Friday, October 05, 2007

If you have five seconds to spare...

I'd run into the name Ted Chiang on science fiction sites for many years, all referencing his Stories of Your Life And Others. I'm a bit leery of short story collections as I don't think the best means of reading them has been invented yet. Then I saw it a copy at Powell's and I went ahead and got it. I'm happy to say the advocates are right, this is a great collection.

Chiang's stories are well constructed tales generally about perception or the mind. They also ask odd questions like what if the Biblical view of the world was correct or what if angels came to Earth in all their terrifying splendor. That story Hell is the Absence of God is a wonder. People joke about God acting in mysterious ways and he certainly does here. In that story as in others, Chiang shows a mastery of the hint and turn of phrase that leads to great surprises.

While the stories are full of wonder, the prose is spare. When describing the fantastic, Chiang describes it matter of factly, the better to examine what it would mean, for example, to be able to use more and more of one's brain.

I expect this volume would appeal to short story readers in general, as the science fiction elements are downplayed quite a bit. Haters will of course continue to hate.

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