The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by Ken Liu. I highly, HIGHLY enjoyed this book and even the stories that were less successful were still really enjoyable. There are 15 stories in this collection, and there was only one that I didn’t really enjoy. That’s a pretty astonishing for a collection of short stories. But most successfully, this has made me extremely excited for Liu’s novel The Grace of Kings.
I’m having a hard time picking out a favorite story from this collection, though I think the one that hit me the hardest was The Paper Menagerie, a story about a son’s relationship with his immigrant mother. It was bittersweet and lovely, hitting all the right emotional beats. However, it was just one outstanding story among many outstanding stories.
It’s much easier to pick out my least favorite story, Mono No Aware. I put down “Sacrifice, space travel, culture” in my updates for this story but can hardly remember what it was actually about now.
If I had to pick a theme for this collection I’d say it was a collection of stories about parents and children, as that was one of the dominant themes in the stories. The relationship between parents and children, from both sides of the relationship was featured in almost every story. Another major theme is the relationship between Asia (mostly China and occasionally Japan) and the United States, which makes sense given Liu’s background and some of my favorite stories where the ones where Liu wove Chinese mythology and legends into the lives of his characters.
However, my favorite thing about these stories is that they were all indeed short stories. There were no novel briefs, or interludes in a greater world. Each story is complete in itself, something that is becoming rarer in the science fiction and fantasy world. If you enjoy short stories, this is one you should absolutely pick up.