understand an alien race should we ever make contact with one The concept of time is brilliantly explored Louise the linguist discovers than she could ever imagine after breaking down some of the boundaries between these beings and our own species A twist on time left me stunned I know how this story ends I
think about it a lot I also think a lot about how it began just a ew years ago whenabout it a lot I also think a lot about how it began just a ew years ago when appeared in orbit and artifacts appeared in meadows Seventy Two Letters 2 stars This story just tried to do a bit too much It could have been made into two individual stories and been impactful perhaps Victorian England automata combined with golems ideas on preformation as a means of continuing the human species and the practice of eugenics Some of the ideas reminded me of certain tyrannical leaders of the past and present Scary stuff indeed By exercising some judgment when choosing who may bear children or not our government could preserve the nation s racial stock The Evolution of Human Science 1 star A very brief story examining hermeneutics and the idea of metahumans I think I Paradox Bound fell asleep reading this one Only this caught my attention what is the role of human scientists in an age when therontiers of scientific inuiry have moved beyond the comprehension of humans Hell is the Absence of God 4 stars I wasn t sure where this one was going initially but once it clicked I was delighted Angels visit earth on a regular basis inflicting pain on some and dispensing miracles to others A thought provoking insight into heaven and hell and the randomness of catastrophes death and the saving of souls Believers beware he s always assumed his destination was Hell and he accepted that That was the way of things and Hell after all was not physically worse than the mortal plane Liking What You See A Documentary 3 stars If you could essentially turn off your capacity to see physical attractiveness would you do so That s what calliagnosia can do or you And vice versa would it be better if others couldn t see you based on your beauty or lack thereof One would see past the surface and into the depths of a person instead eliminating discrimination based on looks alone The idea was ascinating but the style of this as a series of little interviews didn t uite appeal to me as a straightforward narrative might When you see a smile that s genuine you ll see beauty When you see an act of courage or generosity you ll see beauty Most of all when you look at someone you love you ll see beautyTed Chiang is clearly an ideas kind of writer And those ideas are rather genius Being a certain kind of reader I STFU, Parents: The Jaw-Dropping, Self-Indulgent, and Occasionally Rage-Inducing World of Parent Overshare found the emotionally charged language and dialogue I so love to be lacking in most of the stories If you put characterization at the top of your list you may be disappointed because that is not what Chiang is after here He excels at challenging your mind to stretch itselfarther than you could possibly imagine rom a set of little stories For that reason I will most definitely read his work agai. What it means to be alive in a world marked by uncertainty but also by beauty and wonder An award winning collection rom one of today's most lauded writer. Are All Guys Assholes?: More Than 1,000 Guys in 10 Cities Reveal Why They're Not, Why They Sometimes Act Like They Are, and How Understanding Their ... Will Solve Your Guy Drama Once and For All for the individual story Story of Your Life Tod What s there to say about Chiang that all the others don t say He is the closest thing to a modern Jorge Luis Borges in melding high concepts with literature to create something better than either in some respects I d rank his best short stories as better than Gene Wolfe s too often tedious unsolved puzzleboxes His writing is deceptively excellent I would call him a writer s writer because thelat evenness of his prose may strike a reader as boring unless they have tried to write as clearly themselves and What a Lass Wants failed abysmally at which point they begin to appreciate Chiang s infallible choice of words and lucid prose which sinks into the mind withoutriction Stories of Your Life and Others is much superior to his novella Life Cycle of Software Objects and contains pretty much all of his greatest short stories which I have read except or his excellent Exhalatio Reading is nothing comprehension is everything Sarah RichardsI read the title short story while away at a conference or technical writers The uote above came Mexican Hooker from a presentation about transforming the Government Digital Service but the issues of communication context and audience that are at the heart of this story are key to technical writing and had echoes in many of the presentations Perhaps it is no coincidence that Ted Chiang is also a technical writerNote This review is just the title story I ve reviewed the others in this collection HERESame Old Same Old NoAliens arrive They are suitably weird looking radially symmetric with seven eyes and seven limbs on a barrel shaped body topped by a puckered orifice but with noace and no The League for the Suppression of Celery front and back They seem keen to communicate via devices humans nickname looking glasses The military take charge Of course they do That s what always happens Then things escalateBut this is different Linguist Dr Louise Banks tells in linearashion how she and colleagues learned the alien languages But that narrative is interspersed with non chronological episodes rom her daughter s lifeThe heptapods spoken and written languages are unrelated to each other and the latter has strange properties that affect Louise s consciousness specifically her perception of time and ree will This shapes the telling and curious grammar of her daughter s story I remember past tense what it ll Suspicion at Seven: A Lois Meade Mystery future be like to It is a Borgesian paradoxLinguistic Relativity Sapir WhorfThe story is underpinned by the idea that the structure of a language can affect the cognition of those