I’ve read good things about Ted Chiang. I read that he’s an amazing author, that his stories are incredibly creative, and that he pushes the boundaries of science fiction. I picked up a copy of his most recent collection, Exhalation: Stories, late last year and finally unearthed it from the stack of unread books next to my bed.
The nine stories here explore different aspects of humanity, what it means to be human, and questions our place in the universe. Each one of the stories is unique; meaning, they are completely original and feel as if they were thoroughly researched. I know, that sounds odd, but the amount of detail about the ideas in these stories makes them feel as if Chiang spent a lot of time reading up on the subject matter. Or maybe he just has a brilliant imagination and top-notch skills as a storyteller.
Keep in mind, the book is classified as science fiction, but I would argue they are more speculative fiction. Sure, there is advanced technology, androids, and virtual reality, but the stories are more than that. I found myself pausing every now and then to just let what I’d just read sink in. There aren’t many stories that hit me that hard, but most of the ones in this book did just that.
What I most appreciate about this collection is the originality of the stories. What I mean is, they aren’t like any other stories I’ve read. This isn’t to say the subject matter and topics they focus on aren’t relatable. Quite the contrary. There are moral and ethical dilemmas, there are relationship issues, love and loss, and ideas that made me pause and think more deeply about the world around me. Chiang has a deft touch when it comes to the subject matter. He doesn’t preach or spoon feed the reader. He lays things out in a compelling way, painting pictures with words that I think we can all relate to.
I’ll also share a secret with you. I’m jealous of Ted Chiang. He’s one of those rare writers that make me wish I could write as well as they do, come up with ideas that are rich and original, and connect with the reader like he did with me. Just brilliant.
Obviously, I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in sci-fi/speculative fiction. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. I have a feeling you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did.