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Exhalation

Chiang, Ted. Book - 2019 Science Fiction / Chiang, Ted, Adult Book / Fiction / Science Fiction / General / Chiang, Ted 1 On Shelf No requests on this item Community Rating: 4.2 out of 5

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The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate -- Exhalation -- What's Expected of Us -- The Lifecycle of Software Objects -- Dacey's Patent Automatic Nanny -- The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling -- The Great Silence -- Omphalos -- Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom -- Story Notes -- Acknowledgments.
This much-anticipated second collection of stories is signature Ted Chiang, full of revelatory ideas and deeply sympathetic characters. In "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate," a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and the temptation of second chances. In the epistolary "Exhalation," an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications not just for his own people, but for all of reality. And in "The Lifecycle of Software Objects," a woman cares for an artificial intelligence over twenty years, elevating a faddish digital pet into what might be a true living being. Also included are two brand-new stories: "Omphalos" and "Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom." In this fantastical and elegant collection, Ted Chiang wrestles with the oldest questions on earth--What is the nature of the universe? What does it mean to be human?--and ones that no one else has even imagined. And, each in its own way, the stories prove that complex and thoughtful science fiction can rise to new heights of beauty, meaning, and compassion.

REVIEWS & SUMMARIES

Library Journal Review
Booklist Review
Publishers Weekly Review
Summary / Annotation
Fiction Profile
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Author Notes

COMMUNITY REVIEWS

Mixed bag submitted by mowjac on August 5, 2019, 12:05pm There are some great thoughtful stories here: "Great Silence" and "Anxiety". Others I found less so, but Chiang's language is always lyrical and well thought out. The "peek behind the curtain" of authors notes at the end of the book I found interesting.

Worth your time submitted by reaganmalcolm on June 24, 2020, 11:37pm An eclectic mix of stories, I found that I enjoyed the vast majority of them but skimmed a couple others. The additional authors' notes were cool to read as a look at the writing and thought process put into the stories.

Good collection of philosophical scifi submitted by mnwong on August 16, 2020, 11:15pm A lot of the stories in this collection are thought experiments in free will and determinism. I think my favorite stories were "Exhalation," "What's Expected of Us," and "Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom."

Great collection submitted by severian on July 23, 2021, 2:15pm These stories are told simply but each one is mind bending in a different way. Great collection by a contemporary master!

Another great collection from a fantastic author submitted by eilusk on June 19, 2022, 9:16pm Ted Chiang's stories all feel driven by the kernel of a philosophical or worldbuilding "what if", with some stories like "Exhalation" amounting to an exploration of that one idea. But he also writes complex characters, with a lot of care and empathy given to their perspectives, as seen in stories "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" or "Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom" (and really, those premises can't be explored /without/ including a complicated human perspective).

"Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom" and "The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling" were my favorites in this collection, but I thought "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" was one of the most interesting. It's really unusual to see a topic like that (the ethics and possible outcomes of creating artificial intelligences that live entirely in simulated environments) handled with such a mundane narrative. The story is a thoughtful, broad, meandering narrative without heroes or villains, without shocking twists or a societal upheaval, and without clear-cut moral conclusions. It ends at a new beginning for the AI characters, and we ultimately don't know where they will go with their lives. There are definitely ways to write great stories on these kinds of subjects that /do/ have such things, but their absence is really refreshing and gives a lot of space for nuance and subtlety.

I liked all the stories in this book and adored most of them. I could go on for several more paragraphs.

Found in NYT Book Reviews submitted by bcartm01 on June 21, 2022, 8:04pm I don’t think I ever would’ve picked this book up spontaneously had I not found the review in the New York Times, but I’m so glad that I did. I loved this collection of essays, and each one was so significantly different from the previous. It is a great read and some of these essays will really allow you to get lost in their story.

Sci-fi's quietly most influential author submitted by MementoMora on June 10, 2023, 1:53pm Ted Chiang does it again as he reasserts himself as the contemporary master of speculative fiction.

I don't usually love short stories, but I did love this submitted by Susan4Pax -prev. sueij- on July 17, 2023, 8:54am This may genuinely be the first book of short stories I’ve ever truly enjoyed. I’m not entirely sure why (as I generally don't enjoy short stories). Certainly the writing is excellent. The stories are vaguely thematic on messing with time or alternate realities. The stories feel positive when reading them, but actually take on tough questions and don’t necessarily have HEA (happily ever after) endings. In that sense, I think they are speculative fiction at its best.

Really Good, A Little Uneven submitted by chalem on September 26, 2023, 7:20pm Chaing writes stories that carefully, technically describe a premise, some technology or alchemy that makes the world meaningfully different than our own, then carefully track, some of their consequences. Some of the premises are meant to be realistic, though unrealized, and the stories speculate about the future. Some premises are unattainable but reveal something about the present. The speculative stories sometimes wander without much narrative punch, especially the novella-length The Lifecycle of Software Objects. Some of the second type are perfectly constructed and conclude satisfyingly and insightfully. The first story, The Merchant at the Alchemist's Gate, is most like some of his first collection, driven more by magic than technology, and was a standout for me.

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PUBLISHED
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2019.
Year Published: 2019
Description: 350 pages ; 22 cm
Language: English
Format: Book

ISBN/STANDARD NUMBER
9781101947883

SUBJECTS
Short stories.
Science fiction.