Here’s another book I wish I could recall the reasons for reading. I needed a short story collection in the rotation after I finished Miéville’s excellent Looking for Jake and Other Stories, but as to the why I purchased Chiang’s work… Come to think of it, it may have been as simple as an Amazon recommendation followed by an exclamation of “oh, this was the guy who wrote Arrival?” Arrival, an excellent film directed by Denis Villeneuve, was written by Eric Heisserer, who based his screenplay off one of Chiang’s shorts. That story is worlds aways from what ended up committed to celluloid, but that’s a good thing. Story of Your Life conveys far more depth than the movie over its short read and is even more rewarding for it.
Not all the stories here are world-beaters. Chiang’s scientific background hampers his prose at times. But if you enjoy reading programming documentation, you’ll find little to complain about. The stories all tackle complex subjects and dissect them with the nuanced care of a neurosurgeon, to the point where you may need to consult with one to understand what’s going on!
Tower of Babylon and Hell is the Absence of God were the standouts for me, if only because they stray far from the science and technology themes of the other tales. That’s also how I felt about season six of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, that the science stuff had either been played out or had become so ubiquitous and plausible that I yearned for the supernatural. Speaking of supernatural, if you’re a writer I urge you to investigate Chiang’s publication history. It’s something to marvel at, and worthy of more than a little envy.