(E–pub Download) [Stories of Your Life and Others]
Summary ´ eBook, PDF or Kindle ePUB ☆ Ted ChiangAs 4 Hugos John W Campbell Locus and on and on He s greatly admired among authors and almost entirely unknown by most readers I ve heard him referenced as an inspiration by several authors that I enjoy reading Specifically Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham who collectively write the Expanse series under the pseudonym James S A Corey cite him as the best SF writer I figured I should probably do myself a service and check this collection out After reading it I have to agree that his writing is mind blowing High concept science fiction that is grounded heavily in the real world A writer of ideas Every single story is incredibly uniue tonally diverse and powerful in different ways If the uality among these 8 stories wasn t at such a consistently high level I d say that Chiang was merely a ghostwriting team comprised of 8 different authors all exceptionally talented each with different interests politics and prose styles Every story genuinely feels like it could be penned by a different author I ve never come across a creative powerhouse like this guy He impressed the hell out of me with every sentenceTower of Babylon 55Killer story The Old Testament cosmology was especially fun to hear described passing beyond the moon sun and stars etc A telling of the construction and ourney up the tower of Babylon and what lies beyond the vault of heaven Blew my mind right open Seriously creative I get why it won all kinds of awardsUnderstand 55Again with the uniue approach to storytelling While reading this one I started realizing how some of these concepts have clearly influenced other stories Most obviously the movie Limitless and the Max Barry novel Lexicon I particularly liked how the language and vocabulary of the story evolves as the protagonist s intelligence and recall increasesDivision By Zero 45An examination of loss of belief mental illness suicide and math What happens when everything you ve worked for in your life every kind of order that you ve relied on is suddenly incorrect Story of Your Life 65Stop what you re doing now and read this This is the absolute best short story I have ever read Chiang s grasp on the English language is deeply integrated into the story itself causality and omniscience It s insanely good This was the basis for the Denis Villeneuve film Arrival Seventy Two Letters 35Interesting concepts but storywise it was a little boring The power of language to shape action and perception Reminded me a lot of early 50s Asimov All conceptual not much character developmentThe Evolution of Human Science 35Interesting and extremely short little tale about a scientific understanding breaking down between regular humans and meta humans Conceptually cool but too short to really be that interesting Hell is the Absence of God 55The moral of the story God is a maniacal motherfucker who doesn t give a shit about humans and you should love him unconditionally This one was a real brain twister I loved itLiking What You See A Documentary 55Advertisers elective localized brain damage culture Are All Guys Assholes?: More Than 1,000 Guys in 10 Cities Reveal Why They're Not, Why They Sometimes Act Like They Are, and How Understanding Their ... Will Solve Your Guy Drama Once and For All jamming politics coming of age concepts of beauty love relationships This was terrific and heavily subversive Reading is nothing comprehension is everything Sarah RichardsI read the title short story while away at a conference for technical writers The uote above came from a presentation about transforming the Government Digital Service but the issues of communication context and audience that are at the heart of this story are key to technical writing and had echoes in many of the presentations Perhaps it is no coincidence that Ted Chiang is also a technical writerNote This review isust the title story I ve reviewed the others in this collection HERESame Old Same Old NoAliens arrive They are suitably weird looking radially symmetric with seven eyes and seven limbs on a barrel shaped body topped by a puckered orifice but with no face and no front and back They seem keen to communicate via devices humans nickname looking glasses The military take charge Of course they do That s what always happens Then things escalateBut this is different Linguist Dr Louise Banks tells in linear fashion how she and colleagues learned the alien languages But that narrative is interspersed with non chronological episodes from her daughter s lifeThe heptapods spoken and written languages are unrelated to each other and the latter has strange properties that affect Louise s consciousness specifically her perception of time and free will This shapes the telling and curious grammar of her daughter s story I remember past tense what it ll future be like to It is a Borgesian paradoxLinguistic Relativity Sapir WhorfThe story is underpinned by the idea that the structure of a language can affect the cognition of those who use it Linguistic Relativity Heptapod A
