Stories new arrival of outlet online sale Your Life and Others outlet online sale

Stories new arrival of outlet online sale Your Life and Others outlet online sale

Stories new arrival of outlet online sale Your Life and Others outlet online sale
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From the author of Exhalation, an award-winning short story collection that blends "absorbing storytelling with meditations on the universe, being, time and space ... raises questions about the nature of reality and what it is to be human" (The New York Times).

Stories of Your Life and Others delivers dual delights of the very, very strange and the heartbreakingly familiar, often presenting characters who must confront sudden change—the inevitable rise of automatons or the appearance of aliens—with some sense of normalcy. With sharp intelligence and humor, Chiang examines what it means to be alive in a world marked by uncertainty, but also by beauty and wonder. An award-winning collection from one of today''s most lauded writers,  Stories of Your Life and Others is a contemporary classic.

Includes “Story of Your Life”—the basis for the major motion picture Arrival

Review

“A swell movie adaptation always sends me to the source material, so  Arrival had me pick up Ted Chiang''s  Stories of Your Life and Others: lean, relentless, and incandescent.” —Colson Whitehead, GQ
 
“Chiang writes with a gruff and ready heart that brings to mind George Saunders and Steven Millhauser, but he’s uncompromisingly cerebral.” The New Yorker
 
“Blend[s] absorbing storytelling with meditations on the universe, being, time and space. . . . raises questions about the nature of reality and what it is to be human.” The New York Times
 
“Shines with a brutal, minimalist elegance. Every sentence is the perfect incision in the dissection of the idea at hand.” The Guardian

“Meticulously pieced together, utterly thought through, Chiang’s stories emerge slowly . . . but with the perfection of slow-growing crystal.” —Lev Grossman, Best of the Decade: Science Fiction and Fantasy, Techland

"Ted Chiang is one of the best and smartest writers working today. If you don''t know his name, let''s fix that. Now." —Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

"Ted Chiang astonishes. You must read him." —Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble

“United by a humane intelligence that speaks very directly to the reader, and makes us experience each story with immediacy and Chiang’s calm passion.” —China Mieville, The Guardian

“Ted is a national treasure . . . each of those stories is a goddamned jewel.” —Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing

“Confirms that blending science and fine art at this length can produce touching works, tales as intimate as our own blood cells, with the structural strength of just-discovered industrial alloys.” Seattle Times

“Chiang derides lazy thinking, weasels it out of its hiding place, and leaves it cowering.” Washington Post

“Essential. You won’t know SF if you don’t read Ted Chiang.” —Greg Bear

“Chiang writes seldom, but his almost unfathomably wonderful stories tick away with the precision of a Swiss watch—and explode in your awareness with shocking, devastating force.” Kirkus Reviews (starred Review)

“The first must-read SF book of the year.” Publishers Weekly (starred Review)

“He puts the science back in science fiction—brilliantly.” Booklist (starred Review)

About the Author

Ted Chiang was born in Port Jefferson, New York, and holds a degree in computer science. In 1989 he attended the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Workshop. His fiction has won four Hugo, four Nebula, and four Locus awards, and he is the recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. Stories of Your Life and Others has been translated into ten languages. He lives near Seattle, Washington.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

STORY OF YOUR LIFE


Your father is about to ask me the question. This is the most important moment in our lives, and I want to pay attention, note every detail. Your dad and I have just come back from an evening out, dinner and a show; it’s after midnight. We came out onto the patio to look at the full moon; then I told your dad I wanted to dance, so he humors me and now we’re slow-dancing, a pair of thirtysomethings swaying back and forth in the moonlight like kids. I don’t feel the night chill at all. And then your dad says, “Do you want to make a baby?”

Right now your dad and I have been married for about two years, living on Ellis Avenue; when we move out you’ll still be too young to remember the house, but we’ll show you pictures of it, tell you stories about it. I’d love to tell you the story of this evening, the night you’re conceived, but the right time to do that would be when you’re ready to have children of your own, and we’ll never get that chance.

Telling it to you any earlier wouldn’t do any good; for most of your life you won’t sit still to hear such a romantic -- you’d say sappy -- story. I remember the scenario of your origin you’ll suggest when you’re twelve.

“The only reason you had me was so you could get a maid you wouldn’t have to pay,” you’ll say bitterly, dragging the vacuum cleaner out of the closet.

“That’s right,” I’ll say. “Thirteen years ago I knew the carpets would need vacuuming around now, and having a baby seemed to be the cheapest and easiest way to get the job done. Now kindly get on with it.”

“If you weren’t my mother, this would be illegal,” you’ll say, seething as you unwind the power cord and plug it into the wall outlet.

That will be in the house on Belmont Street. I’ll live to see strangers occupy both houses: the one you’re conceived in and the one you grow up in. Your dad and I will sell the first a couple years after your arrival. I’ll sell the second shortly after your departure. By then Nelson and I will have moved into our farmhouse, and your dad will be living with what’s-her-name.

