Stories of Your Life and Others (2002)

It’s rare for an author to get a collection published before he has a novel out, but it is understandable in his case. Chiang is a writer who has great and novel ideas, but is also able to combine that with well written human characters.

That said, some of his stories left me unsatisfied. There was this why-should-I-care feeling, despite the interesting ideas. The reactions of his characters are believable, like in ‘Division by Zero’ that of the Renee when she discovers that mathematics is inconsistent, but at the same time I’ve a hard time relating to her when she tries to off herself over that.

The story after which the collection was named, ‘Stories of Your Life’, had like the others an interesting concept that was combined with a human conflict, yet how the main character reacted felt wrong. Often the stories in Chiangs collection have a great build-up, but at the end something is missing to make them really great. They were clever stories, but without heart (still compared to many other stories by other writers they are very good). Yet some stories, like ‘Understand’, ‘Hell Is the Absence of God’ and ‘Liking What You See’ are real gems, where the core idea and its execution is so excellent that every other concern is negligible.