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While I like a good space battle as well as the next person, I ultimately read science fiction for the ideas. This book is filled with wonderfully crafted stories which examine fascinating questions. What does it do to the human heart when it is possible to suppress emotions? If it is possible to go back in time and witness history, should we do it? What is our real connection to the past?
Be patient and savor these gems. Great stories. Great characters. Loving performances.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories?
I really and truly loved the first third of this book. I recommended it to about 5 people by the time I was reading "The Regular." That said, I did not feel the collection was consistent in quality. This was a true hit-or-miss for me, with the hits knocking it out of the park - State Change, The Perfect Match, The Regular, and The Literomancer absolutely took my breath away - the kind of stories that stick with you long after the initial read, that you go back to in your mind for reference later on. I started reading this book about a month ago as I write this, and I have thought about the concepts in those stories almost every day since I read them. Liu has an amazing ability to plant the seed of moral questions and step back to let the reader consider the implications of those questions. While he does offer his own insights on certain issues, there is no shortage of material to contemplate in this collection and I never felt like I was being force-fed his opinions. Liu's work demands credit for its ability to delve into moral dilemma and evoke thoughts and questions without doing the thinking for the reader or speaking in absolutes.
Liu's incorporation of Chinese culture and history into the stories was very unique, thoughtful, and informative. In some pieces it worked wonderfully to create a rich and compelling story, such as in The Literomancer and All the Flavors - these were mostly what I expected going into the collection - fiction. A more accurate representation of some of the pieces would be to say that they /have/ bits of fiction, combined with lots of historical detail and philosophical/political opinion. There is much to learn and even more to ponder from Liu's works, but not all of the pieces in this collection are the "escape from reality" that was my initial expectation. Some of the subject matter is very heavy and to really say that, for example, The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary was a "story" would, to me, be missing the point of the work. Liu is skilled at posing complicated philosophical questions and playing devil's advocate. He writes in the way I would imagine a lawyer would write if a lawyer began writing fiction. Liu is able to create a fictional scenario, create fictional controversy, and represent two opposing viewpoints with such credibility that, as you read, you think to yourself, "Yes, this is exactly how this would happen." It is very thought-provoking, but readers should be prepared for some very dark subject matter.
A major weak point of this collection for me was Liu's sense of balance between science and science fiction. I felt the scientific aspect overpowered the storytelling in far too many of the pieces. The Waves was the worst case of this; I made it about 15 minutes in before I asked myself why I was still listening when I had zoned out ten minutes ago. I also felt this in Mono No Aware; An Advanced Reader's Picture Book of Comparative Cognition came in just slightly above the former two. I enjoyed Liu's incorporation of science fiction in many of the other works, but the common thread between these three was that they were almost all science and very little fiction, and as such failed to garner any level of emotional investment in the stories, or my interest, for that matter.
Because I felt this collection began on such a strong note, I am somewhat disappointed by how many of the stories ended up leaving me cold. However, the vast majority of these pieces, even the ones that I did not enjoy as much as others, did offer very thought-provoking content and I am certain that many of the themes and questions raised by these stories will stick with me. I would definitely consider it worth the read overall, but wouldn't judge anybody who skips a chapter or two.
What about Corey Brill and Joy Osmanski ’s performance did you like?
I really loved the narration for this book; Corey Brill and Joy Osmanski did a wonderful job.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful