Wonderfully involving and intelligent work, from a strikingly gifted new writer.

TROUBLEMAKER

AND OTHER SAINTS

With rude wit and raw emotional force, an impressive first collection depicts the complex and combative interrelationships of three Chinese-American families.

Eleven linked tales comprise a round-robin assortment of vivid glimpses of cultural and generational displacement and conflict, in both America and Hong Kong (at around the time of the “Handover,” marking independence from Great Britain)—beginning with the story of racially mixed teenager Laurel’s struggles with her reputation as a high school “Nobody” and ending (in “Thief”) when her boyfriend bungles a cat burglary during their Asian “vacation.” The intervening pieces focus in turn on such variously troubled characters as Laurel’s physician Georgianna Wong, married to a black man and burdened by her family’s old-world attitudes and imperatives (in the brilliantly constructed “Doctor”); a conservative “Mama” quietly attempting to arrange a marriage for her headstrong “bi” daughter (“All her life she’s had too many choices”); and a promiscuous “Beauty” who looks for excitement, if not love, among the personals ads, and sees herself with stunned clarity when her cousin’s brutal fiancé accosts her. The sense of traditional ways of behavior disintegrating and of families helplessly poised at one another’s throats gathers tremendous power, as Chiu weaves gracefully among her characters’ several stories. The pressure, for instance, that a high-speed new international economy exerts on fragile marriages and other “arrangements” is dramatized crisply in “Gentleman” and “Trader”—while the unforeseen consequences of ever-widening rifts between parents and children generate revealing drama in the story of a teenaged “Troublemaker” whose impulsive act of violence brings him eventually to a sobered encounter with a world far larger than any he has imagined, and especially in “Copycat,” where the “losses” of one child to suicide and another to Buddhism underscore the fragility of a truly “mixed” marriage.

Wonderfully involving and intelligent work, from a strikingly gifted new writer.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14715-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

BEYOND THE GREAT SNOW MOUNTAINS

Superb stylist L’Amour returns (End of the Drive, 1997, etc.), albeit posthumously, with ten stories never seen before in book form—and narrated in his usual hard-edged, close-cropped sentences, jutting up from under fierce blue skies. This is the first of four collections of L’Amour material expected from Bantam, edited by his daughter Angelique, featuring an eclectic mix of early historicals and adventure stories set in China, on the high seas, and in the boxing ring, all drawing from the author’s exploits as a carnival barker and from his mysterious and sundry travels. During this period, L’Amour was trying to break away from being a writer only of westerns. Also included is something of an update on Angelique’s progress with her father’s biography: i.e., a stunningly varied list of her father’s acquaintances from around the world whom she’d like to contact for her research. Meanwhile, in the title story here, a missionary’s daughter who crashes in northern Asia during the early years of the Sino-Japanese War is taken captive by a nomadic leader and kept as his wife for 15 years, until his death. When a plane lands, she must choose between taking her teenaged son back to civilization or leaving him alone with the nomads. In “By the Waters of San Tadeo,” set on the southern coast of Chile, Julie Marrat, whose father has just perished, is trapped in San Esteban, a gold field surrounded by impassable mountains, with only one inlet available for anyone’s escape. “Meeting at Falmouth,” a historical, takes place in January 1794 during a dreadful Atlantic storm: “Volleys of rain rattled along the cobblestones like a scattering of broken teeth.” In this a notorious American, unnamed until the last paragraph, helps Talleyrand flee to America. A master storyteller only whets the appetite for his next three volumes.

Pub Date: May 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-10963-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

EXHALATION

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 (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) 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.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more