I know how this story ends; I think about it a lot. I also think a lot about how it began, just a few years ago, when ships appeared in orbit and artifacts appeared in meadows. The government said next to nothing about them, while the tabloids said every possible thing.

And then I got a phone call, a request for a meeting.

* * *

I spotted them waiting in the hallway, outside my office. They made an odd couple; one wore a military uniform and a crewcut, and carried an aluminum briefcase. He seemed to be assessing his surroundings with a critical eye. The other one was easily identifiable as an academic: full beard and mustache, wearing corduroy. He was browsing through the overlapping sheets stapled to a bulletin board nearby.

“Colonel Weber, I presume?” I shook hands with the soldier. “Louise Banks.”

“Dr. Banks. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us,” he said.

“Not at all; any excuse to avoid the faculty meeting.”

Colonel Weber indicated his companion. “This is Dr. Gary Donnelly, the physicist I mentioned when we spoke on the phone.”

“Call me Gary,” he said as we shook hands. “I’m anxious to hear what you have to say.”
We entered my office. I moved a couple of stacks of books off the second guest chair, and we all sat down. “You said you wanted me to listen to a recording. I presume this has something to do with the aliens?”

“All I can offer is the recording,” said Colonel Weber.

“Okay, let’s hear it.”

Colonel Weber took a tape machine out of his briefcase and pressed play. The recording sounded vaguely like that of a wet dog shaking the water out of its fur.

“What do you make of that?” he asked.

I withheld my comparison to a wet dog. “What was the context in which this recording was made?”

“I’m not at liberty to say.”

“It would help me interpret those sounds. Could you see the alien while it was speaking? Was it doing anything at the time?”

“The recording is all I can offer.”

“You won’t be giving anything away if you tell me that you’ve seen the aliens; the public’s assumed you have.”

Colonel Weber wasn’t budging. “Do you have any opinion about its linguistic properties?” he asked.

“Well, it’s clear that their vocal tract is substantially different from a human vocal tract. I assume that these aliens don’t look like humans?”

The colonel was about to say something noncommittal when Gary Donelly asked, “Can you make any guesses based on the tape?”

“Not really. It doesn’t sound like they’re using a larynx to make those sounds, but that doesn’t tell me what they look like.”

“Anything--is there anything else you can tell us?” asked Colonel Weber.

I could see he wasn’t accustomed to consulting a civilian. “Only that establishing communications is going to be really difficult because of the difference in anatomy. They’re almost certainly using sounds that the human vocal tract can’t reproduce, and maybe sounds that the human ear can’t distinguish.”

“You mean infra- or ultrasonic frequencies?” asked Gary Donelly.

“Not specifically. I just mean that the human auditory system isn’t an absolute acoustic instrument; it’s optimized to recognize the sounds that a human larynx makes. With an alien vocal system, all bets are off.” I shrugged. “ Maybe we’ll be able to hear the difference between alien phonemes, given enough practice, but it’s possible our ears simply can’t recognize the distinctions they consider meaningful. In that case we’d need a sound spectrograph to know what an alien is saying.”

Colonel Weber asked, “Suppose I gave you an hour’s worth of recordings; how long would it take you to determine if we need this sound spectrograph or not?”

“I couldn’t determine that with just a recording no matter how much time I had. I’d need to talk with the aliens directly.”

The colonel shook his head. “Not possible.”

I tried to break it to him gently. “That’s your call, of course. But the only way to learn an unknown language is to interact with a native speaker, and by that I mean asking questions, holding a conversation, that sort of thing. Without that, it’s simply not possible. So if you want to learn the aliens’ language, someone with training in field linguistics -- whether it’s me or someone else -- will have to talk with an alien. Recordings alone aren’t sufficient.”
Colonel Weber frowned. “You seem to be implying that no alien could have learned human languages by monitoring our broadcasts.”

“I doubt it. They’d need instructional material specifically designed to teach human languages to nonhumans. Either that, or interaction with a human. If they had either of those, they could learn a lot from TV, but otherwise, they wouldn’t have a starting point.”
The colonel clearly found this interesting; evidently his philosophy was, the less the aliens knew, the better. Gary Donnelly read the colonel’s expression too and rolled his eyes. I suppressed a smile.

Then Colonel Weber asked, “Suppose you were learning a new language by talking to its speakers; could you do it without teaching them English?”

“That would depend on how cooperative the native speakers were. They’d almost certainly pick up bits and pieces while I’m learning their language, but it wouldn’t have to be much if they’re willing to teach. On the other hand, if they’d rather learn English than teach us their language, that would make things far more difficult.”

The colonel nodded. “I’ll get back to you on this matter.”

* * *

The request for that meeting was perhaps the second most momentous phone call in my life. The first, of course, will be the one from Mountain Rescue. At that point your dad and I will be speaking to each other maybe once a year, tops. After I get that phone call, though, the first thing I’ll do will be to call your father.

