I mentioned this in a review last year, but I’ve been in a huge reading slump. I’ve just been so unmotivated to finish anything. According to Goodreads I’ve been reading this particular book since the end of November, meaning it took me over a month to finish it which is really unusual for me. I’m hoping the goal I’ve set for myself this year will goad me into reading more, but I’ve also given myself permission to completely fail at it so that anxiety doesn’t stress me out over something that’s supposed to be relaxing and anxiety reducing. And none of that has anything to do with this book, which you should absolutely read if you haven’t already.
Stories of Your Life and Others is a collection of short stories by Ted Chiang, including the one (Stories of Your Life) upon which the movie Arrival was based. I picked this collection up because I saw the movie and fell in love and decided to read the short story, it’s an amazing collection. A lot of these stories have won various awards, including the Hugo and Nebula and I’m very glad they’ve been collected here. I’m torn between rating this collection four or five stars, because while I think they’re all amazing stories they don’t call to my soul with the siren’s pull which is something I require from five star reads. Despite my crazy requirements, it’s easily four and a half stars so I’m gonna round up.
If I had to pick an overarching theme to these stories it’s about the search for the meeting point of two seemingly opposing ideas, for example faith vs. science, and what happens to an individual when those two ideas meet. A few years ago I attended a panel that was titled “Does God have a place in modern science fiction” I’d say Ted Chiang struggles with this question over and over in these stories. Whether he decides yay or nay I think will depend on the reader, a seeming contradiction that is perfectly in line with his stories.
I have a few favorites from the collection, though it’s hard to really pick. Division by Zero in which a mathematician discovers a theorem which can prove that all numbers equal each other thus making all mathematics theoretical and how this completely shakes her world. Tower of Babylon is a story which uses Mesopotamian myths to tell a story about finding the divine on earth.
I can’t review this collection without mentioning Arrival and Stories of Your life; except that I think Abigail Nussbaum has me covered for the most part. I’m not sure I fully agree with her, but her analysis of the movie and short story is really good. Unlike most people I’ve seen who’ve reviewed both the movie and story, I honestly can’t pick which I prefer. As Nussbaum lays out, they’re very different and I like them both.
If you haven’t read this collection, I highly reccomend it even if you’re not a fan of science fiction.