Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang

They were close enough now to perceive the vault of heaven to see it as a solid carapace enclosing all the sky.

It's been a while since I've read some real science fiction, and I have to admit that aside from a few favorite authors, there's a lot out there that I just don't know anything about. Ted Chiang, for instance. I grabbed this from the rotating collection at the library; the quote on the front from Greg Bear says "You won't know SF if you don't read Ted Chiang." Who?

Well, I'm really glad I checked it out. The stories collected here are mind-bending and really amazed me with the breadth of subject matter. I enjoyed some stories more than others, but overall I found it engaging and highly recommend it for science-fiction fans. Here are some short descriptions of some of the stories in the book:

"Tower of Babylon" is based on the story of the Tower of Babel, written as if the world is really the way ancients pictured it: a flat earth, with the sun, moon, and stars flying past, and then above it all the vault of heaven. After centuries of building, they've finally reached the vault and have brought in miners to break it open, hoping that they won't hit a reservoir and start another Flood.

"Story of Your Life" is probably my favorite of the bunch, and the hardest to describe. It involves aliens, linguistics, physics, and parenting to tell a surprising tale about foreknowledge and free will.

"Seventy-Two Letters" is another story that combines seemingly unrelated subject matter: golems (as in the creature of clay brought to life using a properly constructed Hebrew name) and the theory of preformation (spermatozoa as homunculi).

Some of the other stories include math theory, angels as supernatural disasters, and shutting off the ability to distinguish beauty. I'll definitely look up Ted Chiang to see what else he's written.

Fed to jonathan's brain | October 15, 2007 | Comments (0)


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