He and I will drive out together to perform the identification, a long silent car ride. I remember the morgue, all tile and stainless steel, the hum of refrigeration and smell of antiseptic. An orderly will pull the sheet back to reveal your face. Your face will look wrong somehow, but I’ll know it’s you.

“Yes, that’s her,” I’ll say. “She’s mine.”

You’ll be twenty-five then.

* * *
           
The MP checked my badge, made a notation on his clipboard, and opened the gate; I drove the off-road vehicle into the encampment, a small village of tents pitched by the Army in a farmer’s sun-scorched pasture. At the center of the encampment was one of the alien devices, nicknamed “looking glasses.”

According to the briefings I’d attended, there were nine of these in the United States, one hundred and twelve in the world. The looking glasses acted as two-way communication devices, presumably with the ships in orbit. No one knew why the aliens wouldn’t talk to us in person; fear of cooties, maybe. A team of scientists, including a physicist and a linguist, was assigned to each looking glass; Gary Donnelly and I were on this one.

Gary was waiting for me in the parking area. We navigated a circular maze of concrete barricades until we reached the large tent that covered the looking glass itself. In front of the tent was an equipment cart loaded with goodies borrowed from the school’s phonology lab; I had sent it ahead for inspection by the Army.

Also outside the tent were three tripod-mounted video cameras whose lenses peered, through windows in the fabric wall, into the main room. Everything Gary and I did would be reviewed by countless others, including military intelligence. In addition we would each send daily reports, of which mine had to include estimates on how much English I thought the aliens could understand.
Gary held open the tent flap and gestured for me to enter. “Step right up,” he said, circus barker-style. “Marvel at creatures the likes of which have never been seen on God’s green earth.”
“And all for one slim dime,” I murmured, walking through the door. At the moment the looking glass was inactive, resembling a semicircular mirror over ten feet high and twenty feet across. On the brown grass in front of the looking glass, an arc of white spray paint outlined the activation area. Currently the area contained only a table, two folding chairs, and a power strip with a cord leading to a generator outside. The buzz of fluorescent lamps, hung from poles along the edge of the room, commingled with the buzz of flies in the sweltering heat.

Gary and I looked at each other, and then began pushing the cart of equipment up to the table. As we crossed the paint line, the looking glass appeared to grow transparent; it was as if someone was slowly raising the illumination behind tinted glass. The illusion of depth was uncanny; I felt I could walk right into it. Once the looking glass was fully lit it resembled a life-size diorama of a semicircular room. The room contained a few large objects that might have been furniture, but no aliens. There was a door in the curved rear wall.

We busied ourselves connecting everything together: microphone, sound spectrograph, portable computer, and speaker. As we worked, I frequently glanced at the looking glass, anticipating the aliens’ arrival. Even so I jumped when one of them entered.

It looked like a barrel suspended at the intersection of seven limbs. It was radially symmetric, and any of its limbs could serve as an arm or a leg. The one in front of me was walking around on four legs, three non-adjacent arms curled up at its sides. Gary called them “heptapods.”
I’d been shown videotapes, but I still gawked. Its limbs had no distinct joints; anatomists guessed they might be supported by vertebral columns. Whatever their underlying structure, the heptapod’s limbs conspired to move it in a disconcertingly fluid manner. Its “torso” rode atop the rippling limbs as smoothly as a hovercraft.

Seven lidless eyes ringed the top of the heptapod’s body. It walked back to the doorway from which it entered, made a brief sputtering sound, and returned to the center of the room followed by another heptapod; at no point did it ever turn around. Eerie, but logical; with eyes on all sides, any direction might as well be “forward.”

Gary had been watching my reaction. “Ready?” he asked.

I took a deep breath. “Ready enough.” I’d done plenty of fieldwork before, in the Amazon, but it had always been a bilingual procedure: either my informants knew some Portuguese, which I could use, or I’d previously gotten an intro to their language from the local missionaries. This would be my first attempt at conducting a true monolingual discovery procedure. It was straightforward enough in theory, though.

I walked up to the looking glass and a heptapod on the other side did the same. The image was so real that my skin crawled. I could see the texture of its gray skin, like corduroy ridges arranged in whorls and loops. There was no smell at all from the looking glass, which somehow made the situation stranger.

I pointed to myself and said slowly, “Human.” Then I pointed to Gary. “Human.” Then I pointed at each heptapod and said, “What are you?”

One of the heptapods pointed to itself with one limb, the four terminal digits pressed together. That was lucky. In some cultures a person pointed with his chin; if the heptapod hadn’t used one of its limbs, I wouldn’t have known what gesture to look for. I heard a brief fluttering sound, and saw a puckered orifice at the top of its body vibrate; it was talking. Then it pointed to its companion and fluttered again.