spoken is relatively straightforward and uninteresting it sounded vaguely like that of ais relatively straightforward and uninteresting it sounded vaguely like that of a dog shaking the water out of its fur But Heptapod B written is very different It is a totally separate language the symbols don t relate to individual spoken words logographic or objects picture writing and there is no word order in part because there are no words as such Heptapod B has its own visual syntax semasiographic akin to mathematical euations some sign languages and the notation of music or dance It is written in a single smooth sinuous and rippling style that reflects the heptapods own physical movements It s also described as an Escheresue lattice and being like psychedelic posters More significantly it is not seuential This seems to reflect the heptapods modes of thought and it certainly comes to affect Louise s perception #of the world and the way she tells the story of her daughter s life China Mieville s sci #the world and the way she tells the story of her daughter s life China Mieville s sci novel Embassytown also features aliens with a totally different sort of language to those known to humans I reviewed it HEREOrwell takes the idea of linguistic relativity to an extreme with Newspeak making thoughtcrime literally impossible See Nineteen Eighty Four reviewed HEREFermat s Principle of Least TimeFermat Sapir Whorf free will and Heptapod B are intricately connected At times I wondered if the linguistics and mathsphysics was getting too esoteric but it didn t uite ump the shark and it all wove together brilliantlyThe detail below is for reference and is spoilered because understanding this is what the story is about on the page though not on screenview spoilerLight travels faster in air than water When a ray of
hits water it is taking a longer but faster route But Fermat s Principle of Least Time is a variational principle light always follows an extreme path maximum or minimum It describes light in goal oriented terms rather than the familiar causal chronological terms It assumes the ray of light knows its destinationIt s like a lifeguard who can run faster than she can swim she takes a longer route that has beach and less sea to get to the drowning person uickly Similarly because Heptapod B has no fixed word order no beginning or end the heptapod had to know how the entire sentence would be laid out before it could write the very first stroke This language is teleological one needed knowledge of the effects before the causes could be initiated The result is simultaneous consciousness where you live in the present like a newborn baby and in the past and future This makes the heptapods rather like Vonnegut s Tralfamadorians in Slaughterhouse Five reviewed HERE living in all time simultaneouslyFor such beings seuential speech is a slow and inefficient mode And if they already know the future of what they ll say and hear why speak at all Louise infers that heptapod language is performative saying something makes it so like You re under arrest or I now pronounce you man and wife But if you know the effects the end you know the future And if you know the future really know it it s fixed so you can t have free will The two are mutually exclusive And yet at the end Louise says view spoiler From the beginning I knew my destination and I chose my route accordingly How could both be true hide spoiler. What it means to be alive in a world marked by uncertainty but also by beauty and wonder An award winning collection from one of today's most lauded writer. .Light Hits Water It Is
S makes no sense in universe if the protagonist can create stable time loops and steal information from the future why doesn t she steal a cure Or why not see an alternate future where her child doesn t get sick or an entirely different husband and healthy child she could also love Or how is Heptapodese not supposed to lead to incredible chaos as people learn it and start monkeying with the future Why do the aliens need any assistance from the humans in the first place whether to learn their language or to save themselves The special effects depiction of Heptapod is some nifty cloud effects but the heptapods themselves are not terribly compelling aliens As a rendering of Chiang s vision I would have to give it an F because it is frustratingly almost the opposite of what he meant and as a generic Hollywood SF movie I would give it a B I would doubtless have enjoyed it if I had never read the story5 The Evolution of Human Science short dubious Not Chiang s best work on either dimension 86 Seventy Two Letters simply fantastic The setting is wonderful the problem great the ideas even better and the solution meaning better still I can t say it s incredibly deep but it s a look at a road not taken and a reminder of how confusing genetics was and how many strange ideas were proposed before we reached anything like the current Mendel Fisher particulate inheritance paradigm 27 Hell Is the Absence of God as an atheist who keeps coming back to the Wisdom Books the Book of Job particularly KJV translation of course this story came as a gut punch