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Book - 2019 | First edition
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This much-anticipated second collection of stories is signature Ted Chiang, full of revelatory ideas and deeply sympathetic characters. In "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate," a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and the temptation of second chances. In the epistolary "Exhalation," an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications not just for his own people, but for all of reality. And in "The Lifecycle of Software Objects," a woman cares for an artificial intelligence over twenty years, elevating a faddish digital pet into what might be a true living being. Also included are two brand-new stories: "Omphalos" and "Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom." In this fantastical and elegant collection, Ted Chiang wrestles with the oldest questions on earth--What is the nature of the universe? What does it mean to be human?--and ones that no one else has even imagined. And, each in its own way, the stories prove that complex and thoughtful science fiction can rise to new heights of beauty, meaning, and compassion.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2019
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2019
ISBN: 9781101947883 (hardcover ; alk. paper)
1101947888 (hardcover ; alk. paper)
Branch Call Number: S CHIANG SS
Characteristics: 350 pages ; 22 cm


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Each week, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association shares a list of the top titles sold in independent bookstores around the region. Curious about what your neighbors are reading now? Here are this week's hardcover fiction and nonfiction bestsellers.   Local Fiction Bestsellers for January 19, 2020 Where the Crawdads Sing The Dutch House Exhalation Such A Fun Age Olive, Again View… (more)

From Library Staff

Beautifully crafted collection of short stories thoughtfully exploring humanity and technology. The first and my favorite, "The Merchant and the Alchemist Gate", won both a Hugo and Nebula award for Best Novelette. (Recommended by Erik)

List - Best Fiction 2019
BestBooksKCLS Oct 24, 2019

In this collection of brilliant, thought-provoking, and moving stories, Pacific Northwest author Ted Chiang uses hard science to explore complex questions about humanity, technology, fate, and more.

In this collection of brilliant, thought-provoking, and moving stories, Chiang uses hard science to explore complex questions about humanity, technology, fate, and more. Chiang lives in King County.

From the critics

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Jan 08, 2021

This book was really good. He takes outlandish sci fi concepts and questions what would happen if they were used practically, in the real world. Time portals, sentient computer programs, instant memory recall devices, and my personal favorite, prisms that allow you to create alternate timelines.
I skipped two of the stories. Good collection overall, very impressive.

FPL_KendallN Dec 03, 2020

This transcendent collection of short stories (and 1 novella) is hard to describe. Every story seems contrived to render the reader helpless in the wake of gut-wrenching emotional blows, often deployed on the last page or in the last sentence (looking at you "The Great Silence"). These sci-fi stories are highly conceptual and introspective. Characters often find themselves simply reflecting on their unique worlds and situations. What went wrong? What went right? How did we get here? Questions that often feel unmistakably current but also timeless. Ted Chiang is asking the BIG questions through common sci-fi tropes such as time travel, alternate worlds, dystopia, and AI. It feels sometimes, as Chiang asks these big questions, like a challenge. His characters are warnings, pleas, and reflections. I recommend this book for lovers of philosophy and for those who like reflecting on the nature of humanity. It will not disappoint.

Oct 22, 2020

Very interesting read; definitely recommend. Here is my rating for the nine stories in this book:
1) 4.5/5
2) 4/5
3) 3.5/5
4) 4/5
5) 3.5/5
6) 4.5/5
7) 5/5
8) 4/5
9) 4.5/5

Overall: 4/5

Oct 16, 2020

Quite different from his first collection, Stories of Your Life, which is one of my favorite books of all time. Nonetheless, Exhalation is powerful and amazing in its own rights. It's like reading Margaret Atwood, you are immersed into a unique world when you are hardly past the first two paragraphs!

May 30, 2020

Confident, economical writing that suspended my disbelief before I even noticed, allowing exploration of mind-stretching ideas. Good fun.

Apr 12, 2020

Chiang explores so many thought-provoking themes in this book of short stories, two novellas, and a novelette; e.g. free will, the implications of creating and caring for AI beings, the effect on society and individuals of accurate memory. Two of the stories were just nominated on 8 April 2020 for Hugo Awards: "Omphalos" and "Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom”. Chiang’s writes with great clarity, explaining any complex technology or science that underlies his stories with succinctness. His writing style is compact and direct, yet the ideas he examines through simple narratives are profound. He doesn’t moralize; readers must think about the story and draw their own conclusions. At the end of the book, he provides a paragraph or two about each story describing what inspired him to write it. This would be an excellent book for a book club.

Feb 10, 2020

The stories within Exhalation were thought provoking and had a theme in common - collective humanity and perhaps what it means to be human. I had to take a break between stories to contemplate the meaning of what I had just read and how it might relate to my life. The length of the stories varied, some very long and others very short.

Jan 13, 2020

NYT 2019 Top 10

Oct 24, 2019

Extraordinary. I found each story to be very powerful and thought provoking, with the exception of the longest (The Lifecycle of Software Objects). Most had very powerful endings that, with a few simple sentences, made me sit back and take some time to consider the entire story.
I'll note that I did find some content involving sex, mostly some brief but explicit sex robot discussions, made me add an age recommendation (15+?) to my review. Just wasn't really expecting that and while I normally throw most sci fi material at my kids, this one made me sit up and think that I need to be a bit more conscious about recommendations. Though in today's world, nothing is really hidden so it may all be moot.

LoganLib_Kirra Aug 27, 2019

Ted Chiang is a fantastic writer of speculative fiction with short stories and science fiction. His previous collection of published stories include and The Story of Your Life which was the inspiration behind the movie Arrival, which I really enjoyed and other award winning stories. Exhalation is his latest collection with amazing new short stories The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate, Exhalation and more.

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Mar 11, 2020

Nothing erases the past. There is repentance, there is atonement, and there is forgiveness. That is all, but it is enough.

Mar 11, 2020

[...] like infernal fire, grief burns but does not consume; instead, it makes the heart vulnerable to further suffering.

Mar 11, 2020

Do you understand now why I say the future and the past are the same? We cannot change either, but we can know both more fully.


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Oct 24, 2019

pbh1958 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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