I went back to my computer; on its screen were two virtually identical spectrographs representing the fluttering sounds. I marked a sample for playback. I pointed to myself and said “Human” again, and did the same with Gary. Then I pointed to the heptapod, and played back the flutter on the speaker.

The heptapod fluttered some more. The second half of the spectrograph for this utterance looked like a repetition: call the previous utterances [flutter1], then this one was [flutter2flutter1].
I pointed at something that might have been a heptapod chair. “What is that?”

The heptapod paused, and then pointed at the “chair” and talked some more. The spectrograph for this differed distinctly from that of the earlier sounds: [flutter3]. Once again, I pointed to the “chair” while playing back [flutter3].

The heptapod replied; judging by the spectrograph, it looked like [flutter3flutter2]. Optimistic interpretation: the heptapod was confirming my utterances as correct, which implied compatibility between heptapod and human patterns of discourse. Pessimistic interpretation: it had a nagging cough.

At my computer I delimited certain sections of the spectrograph and typed in a tentative gloss for each: “heptapod” for [flutter1], “yes” for [flutter2], and “chair” for [flutter3]. Then I typed “Language: Heptapod A” as a heading for all the utterances.

Gary watched what I was typing. “What’s the ‘A’ for?”

“It just distinguishes this language from any other ones the heptapods might use,” I said. He nodded.

“Now let’s try something, just for laughs.” I pointed at each heptapod and tried to mimic the sound of [flutter1], “heptapod.” After a long pause, the first heptapod said something and then the second one said something else, neither of whose spectrographs resembled anything said before. I couldn’t tell if they were speaking to each other or to me since they had no faces to turn. I tried pronouncing [flutter1] again, but there was no reaction.

“Not even close,” I grumbled.

“I’m impressed you can make sounds like that at all,” said Gary.

“You should hear my moose call. Sends them running.”

I tried again a few more times, but neither heptapod responded with anything I could recognize. Only when I replayed the recording of the heptapod’s pronunciation did I get a confirmation; the heptapod replied with [flutter2], “yes.”

“So we’re stuck with using recordings?” asked Gary.

I nodded. “At least temporarily.”

“So now what?”

“Now we make sure it hasn’t actually been saying ‘aren’t they cute’ or ‘look what they’re doing now.’ Then we see if we can identify any of these words when that other heptapod pronounces them.” I gestured for him to have a seat. “Get comfortable; this’ll take a while.”

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Top reviews from the United States

Frank VTop Contributor: Cooking
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great to read after you''ve seen Arrival
Reviewed in the United States on December 19, 2016
I bought this after seeing Arrival in order to read the short story on which the movie is based (Story of Your Life). It was one of those rare occasions where I''m glad i saw the movie first and the book was a great accompaniment to what I saw on the screen. It really... See more
I bought this after seeing Arrival in order to read the short story on which the movie is based (Story of Your Life). It was one of those rare occasions where I''m glad i saw the movie first and the book was a great accompaniment to what I saw on the screen. It really exposed a whole other layer to the story and filled in the blanks in a way that was complementary to the movie. Quite different from the movie in how it''s told and in some of the details, but worked well. Sort of like two friends telling you about the same event from their individual viewpoints.
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AustinTiffany
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Excellent Collection of "What If" Short Stories
Reviewed in the United States on October 14, 2016
This is actually the first set of short stories I''ve ever read. Bit of background, I have a deep aversion to short-story collections, especially if it''s by a mix of authors. Feels like eating a couple of potato chips and nothing more: frustrating. And indeed, that colors... See more
This is actually the first set of short stories I''ve ever read. Bit of background, I have a deep aversion to short-story collections, especially if it''s by a mix of authors. Feels like eating a couple of potato chips and nothing more: frustrating. And indeed, that colors my review just a bit, both overall and also on a number of individual stories in this collection, but more on that later.

OVERALL REVIEW: the collection is excellent. This actually feels a bit like reading a collection of Black Mirror episodes; each story is a sort of runaway exploration of a singular "what if?" concept. In fact, each story is written in a distinct style, especially impressive since these were written over the course of many years. Several are in first person, some are told in a distant, omniscient 3rd person, one is told in a confusing 1st and 2nd person narrative. Some are distinctly emotional and colored in vivid emotional tones, some are distant and cold and detached feeling. The stories run the range of ancient, Biblical settings to late 19th century, to modern day, to near future. But overall, this collection of short stories feels satisfying in the sense of each one being standout.

Now I''ll give short reviews on each individual story, spoiler free:

TOWER OF BABYLON
This takes place in ancient Babylon, and is ostensibly historically accurate; all the place and people names are real. But this story centers around these ancient people improbably building an enormous tower to heaven, to LITERALLY open the vaults of heaven. The story is told from such a mechanically sound and realistic sense, with so much detail, that as the reader, you''re more than willing to set aside some disbelief and go with the premise. The twist to this story is actually just as mechanically mindful as the rest of the telling of the story was, and despite the nature of it, I found it oddly satisfying and quaint.

