The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories – Ken Liu

Blurb:  Bestselling author Ken Liu selects his multiple award-winning stories for a groundbreaking collection–including a brand-new piece exclusive to this volume.

{4585702C-99FE-4DFC-BEDF-05F55BEC577A}Img400With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. This mesmerizing collection features many of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards), “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner), “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon Award finalists), “All the Flavors” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist), and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (The only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).

Insightful and stunning stories that plumb the struggle against history and betrayal of relationships in pivotal moments, this collection showcases one of our greatest and original voices.

This is a beautifully crafted collection of short stories that crosses and transcends genres.  You will find some sci-fi, some fantasy, some historical magical realism.  Always throughout there is the evocative whisper of Chinese dialect; a faint taste of the sweet and the sour; the brush of silk, leaving a trace of orchid in the air and glimpses of not just another culture, but other times and even other worlds; leaving the reader with the feeling of a brief insight into something exotic but intimately and familiarly known.

Personally I enjoyed most of the stories presented.  My particular favourites included ‘State Change’, with its different take on souls and what makes us ‘me’; ‘The Perfect Match’, with its eerily prescient depiction of personal mobile technology; and ‘The Litigation Master and the Monkey King’, which reads like a fable or fairytale for more recent times.

Many of the stories are sad.  All of them made me think deeply.  After nearly every story I put the book down and sat mulling it over, turning the words and ideas in my mind, tasting them and absorbing them.

Some of the stories are graphic, horrific and not for the squeamish.  I particularly noted ‘The Literomancer’ and ‘The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary’ in this regard.  The most disturbing thing in both these stories is that the violence depicted is the least fantastic and most true-ringing aspect of each.  What does that say about human society?

Overall I would say that these stories, whilst short, are not an easy read, but they are well worth the effort and as much thought and heart swells out of them as was obviously poured into them.

Who can say if the thoughts you have in your mind as you read these words are the same thoughts I had in my mind as I typed them? We are different, you and I, and the qualia of our consciousnesses are as divergent as two stars at the ends of the universe.

And yet, whatever has been lost in translation in the long journey of my thoughts through the maze of civilization to your mind, I think you do understand me, and you think you do understand me. Our minds managed to touch, if but briefly and imperfectly.

Does that thought not make the universe seem just a bit kinder, a bit brighter, a bit warmer and more human?

We live for such miracles.

– Ken Liu, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

You can find more about Ken Liu and his writing here, or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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