From Award Winning Author Ken Liu Comes His Much Anticipated Second Volume Of Short StoriesKen Liu Is One Of The Most Lauded Short Story Writers Of Our Time This Collection Includes A Selection Of His Science Fiction And Fantasy Stories From The Last Five Years Sixteen Of His Best Plus A New NoveletteIn Addition To These Seventeen Selections, The Hidden Girl And Other Stories Also Features An Excerpt From Book Three In The Dandelion Dynasty Series, The Veiled Throne Instagram Twitter Facebook PinterestThis is my first work of fiction by Ken Liu, so I had no idea what to expect going in THE HIDDEN GIRL is a collection of short stories, most of which are science fiction, that dwell on themes of artificial intelligence, the transmittance of culture over time memes , global warming and climate change, and at its most fundamental level, what it means to be human.Reading these stories made me think of the TV show Love, Death Robots Not only does it share many of the same themes, it also shares the ability to really bum you the heck out Even though I m a fast reader, I couldn t really make it through than three or four of these stories in a sitting, as they were almost all depressing and many of them had truly tragic or even wretched endings Do not read this book if you are easily upset and are looking for something uplifting, as I left THE HIDDEN GIRL feeling pretty bummed and in need of a hug.Depressing content aside, most of these stories are excellent I m definitely interested in reading of Liu s work, and liked the focus that he put on having strong and intelligent women in these stories, many of them being of Asian and specifically, Chinese descent It s hard to rate a short story collection as a whole, which is why I tend to break them down story by story, but this is a pretty solid effort, and I was, on the whole, impressed with what I read, bar a few exceptions that were mediocre confusing at worst.Mild spoilers ahead Ghost Days This is a poignant story about an alien colonist who ends up taking solace in the multi generational saga of a Chinese family s dealings with xenophobic white people as well as their struggle with dual cultural identities The title is a play on the Chinese term often offensive, so I won t write here for white foreigners, which also refers, additionally, to spirits Both meanings play a role in this story.Maxwell s Demon This is a story set during WWII about a woman of Okinawan descent who is taken from an internment camp and forced to renounce her citizenship so she can be deported back to Japan as a spy for the Americans Working in a physics lab, she ends up being the assistant and lover to a scientist developing a weapon that runs on a type of magic, forcing Takako to make a choice about what it easy versus what is right, and which country she should choose to be loyal to when both are wrong.The Reborn This is a chilling story that occurs in the aftermath of first contact After a brutal colonization, the invading aliens feel remorse and have turned the other cheek to instill compassion and peace in the very society they destroyed But their compassion has a dark edge, and the body modifications required of the humans they interact with have a sinister purpose.Thoughts and Prayers This is a multi POV story exploring how a mass shooting affects the members of the victim s family, including the POV of a troll who is determined to see that the family suffers.Byzantine Empathy Confusing story about cryptocurrency, virtual reality, and the dispassion with which we view global conflict when looking through the removed and sanitized lens of social media.The Gods Will Not Be Chained This is honestly my favorite story in the collection It s heartbreaking, but ends on a note of hope A girl being bullied ends up gaining the mysterious protection of someone who only speaks in emoji, but, through further attempts at contact, starts to seem kind of familiarStaying Behind This is a haunting story about what happens when we get the ability to upload consciousness without a physical body to anchor it What kind of temptation would a digital existence pose to a venal one, and what would this mean for those who choose to remain behind This one reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode, or maybe a kinder retelling of The Matrix.Real Artists Another stand out story in the collection, Real Artists is a rather disillusioning look behind the curtain at the sterile future of creativity, in this case, via the medium of film I liked it.The Gods Will Not Be Slain I loved the opening to this one, and had it continued in that vein, this probably would have been a solid five but no, it had to be depressing This is a sequel to The Gods Will Not Be Chained, and explores the dangers of AI and the painful sacrifices we must make to do good.Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer Meh Another story about AI and the evanescent nature of all things This one wasn t really a favorite, I think because it was too similar in topic to several stronger stories that came right before it.The Gods Have Not Died in Vain The conclusion to the three part miniseries revolving around AI I really loved this little miniseries, even though it broke my heart AI is like the Promethean fire, with advancement meaning tragedy for both the creator and the receivers It definitely feels like a cautionary tale, like Icarus flying too high.Memories of My Mother A sad story about a woman dying of terminal disease who decides to cheat time by going into stasis and visiting her daughter once every seven years to cheat her 2 year prognosis Interesting concept and heart tugging idea, but the story was too short to pack much of an emotional wallop.Dispatches from the Cradle The Hermit Forty Eight Hours in the Sea of Massachusetts Really of a three and a half, but I rounded up for the beautiful writing and interesting premise In this story, earth has flooded in the wake of massive climate change, and humans have moved on to colonize other planets Here, two are deep sea diving in the remains of Massachusetts, looking at coral and pondering the end.Grey Rabbit, Crimson Mare, Coal Leopard Really confusing I didn t understand what was happening in this one at all.A Chase Beyond the Storms NO RATINGThis is an excerpt from the upcoming third book in one of the author s series I don t really like this, as it kind of feels like an advertisement masquerading as content.Ads belong in the back.The Hidden Girl The titular story I always have high hopes for the titular story I feel like if you re going to name your collection after a story, it should be your strongest work or the most representative of the themes Neither is the case for The Hidden Girl, which is fantasy than science fiction and also very strange It s about a girl who becomes apprentice to a Buddhist nun with powers, but ends up leaving her order after being asked to kill a man, despite this meaning cutting all ties to the people she considers family.Seven Birthdays Another really strange story I didn t get this one either, even though it was nicely written The Message This is a very sad story about an ancient civilization hiding a secret, the meaning of lost symbols, and a father and daughter who have bonded too late Easily one of the most depressing stories in the collection, and what makes this even infuriating is that it feels like it was handled carelessly.Cutting A poem, and don t worry cutting, here, refers to cuttings of paper and not the upsetting kind I know, I had the same concern, given the content in this book After a series of major downers, it was nice to end on a somewhat lighter note.So there you have it, THE HIDDEN GIRL with all its ups and downs mostly downs It s a great work of science fiction and I do recommend it for fans of Love, Death Robots, but don t read it when you re having a bad day, as it will likely make you feel worse.And now, to read something happy Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review 3.5 stars Ken Liu is one of my top five favorite short story writers working today And he is really the only one of the bunch being prolific I believe he has published over 80 stories in most reputable speculative fiction magazines over the past 10 years He attained the remarkable feat of gaining popularity in the supersaturated medium of speculative fiction magazines The reason he was able to rise above the rest, I believe, was his storytelling ability, which often combines traditional Chinese storytelling tropes with razor edged scientific knowledge Along with Ted Chiang, I think it is safe to assume that Liu s intelligence is much higher than the average purveyor of science fiction these days Borderline, if not certified, genius.The Paper Managerie and Other Stories, Ken Liu s rock solid debut collection, was a masterpiece The finest collection of short stories to come out of the speculative genre in recent decades It can hold its own against The Martian Chronicles, Endangered Species, and other must reads in my opinion It is not likely to be equaled or surpassed anytime soon It is very likely to be reread, by me, and very soon It is an emotionally charged, politically relevant, and breathtaking summation of his career thus far His silk punk novel series is still unknown to me I know I will have to set aside a significant amount of time to read it I have dabbled in the first volume, but I know I will come back to it when I m ready I cannot help but think that that project will be overshadowed by Liu s short story collections to come It may be wishful thinking, but he was born to write short stories imho Maybe he will be regarded as another Bradbury one day This second collection, despite the glowing accolades it has already garnered, is not as perfect as his previous effort It could still be