UNDERSTAND
This story, like Tower of Babylon, and most of the stories, starts out on solid footing before shooting into the sky. The premise is solid and instantly believable in today''s world of medical breakthroughs, and involves a patient being brought back from a vegetative state with an experimental drug. But the drug results in some unexpected side-affects ... Ultimately, I found the ending to be bizarre and just about senseless. It''s one of those endings that makes me wonder if I''m just too dense or slow to read into it enough to be blown away. That said, the author''s literary style during the telling of the story is spot-on, perfectly illustrating through narrative structure the rapid changing of the character themselves.

DIVISION BY ZERO
This is one of the less fantastical stories in this collection, but still uses a specific narrative design to tell a story both literally and figuratively. Of course, this story is also about math, one of my weakest areas, so much of the story kind of flew over my head. However, one of the two characters is not a mathematician, so this creates an opening for some exposition for the less versed readers. In the end, the story is not as much about math ... and I sort of got the ending to this story, but it''s one of those things where it would probably help to discuss this with a reading club or a literature class to tease out all of the layered meanings.

STORY OF YOUR LIFE
This is the short-story that is inspiring the movie "Arrival". It''s also one of the more interesting and mind bending stories, since it switches narrative styles constantly, and involves flashbacks. Essentially (without spoilers, but this helps first-time readers), there are two time-lines: the main story, in which communication occurs with aliens, and various flashbacks. Making this more intriguing is that the main story is told in 1st person, but the flashbacks are told in 2nd person, in a strange sort of future tense. There''s a reason for this, be assured. The eventual ending is emotional in a way I didn''t expect and left me wondering about the implications set up. I look forward to seeing the movie version of this, because, like several of these short-stories, this deserves a full-length movie and/or novel adaption.

SEVENTY-TWO LETTERS
This takes place in an alternate reality version of late 19th century / early 20th century England. It''s hard to say, because the central premise is that the world is built on using combinations of the Hebrew alphabet (a 72 letter combination) to invoke a "name" to induce certain magical qualities in things. I know what I said must sound stupid, but like all of these short stories, the author sets this up in a way that is well grounded, logical, and believable enough for you to set aside disbelief. The author also does a fantastic job of adopting the type of language, slang, and style that would be appropriate for a story told in this time era, making it that much more immersive. That said, I thought the ending was too sudden and weak and like the central conflict was barely resolved.

THE EVOLUTION OF HUMAN SCIENCE
This is the shortest story in the collection, and is written in the style of a magazine article. Thus, it''s also only a dozen or so pages in length. Therefore, this functions less like a story, and more like a bit of open-ended speculation on the author''s part. This makes this entry the weakest and least satisfying in the collection.

HELL IS THE ABSENCE OF GOD
This is one of the more fantastical and imaginative stories in this collection. It''s heavy on the religious speculation, but not preachy by any means. In fact, I liked this story for it''s rather interesting and almost darkly comical depiction of a real-world Christian God and his angels. I can''t say much more without spoilers, but suffice to say, I rather liked this story. The ending feels trite and odd, but I think I kind of understood it in the context of the rest of the story. And the author''s narrative style is perfect, taking on a detached but wizened sort of air, like that of a classic parable or fable.

LIKEING WHAT YOU SEE: A DOCUMENTARY
This story is told in a faux documentary style, like the sections are transcripts of recordings taking from various people being interviewed, along with a few news broadcasts and speeches. There is no back and forth question style here, but more like someone was asked to give their full-length thoughts on something and the story here is that. It actually works pretty well for the premise, which is that a neural implant is developed which deprives people of the ability to recognize facial beauty. This is actually based in true observational science of people that have suffered a brain lesion in a particular part of the brain that controls this. Anyway, the idea is interesting, and explored evenly from both sides of the issue, as to whether such a technology is good or bad. This is less a story and more of a work of speculative, train-of-thought type of story, but it''s still very satisfying as a work of fiction.

---

Overall, I recommend buying this collection of stories. I''d love to see a few of them optioned as TV shows, movies, or full length novel adaptions (beyond just Story of Your Life / Arrival).
217 people found this helpful
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Jim Cherry
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Get it For Movie Tie In Stay for Rest of Stories
Reviewed in the United States on February 27, 2017
I got Ted Chiang’s “Stories of Your Life” because I saw the movie “ Arrival ” which is based on Chiang’s “The Story of Your Life” which is included in this volume. I admit I cheated and went straight to “The Story of Your Life” and when I read the rest of... See more
I got Ted Chiang’s “Stories of Your Life” because I saw the movie “ Arrival ” which is based on Chiang’s “The Story of Your Life” which is included in this volume. I admit I cheated and went straight to “The Story of Your Life” and when I read the rest of Chiang’s stories I found them as fascinating, innovative and as challenging as “The Story of Your Life.”

