WHY: “Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them.
“Exploring humankind’s place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.
“Chiang’s second collection begins with an instant classic, ‘The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,’ which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong — and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past.
“Other standout selections include ‘The Lifecycle of Software Objects,’ a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; ‘The Great Silence,’ which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and ‘Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,’ which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children.
“But arguably the most profound story is ‘Exhalation’ (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach ‘equilibrium,’ its parting advice will resonate with everyone: ‘Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.’ This book delivers in a big way.”
—KIRKUS, a starred review
“These stories are brilliant experiments, and Chiang’s commitment of exploring deep human questions elevates them to among the very best science fiction.”
—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, a starred review
“Chiang remains one of the most skilled stylists in SF, and this will appeal to genre and literary-fiction fans alike.” —Nell Keep, in a starred review for BOOKLIST
“Chiang is always thought provoking…Any SF reader can dive into these stories and find something exciting.” —Lucy Roehrig, in a starred review for LIBRARY JOURNAL
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FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK:
O mighty Caliph and Commander of the Faithful, I am humbled to be in the splendor of your presence; a man can hope for no greater blessing as long as he lives. The story I have to tell is truly a strange one, and were the entirety to be tattooed at the corner of one’s eye, the marvel of its presentation would not exceed that of the events recounted, for it is a warning to those who would be warned and a lesson to those who would learn.
My name is Fuwaad ibn Abbas, and I was born here in Baghdad, City of Peace. My father was a grain merchant, but for much of my life I have worked as a purveyor of fine fabrics, trading in silk from Damascus and linen from Egypt and scarves from Morocco that are embroidered with gold. I was prosperous, but my heart was troubled, and neither the purchase of luxuries nor the giving of alms was able to soothe it. Now I stand before you without a single dirham in my purse, but I am at peace.