called a masterpiece, perhaps, but I had several gripes with it Several stories were a slight chore to get through, it pains me to say Luckily, the collection is well rounded and the best stories toward the end of the collection, leaving me with a satiated aftertaste.Taken together the stories become less than the sum of their parts in one distinct way, by virtue of repetition first of the distracting inclusions of dozens of emojis and the reused character tropes exploring father daughter and daughter mother relationships The family ties in all of Ken Liu s short fiction are critical to the functioning of plot Here, they are bittersweet and forced The patterns grated on me, almost as if he recast the same characters in the same roles with slightly differing world building constraints.Taken separately the stories are all pretty strong and engaging Many themes stand out in this volume including post human scenarios, virtual reality, AI, mega corporate corruption, environmental activism, post apocalyptic landscapes, uninhabitable earths, atemporal existence, multi dimensional family dynamics, ethics, the troubles of old age, infirmity, and fear of death, war and slavery, extra terrestrial archaeology, and much That sentence right there should give you enough reason to read the collection The Hidden Girl was a nice, representative story, an impressive piece of storytelling, combining his trademark Chinese cultural references with his trademark brilliant s f ideas Ken Liu remains an incredible writer His talent is undeniable He should also be commended for bringing us several volumes of Chinese science fiction in translation It is hard to know which contribution is valuable We are sitting on a veritable treasure trove of untranslated literature, and heroes like Ken Liu are brave enough, and generous enough, to set aside their fame and risk exposing new talent to the masses I appreciate what you do, Sir. Thought provoking, and often chilling, collection of soft sci fi and fantasy, with many stories examining the unimaginable ramifications of human technological progress spun out of control A number of stories revolve around the concept of uploaded human consciousness, AKA the Singularity , where human minds become digitized, no longer requiring physical bodies The three linked The Gods. stories in particular are fascinating looks at this, with the absolutely riveting story Staying Behind as a kind of CODA to these Together these seemingly make up the heart of this collection and were certainly highlights for me.Though many are certainly chilling in their implications, Liu tells these stories with warmth and heart The messages are clearly ominous warnings that humanity s belief that we can keep transformational, and potentially devastating, technologies bottled up is almost certainly a fallacy Thoughts on some of the individual stories The Reborn 4.5 Chilling story of alien invaders who constantly shed their memories and remake themselves, and can rebirth humans by radically manipulating their memories, which they do to eliminate resistance to their presence Liu uses the story to examine the connection between memory and identity, as well as to the perception of self and reality If you ve read Octavia E Butler s classic Xenogenesis series, the symbiotic yet parasitic alien human relationships depicted here will feel familiar.The Gods Will Not Be Chained 4.0 Examines the pursuit of digital immortality, the fusion of man and machine, the Singularity and the futility of trying to keep the genie of uploaded consciousnesses in a bottle.Staying Behind 5.0 A kind of final chapter in the The Gods. series of stories A riveting look at the post apocalyptic world left to the few scraps of humanity who holdout from uploading to the Singularity In my opinion, this should be read after the three The Gods. stories, rather than in the order presented.Real Artists 4.0 A kind of chilling look at the transformation of art into engineering and what that means for the role of the artist Creativity and artistic inspiration supplanted by big data and algorithms.The Gods Will Not Be Slain 4.0 A sequel to The Gods Will Not Be Chained , examining the conflicts and disastrous consequences on the world of the unleashing of the uploaded digital consciousnesses.The Gods Have Not Died in Vain 4.0 A sequel to The Gods Will Not Be Slain where we see a post apocalyptic society trying to pick up the pieces in the wake of devastation and chaos.Dispatches from the Cradle The Hermit Forty Eight Hours in the Sea of Massachusetts 3.5 Hundreds of years in the future, after the climate changed induced flooding of the Earth and man s settling of other parts of the solar system, a philosopher of sorts visits the flooded ancient ruins of Boston and ponders the wisdom of destroying Earth s new habitats while attempting to rollback the changes wrought by humanity. I won this via goodreads