Since I did jump to “The Story of Your Life” it approaches its subject, aliens making contact with humans deftly. Chiang makes the aliens, alien, not some anthropomorphic proxy that is supposed to be representative or illustrative of some human characteristic. Chiang is a writer who takes both aspects of the phrase science fiction seriously. The challenge of Louise Bank in “The Story of Your Life” is to find a way to communicate with the aliens, called heptapods. Chiang is well-versed in semiotics. In other stories Chiang very well distills mathematical theory (“Division by Zero”). However, he also doesn’t shy away from fantastic scenarios such as in “Hell is the Absence of God” which posits what the human race and faith would be like if God was a known entity and angels frequently visited earth or at least the physical plane and what their effect on life and lives would be, as well as the effect on faith.

The stories included in “The Stories of Your Life” are so unique and exciting to read I was ready to recommend the book even before I finished “The Story of Your Life.” I’m glad I stuck around to read the other stories as well.
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Andrew
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
This Is the Best Book I Have Ever Read
Reviewed in the United States on May 14, 2020
My apologies to William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Jorge Luis Borges, George Orwell, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Alex Haley. Your works might have been more historically significant, but I found more enjoyment in Ted Chiang''s work. My apologies to J.K Rowling, George... See more
My apologies to William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Jorge Luis Borges, George Orwell, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Alex Haley. Your works might have been more historically significant, but I found more enjoyment in Ted Chiang''s work. My apologies to J.K Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Alistair Reynolds, Mark Lawrence, Ramez Naam, and N.K. Jemisin, but your fantastic contemporary fiction only approximates the mastery of the English language demonstrated in this book.

The Stories of Your Life and Others is a collection of 8 short stories written by Ted Chiang. The stories are science fiction, fantasy, or both. They cover the topics of theology, philosophy, mathematics, neuroscience, class conflict, and linguistics. And yet, the stories are never boring. The characters are interesting and well developed (as much as can be in a short story), the worlds are beautiful, the prose is captivating, and the pacing is nearly perfect.

Tower of Babylon is a re-imagining of the story of the Tower of Babel set in a flat-Earth world as imagined by ancient philosophers. The Earth is flat and the oceans spill from the sides into the abyss below. The tower itself rises into the sky without concern for wind that should topple it over or the gravity that should pull it back to Earth.

Understand is the story of an individual that becomes a hyper-genius after receiving a treatment to repair brain damage received from falling into a coma. This is a familiar plot in science fiction. However, while reading this story you realize that no one has really taken this idea seriously. The story is told from the first-person perspective and Ted Chiang''s ideas about what would happen if a person really became hyper-intelligent are fascinating.

Division by Zero is a story that contemplates what it would be like for people to discover that mathematics has no basis in logic or reality. In fact, the name of the story is a reference to the mathematical law that forbids dividing numbers by zero. Dividing by zero is forbidden because it leads to non-sensical results like 1 = 2. Ted Chiang asks in this story, what if all mathematic laws reach this non-sensical conclusion?

Story of Your Life is about aliens that visit Earth and teach a woman a new language that rejects the logical ordering of events (cause then effect). What if language itself is what leads us to believe that the past comes before the future? And, how do you resolve paradoxes when the future comes before the past?

Seventy-Two Letters is a story about a golem “programmer.” Not the hulking golems that protect Jewish people, but small automata that can be “programmed” to perform rudimentary tasks. What would the worker class think of these golems that might take their jobs? What would the upper classes do with this kind of technology?

The Evolution of Human Science is the shortest story in this book. It deals with the “end” of science caused by the creation of groups of hyper-intelligent humans. These posthumans take over the pursuit science but cease to interact with normal humans in a sensible manner.

Hell Is the Absence of God takes us to a world where people can observe and interact with angels, demons, God, Heaven, and Hell yet still experience the random events that create happiness, pleasure, pain, and suffering to those that may or may not deserve it. This story is an interesting take on the classic problem of why some innocent people suffer and some unethical people prosper when God is supposed to be omnipotent and good.

