The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm filled with shame for not having read these fantastic short stories earlier. Instead, I just focused on reading Ken Liu's translations of Cixin Liu, and Ken Liu's own enormous epic fantasy, ignoring, (wrongly-so) his award-winning short fiction.
*rubs hands together and gets to work*
I was delighted by almost all the short, sometimes strange, fiction that filled the first pages.
The Bookmaking Species of Select Species tickled all my librophile instincts.
State Change made me change tracks HARD and I felt the claustrophobia and intense BELIEF behind the somewhat magical conceit that each of us has our souls trapped in a small, unique object that we must protect at all costs. The twist is in the title.
Perfect Match made me think I had just watched a Black Mirror episode or a pretty common technothriller idea, but it wasn't bad for all that.
Good Hunting was a freaking delight because I recognized it right away as one of my favorite on-screen adaptations in the Netflix show Love, Death, and Robots. Kitsune legend meets steampunk transformation!
The Literomancer was both darkly interesting and pretty disturbing. Cultural Revolution meets interpretive magic.
Simulacrum was okay. I didn't dislike it but it wasn't as poignant as some I've read on the same thing.
The Regular was a much longer tale that was a police procedural, a mystery with a ton of great cyborg elements interwoven in the solving and the causes of the crimes. It was both clever and fast-paced and pure popcorn goodness.
The Paper Menagerie was rather sweet and all about learning about your family and dealing with cross-cultural divides. I can appreciate it and do, but it is not my favorite story in the bunch despite all the awards it was given.
An Advanced Readers’ Picture Book of Comparative Cognition made me oooh and ahhh because I LOVE a good story that doesn't hold back on the science and speculation and rolls all over the carpet with a cool tale.
The Waves was pretty ok. Not the best, but definitely above average.
Mono No Aware felt like a more traditional SF story with space travel. Also okay.
All the Flavors rather surprised me. I didn't realize I would be getting a rather long Western set during the time of the railroad building where many Chinese lost their lives in America in the Company Towns while building the Transcontinental. It was rather great.
A Brief History of The Trans-Pacific Tunnel was written as snippets of news articles about (somewhat) digging a hole to China. I dug this short one.
The Litigation Master and The Monkey King might be my favorite story here. More than anything, it's a legal drama set in classic China that turns a trickster into a hero... on the side of safeguarding history. Great stuff.
The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary felt like a very different take on the same theme, but this time it had a very cool time-travel trick that caused a LOT of trouble for the creator. What kind of trouble? The usual kind: Political, social, Denialists, national embarrassment. What is it about? Getting proof, some small apology for Japan's role in the atrocities they committed during their occupations of China and other countries during WWII. Many horrible experiments were performed on prisoners. This story is rooted in facts, but the SF portion of the tale just pulls out a new, very believable wrinkle in the ongoing nastiness. Should tragedies that are old be swept under the rug, never acknowledged, or acknowledged and in the same breath denied?
This last one was pretty hard to get through, emotionally. Accordingly, I give it very high marks.
Overall, I loved the entire collection. :)
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