giveaways in exchange for an honest review All my opinions are my own If you want to see my individual ratings for the stories, its all in my status updates This was a fun collection Some stories were interesting than others, but all of them kept my attention and a few got me thinking about what it would be like if they actually happened A couple did have me scratching my head and wondering why it was in the collection didn t dampen my enjoyment at all.One thing I was confused over was why there was a book preview of book three in another series of his Just a fair warning to those of you like me who don t care for book previews.Will definitely be checking out of this author s work This one kept me company during a hectic retail work schedule a wonder anyone keeps their sanity this time of year and I was kind of glad I could take my time with this in a way.Would recommend sorry for short review, just really tired. may add later Enjoyed these stories for the most part I think it started really strong and then sagged a little in the middle and finished strongish but all were worth reading I like that there seemed to be something here for everyone I do think some of them were written in his earlier days and it showed That or Liu doesn t do sentiment well. Average Rating .9After really enjoying Ken Liu s previous short story anthology a lot, there was no way I was letting this ARC go and I jumped at the opportunity to be able to review it This is another collection of fascinating stories by the author, most of them sci fi dystopian but a couple of them are fantasy as well There are also multiple stories which are interconnected but told in no particular order, so it was fun trying to find the connections between them One theme that I found very dominant in this collection is that of climate change, how we are at a precipice and have to do something substantial from right now if we want to save our planet but also that as the situation gets worse, all the problems we currently have with wealth inequality and refugees and developed countries exploiting resources disproportionately will only get exacerbated This also means that many of the stories in this collection are tragic and depressing, so I would definitely recommend reading them when you are in the right mood and also maybe not binge read the whole thing at once I would definitely recommend it though, because the concepts are very interesting and the writing for the most part is excellent Ghost Days Spanning multiple planets and timelines, this was a nice story about memories and heritage, and how we all carry the legacy of our previous generations within us and why it s important to preserve their knowledge .5 Maxwell s Demon Told through a POV of a Japanese American young woman who is sent to Japan as a spy during WWII, this one has a bit of supernatural elements but mostly it s about the futility of war and how it twists everyone s morality .5 The Reborn I really don t think I have much to say about this story It was interesting to read and a bit tragic too, but don t think I can explain it Thoughts and Prayers CW mass shooting, online trolling and harassmentAs soon as I saw the title of this story, I could guess what it s about It s about the effects of grief on family members of victims, how each person tries to cope in their own ways and how that might drive them apart There is also some interesting discussion on activism, politicizing grief and the incessant trolling that comes along with it I m still not sure if I agree with all the points made but it s a lot to think about Byzantine Empathy Against a backdrop of a technologically advanced but current world with heavy emphasis on VR and cryptocurrencies, this story is all about empathy vs rationality, how do we decide who needs help, and how even being immersed in the pain of others might invoke cynicism in people instead of empathy because we have lost our trust in geopolitics I can t really explain the elaborate discussions that happen in this story but it s very thought provoking and I think everyone should give it a read The Gods Will Not Be Chained With the concept of digital immortality, this story tries to explore what would happen if corporations tried to digitize the brains of their dead genius employees for profit and these highly technological brains decided to takeover A very terrifying tale but definitely thought provoking Staying Behind This is almost like a continuation of the previous one, but years later when the technically dead digitally conscious have taken over an event called Singularity and the rest of the living world is just scraping for survival This was way too depressing and scary to read Real Artists Another tale of high technological advancement, this time in the making of movies I really don t want to spoil this one at all because I thought the concept was amazing, thought provoking and almost felt