Liking What You See: A Documentary is about the development and deployment of a technology that neutralizes individuals’ ability to see physical attractiveness in themselves and others. Will people be worse off because they cannot appreciate beauty, or will they be better off because they can’t judge people who are ugly.
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Paul Watson
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Novel Ideas but no endings.
Reviewed in the United States on December 16, 2016
This is a hard one to review. First, I bought it after seeing and enjoying the movie. The movie is adapted from one of the short stories in this collection. First, the author is extremely inventive when it comes to fashioning novel situations or "could be" worlds... See more
This is a hard one to review. First, I bought it after seeing and enjoying the movie. The movie is adapted from one of the short stories in this collection. First, the author is extremely inventive when it comes to fashioning novel situations or "could be" worlds in these stories. He then plays that novel situation out over the course of the story. As an example: what if you lived in a society where you could modify your mind so you couldn''t recognize the pretty or ugly faces. An interesting idea that he plays out for 20-30 pages. But, as in most of these stories, when it ends I have no feeling of conclusion. Maybe it''s my problem in that I like stories that leave me with an AHA at the end. These stories are a sort of "slice of life"-- well, a "slice of unusual life''. The characters and dialog are well written. So 3 stars says it''s okay.
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Steven M. AnthonyTop Contributor: Fantasy Books
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Fiction About Science, not Science Fiction
Reviewed in the United States on November 16, 2018
This is a collection of eight short stories. As is usually the case in such collections, some are better than others. In this instance, I found a couple to be VERY good, while a few others to be borderline unreadable. Certainly, Story of Your Life, the basis for the... See more
This is a collection of eight short stories. As is usually the case in such collections, some are better than others. In this instance, I found a couple to be VERY good, while a few others to be borderline unreadable. Certainly, Story of Your Life, the basis for the recent movie Arrival, was superb, but suffered for the fact that I had already seen the movie. Hell is the Absence of God was also very thought provoking and engaging.

This is sold as a collection of science fiction short stories, but is not likely the science fiction that you might expect (with the exception of Story of Your Life). Most of the others are fiction stories, with science as the basis, hence “science fiction”. Not exactly what I was expecting.
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Scott William FoleyTop Contributor: Star Wars
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Innovative and Thought-Provoking
Reviewed in the United States on April 6, 2017
I loved the film Arrival. As is my habit after watching a great movie based on a book, I immediately acquired the source material. It turns out that Stories Of Your Life and Others is actually a short story collection and "Story Of Your Life" is specifically the... See more
I loved the film Arrival. As is my habit after watching a great movie based on a book, I immediately acquired the source material. It turns out that Stories Of Your Life and Others is actually a short story collection and "Story Of Your Life" is specifically the installment that served as Arrival''s source. However, there are seven other shorts in this collection by Ted Chiang, and they are all imaginative and thought-provoking.

Chiang trained as a computer scientist, and it shows in his writing. He is very precise, very analytical, and very scientific. Yet he also has a great sense of character, pacing, and detail. I especially appreciate that he seems to know the appropriate time to really delve deeply into scientific jargon, but he also knows the right time to pull back and simply let the story flow.

I would not say that all of his stories are purely science fiction, by the way. "Tower Of Babylon," for example, explains the science behind building a structure reaching to the heavens, but I would say it is more commentary about the human spirit than anything. "Hell Is the Absence Of God," a story about the physical, spiritual, and emotional consequences following sporadic visits by actual angels, is also far more about what it means to be human than anything else.

In fact, at their root, most of Chiang''s stories in this collection are investigating the plight of the human condition. He tackles love, greed, beauty, sin, justice, obsession, honesty, and even eternal life, but he does so in extremely smart, original, and imaginative ways hidden within the genres of science fiction, steampunk, and fantasy.

If you enjoy innovative, thought-provoking stories, I highly recommend this collection. They are all fairly complex reads, but well worth the effort. You will like some more than others, but each is to be appreciated in its own way.
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Paul Frandano
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Unmatched Brilliance
Reviewed in the United States on May 24, 2021
Ted Chiang may be the greatest living SF author--I don''t have the  wherewithal or the commitment to the genre to deserve a vote on this--but I read a lot of popular science (e.g., Brian Greene, Robert Sapolsky, Discovery) and even more literary fiction, and Ted Chiang is... See more
Ted Chiang may be the greatest living SF author--I don''t have the  wherewithal or the commitment to the genre to deserve a vote on this--but I read a lot of popular science (e.g., Brian Greene, Robert Sapolsky, Discovery) and even more literary fiction, and Ted Chiang is the most compelling, and certainly the most imaginative writer of fiction, I''ve read in 2021. He just knows so much about so many things, and he very obviously works his stories like an old-world jeweler, setting everything in its right place, apparently working some stories for years. The  eight stories in his first collection, Stories of Our Lives and Others (and rereleased as an Arrival film tie-in in 2016) were written between 1990 and 2002, which seemed to me impossible, as they read so contemporarily as to be addressing today''s or just yesterday''s news. The heartbreaking "Stories of Our  Lives," which provided the basis for the beautiful, instantly classic, transformative SF film Arrival, is a majestic meditation on free will (or our lack thereof). "Liking What You See: A Documentary," anticipates "deep-fake" technology and takes a fresh turn of the marketing masters of deceit and the manipulation of consumer  tastes. "Seventy-Two Letters" is a brilliant take on the  Golem "myth" - which, we learn from the "author''s notes" appendix, was not a century old at the time Chiang wrote the story, which introduces what I presume to be a novel form of DNA coding to animate automatons.

