BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Exhalation by Ted Chiang [in Booklist]

Ted Chiang, whose 1998 novella “Story of Your Life” (included in Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) became the Oscar-nominated film Arrival, returns with another intriguing collection comprised of seven previously published stories plus two new ones. Edoardo Ballerini voices four, Dominic Hoffman two, Amy Landon three, but most notable is Chiang himself who appends each story with a revealing provenance. Chiang’s regular aural insertion underscores the taut thread connecting his future worlds: the human relationship – repercussions, consequences, rewards – with sci-fi inventions, including (especially) all manner of artificial intelligence.

The most representative story is the collection’s longest, “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” in which “digients” – not unlike Tamagotchi virtual pets (Landon sure has the most fun creating personalities!) – become increasingly sapient as their interactions with their human creators grow. Other standouts include Ballerini-helmed “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” about time portals and understanding, and “What’s Expected of Us,” about free will; Hoffman’s “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” explores recording and remembering; Landon’s “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom” envisions parallel lives. Hollywood is already developing “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” and “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” so hearing the stories here first is a gift to (over)active imaginations.

Review: “Media,” Booklist, August 1, 2019

Readers: Adult

Published: 2019


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