The writing is Chiang at his most Chiang y the world interesting and provocative Chiang takes the Bible literally but not seriously one might say and the ending simply unspeakable But don t take my word for it decide for yourself as the fallen angels say This story enriches reading the Book of Job for me and I think ultimately hammers in for me the unacceptability of divine command ethics and makes me atheistic 1 Pairs well with Scott Alexander s freewheeling Unsong8 Liking What You See A Documentary interesting ideas but something about the dialogues and characters seem off It ust Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis: Advice from Twentysomethings Who Have Been There and Survived jars me I think somewhere Chiang also notes his dissatisfaction with the writing of this one 6 Loving ImperfectionsIf arithmetic were consistent love could not exist That is to say if arithmetic were undeniably logical in its foundations logic would rule the worild and love would be eliminated as the irrational thing it is This is how I read the moral of Chiang s marvellous storyMathematicians tend to view numbers as the natural constituents of the universe existing independently in a Platonic realm of perfection Such a universe is orderly re I don t read very many short stories collection but after this one I feel like I now need toThis one contains the most mind bending and original sci fi stories I ve read in a whileMy favorite what the last one Update Saturday the 12th November 2016Iust watched the movie The Arrival and OMG it was amazing I cried Like a lot I had chills and sat on the edge of my seat and I was totally engaged What s worse The personal aspects of the movie Mexican Hooker just blew me away And even worse The mental ones were profound and beautiful and amazing The greatest living short story writer in my humble opinion This is a story of love and the devastating conseuences of realising one s love object is not as perfect as one thoughtThe opening paragraph reads like a maths textbook and the second is set in a psychiatric hospital Don t let either put you off I married a man with a maths degree and our child is now at university studying theoretical physics that is practically maths but I am primarily a words person This gave me a wonderful peek at theoy that can be found in numbers and patterns theoretical and also physical as well as the psychological risks As a child of seven Renee had been spellbound at discovering the perfect suares in the smooth marble tiles of the floor A single one two rows of two three rows of three the tiles fit together in a suare No matter which side you looked at it from ti came out the same And than that each suare was bigger than the last by an odd number of tiles It was an epiphany The conclusion was necessary it had a rightness to it confirmed by "the smooth cool feel of the tiles And the way the tiles were fitted together she had shivered "smooth cool feel of the tiles And the way the tiles were fitted together she had shivered the precision She devoted her life to maths was happy and successful until she made a discovery that was like a theologian proving that there was no God How to find meaning life after that And don t say 42The mathematical ideas relevant to the story were explained clearly enough that I think I understood them sufficiently If you want to delve deeper Mark H recommended this though I confess it went above my head For other stories in the collection Stories of Your Life see my review HEREImage source reviewTed Chiang is a technical writer in the software industry as many of the best people are He occasionally publishes short stories a remarkably high proportion of which have won major sci fi awards including 4 Nebulas and 4 Hugos for only 15 works That indicates the uality of what s within these pages but may mislead about the genre content and
style Some are set in the far past and the only aliens and space faring areSome are set in the far past and the only aliens and space faring are the title story though there is futuristic technology in most Speculative fiction than sci fi Instead these stories are primarily about inner space and ideas especially seeking meaning by analysing patterns of language maths and nature That leads to theological and philosophical uestions about good evil God and what it means to be human and at what point we cease to be such see also Vonnegut s GalapagosThe reviews of individual stories are in spoiler tags for easy scrolling but don t contain spoilersTower of Babylon 4Drilling through the vault of heaven in ancient Babylon view spoiler The first short story in a collection by a supposed sci fi author is set in Old Testament Babylon and features nothing futuristic or alien It almost feels as if it were written in ancient times If you want a label you could use Atwood s speculative fiction or perhaps less appealingly maths fiction The Tower of Babylon has nearly reached #the vault of heaven Miners are recruited to drill through so people can know Yahweh better The tower is #vault of heaven Miners are recruited to drill through so people can know Yahweh