The breadth and depth of Chiang''s imagination and vision staggers me. I''ve admired - and met - a good number of hard SF authors, including the Killer Bees (Brin, Bear, and Benford), Neal Stephenson, Catherine Assaro, Wil McCarthy, and others, and in my (disputable) opinion, Chiang is at the top of this list, and all without having written a novel (but with several stories that reach novella length). He is challenging in ways that boggle a science-challenged liberal-arts mind, but the  design and pace of his stories work like a tractor beam that continues to lure in readers that may be puzzled  to the end  at how he''s worked his stories out.

Needless to add, Ted Chiang is now on my list of  essential "read upon release" authors. I look forward to whatever else he''ll be publishing in the SF outlets, in eager anticipation of his next collection, which may be a decade or more in the making, as was his masterful Exhalation of 2019.
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Top reviews from other countries

Mike N
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A broad mix of concepts in truly original form
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 16, 2017
Like many others (I suspect), I bought this book after watching the excellent film "Arrival", and discovering that it was based on a short story by Ted Chiang in this collection. I''d never heard of him before, so I was coming to him cold (not having any expectations...See more
Like many others (I suspect), I bought this book after watching the excellent film "Arrival", and discovering that it was based on a short story by Ted Chiang in this collection. I''d never heard of him before, so I was coming to him cold (not having any expectations just because the film was so good). The collection is a mixed bunch, but if one word can sum it all up it is this: original. This is a mixture of science-fiction, philosophy, fantasy, possibly metaphysics, and probably other things that is not seen often enough. The collection covers xenolinguistics (OK, we knew that, because of Arrival), golems and the kabbala, mathematics, religion. It neatly weaves all these things and more into stories that surprise, and in combinations that you simply wouldn''t expect to find. Some stories are stronger than others, but all are worth reading. For example, I loved Tower of Babylon, but found the ending extremely predictable from very early on, which was a little disappointing. Division by Zero appealed to me (as a mathematician by degree). If you like your science fiction wide ranging and eclectic, then this is the collection for you.
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J. Ang
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Mindblown
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 1, 2018
The contents of this innocuously titled story collection totally blew me away, with its intelligent and science- and fact-based stories, which are as varied as they are unexpectedly and consistently absorbing. Given that they spanned years (some of them published as early...See more
The contents of this innocuously titled story collection totally blew me away, with its intelligent and science- and fact-based stories, which are as varied as they are unexpectedly and consistently absorbing. Given that they spanned years (some of them published as early as 1990) and were not written especially for this collection, there is still a sense of cohesiveness that binds these stories together. Even as a collection, it was published as far back as 2002 but only drew prominent attention on the strength of the sci-fi film “Arrival”, which one of the stories, “Story of Your Life”, was based on. That story is so much more than just about aliens. You have to read it for yourself to appreciate the brilliance of the way time is manipulated even in the way it is told. All the themes and concerns in the stories are imaginatively and almost preternaturally examined in thought-provoking and startling ways; whether it’s about the value of beauty, the creative power of language and preformation, the question of time (based on the variational principles of physics, no less, as Chiang tells us in his story notes at the end of the collection), how the consistency of maths relate to the way we hold on to absolute truth, and the metacognitive repercussions of finding meaning and pattern in everything you see and understanding your own mind. He even deals with tougher issues like the inherent contradictions of a benevolent God (and His angel visitations) and innocent suffering. It’s not often that you get a blend of science and literary fiction so richly and seamlessly intertwined. 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.
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Mrs. A. N. Henly
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not the endings you expect!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 13, 2019
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. The film took a few liberties with the story which I thought were...See more
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. 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. 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! Great for book groups, I guess, it will keep people talking for ages:))
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D. Morris
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Read this before you see the movie
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 7, 2020
Highly inventive stories, full of imagination, startling ideas, good writing... though by far the best is "Story of Your Life". Forget the movie, which throws in some mystical BS about a language that lets you see the future (soulful aliens are the new form of the wise...See more
Highly inventive stories, full of imagination, startling ideas, good writing... though by far the best is "Story of Your Life". Forget the movie, which throws in some mystical BS about a language that lets you see the future (soulful aliens are the new form of the wise Native American trope from the ''70s and ''80s). Chiang''s original is much cleverer than that, and more genuinely magical, in the sense of moving and numinous rather than full of woo-woo, using the way memory works to shape a story that is both clever and powerfully moving. The inspiration may have come from something Kurt Vonnegut said: “Stephen Hawking found it tantalizing that we could not remember the future. But remembering the future is child’s play for me now. I know what will become of my helpless, trusting babies because they are grown-ups now. I know how my closest friends will end up because so many of them are retired or dead now. To Stephen Hawking and all others younger than myself I say, ''Be patient. Your future will come to you and lie down at your feet like a dog who knows and loves you no matter what you are.''”
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Mark Brown
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Maybe an acquired taste
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 22, 2017
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...See more
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!?" Certainly a taste worth acquiring. Wonderful although, at times, baffling.
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