like it s a possible future for us and wouldn t that be too sad The Gods Will Not Be Slain This is a direct continuation of the story The gods will not be chained and it s such a scary and plausible story, what can happen if digital sentiences decide that they want to burn down humanity and plunge it into war, how fragile geopolitics is and how everyone is literally on the brink of war while sitting on a mass pile of nuclear weapons Really brings some of what s happening in our current world into perspective Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer Years after Singularity where only digital beings seem to be existent on our planet, this is the story of how relationships develop even among them, and also how different a three dimensional earth might seem like to a digital being who has never been a human before Fascinating story The Gods Have Not Died in Vain This story a sequel of The gods will not be slain is about how the idea of singularity came to be, how the incessant wars and scarcity of resources may have led people to decide that giving up the body to live digitally might be the only way to survive There are a lot of interesting points made in the story that leave us with questions about life .5 Memories of My Mother This was a very very short story about a mother s love for her child and to what lengths she will go to get the little time to spend with her daughter It could have been emotional but I wasn t feeling it .5 Dispatches from the Cradle The Hermit Forty Eight Hours in the Sea of Massachusetts In a world centuries after climate change has destroyed most of it, where successful countries have managed to migrate to other planets but the poorer people try to survive in ever harsh environments on the ravaged earth this story is almost like a scary mirror of what our future might be if we don t start taking decisive action from now on Grey Rabbit, Crimson Mare, Coal Leopard Set in a dystopian fantasy world, this was a tale about how power and greed corrupts, leading to the protectors becoming predators themselves which in turn means that those who are poor or considered prey must rise up in arms and protect themselves This was a fascinating read and one that I felt could make a bigger story A Chase Beyond the Storms An excerpt from The Veiled Throne, The Dandelion Dynasty, book three Not reviewing this excerpt because I haven t read this series yet The Hidden Girl Set in a fantasy world inspired by 8th century China, this is a story of a young female assassin who s been trained to kill but starts questioning if her loyalty to her Teacher must supersede her own morality A lovely read but what made it special were the action sequences which reminded me a lot of the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Seven Birthdays Another story interconnected to the previous ones related to Singularity, this is about one woman s mission to find a solution to humanity s problems, but ultimately just be able to spend time with her mother I can t say I understood much of the story in the second half The Message A story about legacy, how even dead civilizations leave messages for anyone who might come eons later also a tale of a father finally getting to know his daughter this story was beautiful and emotional but also tragic Cutting I m not sure I can explain exactly what this story was about but it was something about looking through the unnecessary stuff and finding the truth underneath .5 Absolutely magnificent And any other superlatives that I might throw in Ken Liu s short fiction at it s best reminds me of Ray Bradbury. Exceptional collection from one of our very best SF authors At his best, he s as good as any writer in the business As always, I liked some stories than others Rating based on my favorites, all SF 4 stars Most of the fantasies didn t work for me.Highlights Seven Birthdays 2016 , A million or so years in the life of Mia and her Mom Ken Liu dreams big in this meticulous, breathtaking hard SF tale of the transition from organic to silicon based life 5 stars, my favorite of his shorts More Ghost Days 2013 , Three stories about the immigrant experience, from Hong Kong in 1905, Connecticut in 1989, and Nova Pacifica, a new colony world, in 2313 First rate story 4 stars Byzantine Empathy 2018 A young Chinese programmer designs a block chain cryptocurrency to help refugees A powerful and thoughtful near future SF novelette 4 stars Staying Behind 2011 , Will Uploading bring the Singularity Thoughtful, bittersweet story 4 stars.The stories Ghost Days 2013 , Three stories about the immigrant experience, from Hong Kong in 1905, Connecticut in 1989, and Nova Pacifica, a new colony world, in 2313 I liked the SF part best, but this is a first rate story throughout 4 stars Maxwell s Demon 2012 A young Nisei woman, a physics grad student before being interned, is sent to Japan as a spy in 1943 It doesn t work