I’ve seen Arrival and liked it but didn’t read the story collection it’s drawn from. There’s about ten movies in this book to be made and they should all be very good. There’s two basic kinds of stories in this collection. Very very short ones that explore a singular idea for a few pages and then leave off. These tend to be interesting, but ultimately small and not completely fulfilling. And then there’s longer stories that present a conceit to work through, but also works through the kinds of anxieties that conceit would create for those of us dealing with it. So where older science fiction stories maybe explore the moral implications of scientific discovery, these stories explore the emotional and psychological implications.
One long story here is about the growth and development of AI, but AI that is rendered through a kind of digi-pet. These creations exist is almost wholly digital worlds (though there is a minor and clunky robotic body into which these conscious beings can be downloaded) and take on the forms of anthropomorphic animals. They are sold in this way, but then as they slowly develop a series of interesting questions arise from them.
Another long story involves a kind machine that allows users to present a choice they face and the results of that choice ripple and create a branching off point in which alternate realities stemming from that choice also happen. The machine is a communication device that allows users to discuss the issues of these differing world with alternative versions of themselves.
So these stories and the others are rarely about the earth-shattering consequences so much as the emotional realities of them. It’s much more subtle and strong for these reasons.