Saturday, June 18, 2016

Books: The Paper Menagerie By Ken Liu

(Drivebycuriosity) - Ken Liu is one of the most interesting authors in the current American literature scene ( wikipedia ). The short story anthology "The Paper Menagerie and other Stories" shows why ( amazon ). The collection mixes hard science fiction, based on science, with fantasy & history. Many stories deal with the (historical) relations between Asians and Westerners (Americans) (this is a spoiler free blog).

My favorite is "The Regular" - a futuristic cat-and-mouse play. A woman, who´s body is enhanced by new technologies, like a cyborg, uses her enhancements in order to catch a serial killer, a cooly & analytical thinking man who also employs new technologies to catch his victims and to escape the law enforcement. Crime noir meets hard science fiction - a masterpiece.

There is more hard Science Fiction:

"The Perfect Match" is about a man who`s whole life is being organized by an operating system like Apple`s Siri. The story is a critical view on the rising influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on our lives.

"The Waves" happens on a generation spaceship, where people are born & die on a many centuries lasting flight. A new technology gives them the chance to live forever. Should they?

"Mono No Aware" is alternate history. A Japanese man gets a place on a spaceship on a long travel where he has a dangerous and very responsible job.

 "A Brief History of The Trans-Pacific Tunnel" is another alternate history story, this time influenced by Kafka and some economics.

"The Book Making Habits of Select Species" doesn`t have a plot, it is instead a pseudo-scientific study about how different alien species store information. Lots of linguistic and information theory with plenty imagination. 

Some stories are pure Fantasy:

"State Change" is a romantic piece about a young woman who keeps her "soul" frozen in a refrigerator  - philosophical & psychological.

"Good Hunting" is a fairy tale about demons who can take human shape, set in China in the 20th century. The story mixes fantasy with contemporary Chinese history - entertaining & a humorous.

Other stories focus on history and relations between Asians and Westerners:

"The Literomancer" focusses on an American Girl who grows up in post-WWII Taiwan. The story deals with political & military American interference in Asia - with some fantasy elements.

"All The Flavors" is about the fates of Chinese immigrants (China Men) in the US in the 19th century.

"The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary" describes the Japanese occupation of China and their terror there in the first half of the 20th century.

 " The Paper Menagerie" has an entertaining mix of ideas and gives something to think about.

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