Stories of Your Life and Others

The stories in this collection by Ted Chiang all deal with our perceptions of the world and how those perceptions may be off or incomplete or … just not the only way to see the world. Sometimes that’s a source of wonder, but it’s also almost always unsettling. If you’ve seen the movie The Arrival, which is based on “Story of Your Life,” you’ll know what I mean. In that story, the main character is a linguist who is asked to communicate with an alien species that has come to Earth. Learning their language then alters her to adopt, at least in part, their perception of the world. The result is lovely in a way, but also tragic.

Other stories deal with our notion of space and the construction of the world, the potential of our own minds, the truth (or not) of mathematics, the act of creating life, the nature of love, and the role of beauty in our perceptions of ourselves and others. Through the stories, we’re encouraged to take those ideas that many of us consider absolute and obvious and consider what it would be like if they were a little squishier. How would that knowledge affect us? What would it mean for the world?

I really loved this collection. I tend to like my short stories on the weird side, and although the form of these stories is pretty straightforward, the stories themselves are all strange. Sometimes you know straightaway what kind of though experiment Chiang is engaging in, and in other cases, it takes a while to unfold. Those latter stories, where it isn’t clear, tended to be my favorites, but I liked all these stories in the collection. There wasn’t a complete dud among them.

This entry was posted in Fiction, Short Stories/Essays, Speculative Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Stories of Your Life and Others

  1. Jeanne says:

    I loved these stories and his newer volume, Exhalation, is good too. I emailed and then met Ted Chiang at a SF conference last March because he was on a panel I was moderating. He made me a bit nervous; he is very precise and accurate.

  2. Brona says:

    Exhalations is on my radar … and now your review of his earlier work, tempting me even more!
    That’s why I love this blogging life so much :-)

  3. Jenny says:

    This was one of my favorite books in the past couple of years. I still think about some of the stories regularly. I think it might make a good church book club book — some of the pieces are so theological in nature, and in Exhalations even more so.

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