better The tower is high it takes the team around four months of solid climbing dragging tools on cartsThe world building was believably detailed the mythology and psychology almost real Whole communities live at levels on the tower never coming down to earth with ingenious ways of growing food At higher levels the light of day shone upward and plants grow sideways or down At the very top they walk among moving stars and the sight of the vault inspired unease They uestion the theology and conseuences of what they are doing might Yahweh punish their arrogance or be pleased at their aspiration and endeavour They continue cautiously using ancient techniues of fire setting and simple picks and drills slowly creating huge chambers in the smooth granite vault The dramatic conclusion causes a complete reappraisal of beliefs about God man and their relationship Ultimately By this construction Yahweh s work was indicated and Yahweh s work was concealed Image source for ancient cylinder seal hide spoiler Interfering Gremlin of GR AlertThis review was originally of the anthology Stories of Your Life and Others then recently I wrote a separate review for the individual story Story of Your Life Today I woke up to find GR have merged the two reviews WTF Now it looks super long winded OK I d better reorganize this review a bitReview of the novella Story of Your Life Story of Your Life is one of Ted Chiang s best stories Ted Chiang is one of the greatest sci fi short stories writers ever in many SF readers estimation he has won numerous Hugo and Nebula awards This shor Posted at HeradasTed Chiang s name continually comes up in lists of great short stories He s never written a novel but his short fiction has won nearly every SF award that exists 4 Nebul. Nt sudden change the inevitable rise of automatons or the appearance of aliens with some sense of normalcy With sharp intelligence and humor Chiang examines. 35 starsI don t often read science fiction and when I do those I ve chosen in the past are appropriately labeled as speculative fiction Stories that take place right here on our planet sans aliens Or if they do happen to occur in other worlds what is being examined is not so much the aliens themselves but the nature of our own humanity in comparison to these other beings These are the best kinds of stories and I ve found some of my very favorites in this genre Having once read a short story by Ted Chiang in the past and finding it uite brilliant I was game for giving this collection a go What I discovered was that Chiang has an inuisitive mind and a love for math and science which I thoroughly admire He makes you think and expand your mind to the point you will need to sit and ponder each story for uite some time before moving on to the next Like an all you can eat buffet You want to take it all in but if you go too uickly you will be overwhelmed by your overindulgence Each story is so uniue Because I had very different reactions to each one I ll share some thoughts on each one individually Tower of Babylon 5 stars Based on the Old Testament story but with a fresh angle this one transcends any time period Men try to reach the vault of heaven in order to better understand the secrets and mysteries of God The world building in this one was my favorite so visual and rich in detail especially for a short story What happens when you break through the floor of heaven I loved how this one ended Perhaps men were not meant to live in such a place If their own natures restrained them from approaching heaven too closely then men should remain on the earth Understand 25 stars After suffering from a traumatic brain injury a man is given hormone K therapy to regenerate the damaged neurons As a result the man s intelligence is enhanced exponentially What does he do with this new gift and how does it isolate him from others I liked the concept of this one better than the actual execution One of my favorite books ever Flowers for Algernon handles this idea with the added benefit of a pulling at the heartstrings kind of emotional draw that I ll never forget Here the constraints of the short story ust don t allow it to achieve that greatness I m reminded of the Confucian concept of ren inadeuately conveyed by benevolence that uality which is uintessentially human which can only be cultivated through interaction wit What s there to say about Chiang that all the others don t say He is the closest thing to a modern Jorge Luis Borges in melding high concepts with literature to create something better than either in some respects I d rank his best short stories as better than Gene Wolfe s too often tedious unsolved puzzleboxes His writing is deceptively excellent I would call him a writer s writer because the flat evenness of his prose may strike a reader as boring unless they have tried to write as clearly themselves and failed abysmally at which point they begin to appreciate Chiang s infallible choice of words and lucid prose which sinks into the mind without friction Stories of Your Life and Others is much superior to his novella Life Cycle of Software Objects and contains pretty much