Stories of Your Life and Others

Posted by : atcampbell | On : May 4, 2004

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Of the ten people who attended this meeting, only two had read all eight stories (or had read them in previous publications) and six had read some of the stories. Four of the readers had never read Chiang’s stories before.

This book consisted of eight stories, seven of which had been previously published. Of these, so many have won awards that Chiang probably has the highest ratio of awards to publications of any SF writer.

Most of us enjoyed Chiang’s vision of the enormous amount of work that would go into building a gigantic structure to Heaven in “Tower of Babylon,” and how people would live on it as they built.

A favorite of many of us was the alien first-contact story “Story of Your Life.” Although the basic idea of someone becoming unhooked in time by learning a nonlinear language was not believable, readers did enjoy the physics and its metaphor for life.

Another favorite was “Seventy-two Letters,” a Victorian alternate history. Although we groaned at reading our third golem story of the year, we found this one unique due to its mixing of Cabalism and homunculi.

Many of Chiang’s stories did contain some weakness, such as stories that dragged on too long, unbelievable science, and distracting story structure. But we could see from his attention to detail and character development, and the thoroughness with which he explores ideas and turns science into metaphors for human life, that Chiang is a writer to watch.

–Sandy Kayser