who use it Linguistic Relativity Heptapod A spoken is relatively straightforward and uninteresting it sounded vaguely like that of a wet dog shaking the water out of itsur But Heptapod B written is very different It is a totally separate language the symbols don t relate to individual spoken words logographic or objects picture writing and there is no word order in part because there are no words as such Heptapod B has its own visual syntax semasiographic akin to mathematical euations some sign languages and the notation of music or dance It is written in a single smooth sinuous and rippling style that reflects the heptapods own physical movements It s also described as an Escheresue lattice and being like psychedelic posters More significantly it is not seuential This seems to reflect the heptapods modes of thought and it certainly comes to affect Louise s perception of the world and the way she tells the story of her daughter s life China Mieville s sci i novel Embassytown also eatures aliens with a totally different sort of language to those known to humans I reviewed it HEREOrwell takes the idea of linguistic relativity to an extreme with Newspeak making thoughtcrime literally impossible See Nineteen Eighty Four reviewed HEREFermat s Principle of Least TimeFermat Sapir Whorf The Day Fidel Died free will and Heptapod B are intricately connected At times I wondered if the linguistics and mathsphysics was getting too esoteric but it didn t uite jump the shark and it all wove together brilliantlyThe detail below isor reference and is spoilered because understanding this is what the story is about on the page though not on screenview spoilerLight travels aster in air than water When a ray of light hits water it is refracted taking a longer but aster route But Fermat s Principle of Least Time is a variational principle light always ollows an extreme path maximum or minimum It describes light in goal oriented terms rather than the amiliar causal chronological terms It assumes the ray
Of Light Knows Its S Like A Lifeguard Wholight knows its s like a lifeguard who run Gulp!: The Seven-Day Crash Course to Master Fear and Break Through Any Challenge faster than she can swim she takes a longer route that has beach and less sea to get to the drowning person uickly Similarly because Heptapod B has noixed word order no beginning or end the heptapod had to know how the entire sentence would be laid out before it could write the very The Outlaw and the Upstart King first stroke This language is teleological one needed knowledge of the effects before the causes could be initiated The result is simultaneous consciousness where you live in the present like a newborn baby and in the past anduture This makes the heptapods rather like Vonnegut s Tralfamadorians in Slaughterhouse Five reviewed HERE living in all time simultaneouslyFor such beings seuential speech is a slow and inefficient mode And if they already know the uture of what they ll say and hear why speak at all Louise infers that heptapod language is performative saying something makes it so like You re under arrest or I now pronounce you man and wife But if you know the effects the end you know the uture And if you know the Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War future really know it it sixed so you can t have ree will The two are mutually exclusive And yet at the end Louise says view spoiler From the beginning I knew my destination and I chose my route accordingly How could both be true hide spoiler I don t read very many short stories collection but after this one I eel like I now need toThis one contains the most mind bending and original sci Stories for a Kindred Heart: Over 100 Treasures to Touch Your Soul fi stories I ve read in a whileMyavorite what the last one This is a story of love and the devastating conseuences of realising one s love object is not as perfect as one thoughtThe opening paragraph reads like a maths textbook and the second is set in a psychiatric hospital Don t let either put you off I married a man with a maths degree and our child is now at university studying theoretical physics that is practically maths but I am primarily a words person This gave me a wonderful peek at the joy that can be ound in numbers and patterns theoretical and also physical as well as the psychological risks As a child of seven physical as well as the psychological risks As a child of seven had been spellbound at discovering the perfect suares in the smooth marble tiles of the loor A single one two rows of two three rows of three the tiles Speak Through the Wind fit together in a suare No matter which side you looked at itrom ti came out the same And than that each suare was bigger than the last by an odd number of tiles It was an epiphany The conclusion was necessary it had a rightness to it confirmed by the smooth cool Stories for a Teen's Heart feel of the tiles And the way the tiles wereitted together she had shivered at the precision She devoted her life to maths was happy and successful until she made a discovery that was like a theologian proving that there was no God How to ind meaning life after that And don t say 42The mathematical ideas relevant to the story were explained clearly enough that I think I understood them sufficiently If you want to delve deeper Mark H recommended this though I confess it went above my head For other stories in the collection Stories of Your Life see my review HEREImage source reviewTed Chiang is a technical writer in the software industry as many of the best people are He occasionally publishes short stories a remarkably high proportion of which have won major sci i awards including 4 Nebulas and 4 Hugos or only 15 works That indicates the uality of what s within these pages but may mislead about the genre content and style Some are set in the ar past and the only aliens and space aring are in the title story though there is uturistic technology in most Speculative iction than sci i Instead these stories are. Nt sudden change the inevitable rise of automatons or the appearance of aliens with some sense of normalcy With sharp intelligence and humor Chiang examines. ,