all of his greatest short stories which I have read except for his excellent Exhalation I read most of them online so when I had the chance to read a hardcopy of the full collection I seized it1 The Tower of Babylon amusing and in describing the lives of the people living on the tower moving in some respects The final ending feels like an appropriate conclusion If one had to criticize it it would be that the Tower itself is completely unrealistic even in the Biblical cosmology of the story as I said the best Chiang stories unite literature and good ideas I would rank this 5 of the 8 stories2 Division by Zero not terribly impressive over wrought and I feel I have read this story before and better 73 Understand a classic in the niche genre of superintelligence and IMO better than Vinge s Bookworm Run and at least as good as Flowers for Algernon Chiang like every other author confronts the limits of his writing ability in trying to write convincingly of a superintelligence who is by definition vastly smarter THAN HE IS THE SAME CHALLENGE he is the same challenge down #by Campbell to Vinge you can t write this story and neither can anyone else and the start #Campbell to Vinge you can t this story and neither can anyone else and so the start the story is much stronger than the later passages But the whole is still memorable 4 Probably an even better read for those who haven t read about themes of superintelligence before4 Story of Your Life I had actually read this one before and dismissed it as sentimental tripe with some weak physics or linguistic layering that I didn t really understand In this respect like many of the other reviewers on this page who pan it as dumb seeing the future tropes the fault was mine Story of Your Life is much better than the critics give it credit for being simply because they entirely failed to understand the concept despite uite a lot of explanation from Chiang Fortunately ust a few weeks ago I happened to read some material on the Lagrangian interpretations of physics and combined with knowing in advance the ending I was able to appreciate the story much better this time Thinking about it I realized it does something unusual in providing another angle a psychological angle to timeless interpretations of physics and block universes and backpropagation in neural networks and I even connected it to Zen which makes them all a little easier to understand for me I didn t get it the first time but I m glad I eventually reread it and got it I would rank this 3 of the 8 stories 3 This story is what I believe was the first adaptation of any of Chiang s stories despite being overrated like Life Cycle of Software Objects getting a movie in 2016 Since there seems to be some confusion over what exactly Chiang is trying to say with this one I ve expanded out my thoughts on what is actually going on in an essay movie however avoids this almost entirely When I heard there was going to be a movie I said to myself I bet it ll miss the entire point and make it about time travel or something It does Avoiding the physics entirely the screenwriter takes the offhand mention of Sapir Whorf and interprets the protagonist as getting actual time travel powers based on his interview making no mention of why when he decided to drastically simplify I suspect he doesn t even realize how badly he failed to understand it The scriptwriter apparently took the only bits he understood a mention of the Sapir Whorf hypothesis which is mostly a hypothesis as decades of searching have turned up less than impressive empirical results like slightly easier perception of named colors and better geographic location knowledge when grammar encodes direction certainly nothing like the grand expectations in the 1960s that led to such linguistic neologistic monstrosities as herstory or womyn With the meaning of the story excised he has to come up with a regular plot and does this by giving the aliens a dare I say human motivation in trying to somehow save themselves by uplifting humans This is itself a betrayal of part of Chiang s ethos in many of his stories Chiang is depicting the unknown and the unknowable and human confrontation with it The heat death of the universe in Exhalation post human intelligence in Understand post human knowledge science in The Evolution of Human Science the nature of God and morality and the implications of divine command theory in Hell is the Absence of God what lies beyond the sky or the circular universe in The Tower of Babylon and alien cognition and ways of viewing the universe in Story of Your Life What s left is mostly a glossy action movie heavy on military hardware presumably this is one of those Hollywood productions where the US military provides lots of euipment personnel in exchange for a positive depiction as honest competent not trigger happy about the need for a world government with the physics theme turned into The Thirteen-Gun Salute just a Sapir Whorf superpower though thi. Stories of Your Life and Others delivers dual delights of the very very strange and the heartbreakingly familiar often presenting characters who must confro.