Charles Harries

| Books

Exhalation

by Ted Chiang

Published 2019 352 pages

Really enjoyed this—don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of hard science fiction, and I do enjoy being clobbered by world-building, but I thought that this series of sci-fi-lite stories did an incredible job at plucking out the best of sci-fi—"how would humans deal with this weird thing happening"—while keeping his stories relatable and realistic.

If I had to pick a negative out the book, I'd say that starting with the "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" was probably a misstep—it was the best story out of the lot to me and it never got quite as good as that again. "Exhalation"—the next story—was also great: felt like it broke down The Heat Death of the Universe into first principles and put it in a way that anyone could understand, and there was something wholly sad about it. So maybe I'd have mixed up the order—or maybe these two stories spoke to me specifically and I'm just making a subjective judgment.

Makes me want to read more science fiction, which I guess, in a way, is one of the goals of science fiction.