out for her, or for Japan Grim ending is historically accurate Science fantasy, 3.5 stars The Reborn 2014 , An unpleasant paranoia piece about an alien invasion Not for me 2 stars Thoughts and Prayers 2019 , A college girl was a victim of a mass shooting Her mother agrees to make her a poster girl for gun control Then the trolls arrive Memorable story that I pretty much hated 1.5 stars, for me Many other readers liked it Byzantine Empathy 2018 A young Chinese programmer designs Empathium, a block chain cryptocurrency to help refugees Her American roommate in college, now a board member in a prominent NGO, happens to meet her old friend in a war zone in Burma A powerful and thoughtful near future SF novelette 4 stars The Gods Will Not Be Chained 2015, Apocalypse Triptych 1 A brilliant computer engineer, on his deathbed, is forcibly uploaded by his company First of 3 linked stories which amount to a novella The Gods Will Not Be Slain 2015, Apocalypse Triptych 2 Uploading becomes common Unhappy consequences Widespread warfare The Gods Have Not Died in Vain 2015, Apocalypse Triptych 3 Is Uploading better than Real Life Maybe so 3.5 stars for this interesting, if implausible medium future SF story Staying Behind 2011 , Will Uploading bring the Singularity Thoughtful, bittersweet story, recommended 4 stars Real Artists 2011 , A new way to make movies disappoints an aspiring filmmaker 3.5 stars Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer 2010 Liu s first posthuman story Klein bottles, whales the Chrysler Building are featured but no reindeer 3 stars Memories of My Mother 2012 , Good but confusing sort of sequel to Reindeer 3 stars Dispatches from the Cradle The Hermit Forty Eight Hours in the Sea of Massachusetts 2016 reread Asa organized the terraforming of both Mars and Earth Then she quit to become a hermit Strange story, reprinted in Dozois 34 3.5 stars Grey Rabbit, Crimson Mare, Coal Leopard 2020 A brother sister work a small midden mine in a post collapse society The story morphs into a transformation science fantasy I didn t much care for it First publication here The Hidden Girl 2017 , Fantasy set in the Imperial court of Tang Dynasty China Seven Birthdays 2016 , A million or so years in the life of Mia and her Mom Ken Liu dreams big in this meticulous, breathtaking hard SF tale of the transition from organic to silicon based life 5 stars, my favorite of his shorts The Message 2012 A xenoarchaeologist and his daughter explore alien ruins and make a fateful discovery Pretty hokey story, I thought 2.5 stars Cutting 2012 , An odd religious fantasy that I didn t much care for All of 500 words, so try it for yourself.Thanks to the publisher NetGalley for the eARC. Ken Liu is one of the best short story tellers out there in genre fiction right now His new collection displays the depth and diversity of his work, though AI is a definite theme threaded throughout I had read a few of these stories before, but most were new to me A few didn t quite click for me Most, however, were fantastic Stand outs included Thoughts and Prayers, Seven Birthdays, and The Message I fully expect to see this book up for awards next year. I was first introduced to Ken Liu through his translations of Chinese SciFi short stories when we were preparing potential classes on comparative universes as one of our teaching units, so I was very interested to read The Hidden Girl and Other Stories and gain a better understanding of his own original work Ken Liu fits in that section of SciFi that I really prefer to classify in the speculative fiction range since a lot of his developments are based on real or at least in the research phase movements, inventions, and concepts Through his stories, Liu explores the ideas behind what the future for the human race holds, the role of digital technology in our lives and in the potential to save our world, manipulate our galaxy, explore the universe, including the question of whether we should The book itself is wonderfully structured with a novella divided up into chapters scattered throughout Returning to this story was an absolute delight each time The title story, The Hidden Girl, is perhaps the most odd one out , and borderlines on fantasy Despite the difference it provides, or perhaps also because of it, it is a delightful tale I have read heard that is has been optioned for film series, so make sure you read the original first While there does seem to be a distinct genre difference between The Hidden Girl and much of the rest of the short stories, there is one commonality between all of them the exploration of our humanity and what it means to be human Since I finished the stories, they have stayed with me despite reading other books in between and I have made so many links to many of the stories in conversations This book is a must read.
- 432 pages
- The Hidden Girl and Other Stories
- Ken Liu
- 19 April 2019 Ken Liu