STRANGE PILGRIMS

STORIES

Of the entire generation of Latin-American Boom writers, Garcia Marquez (The General and His Labyrinth, 1990, etc.) has shied away the most from writing about the expatriate experience he and his peers have so determinedly lived for decades. This book of 12 stories redresses that somewhat forced oddness. A lot is slight here, mere sketchery (Garcia Marquez admits in the preface that a number of the tales are reworkings of journalistic pieces or screenplays): "Sleeping Beauty and the Airplane" recounts a transatlantic flight with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, sound asleep and paying the infatuated narrator no mind; "I Sell My Dreams" is mostly an excuse for a portrait of Pablo Neruda; "Tramontania" pays homage to the madness-making wind of the Costa Brava in the form of a Maupassant-ish anecdote (much here, in fact, is reminiscent of Maupassant: little details that bloom into destinies). But included here are also two masterpieces. "Maria dos Prazeres"—the story of an old whore's mistaken premonition of death—is woven with those fluorescent touches that Garcia Marquez is known for (the interior of a car "smelled of refrigerated medicine") and with a leisure of wonder that, happily, never seems strained. The other classic is "The Trail of Your Blood in the Snow"—as acidic a portrait of French inhumanity as satire can accomplish, but also a wizardly capsule of the strangeness all travelers feel and only sometimes can surmount. Garcia Marquez's generosity more than his effect-making is at deepest play in both- -and they do his career great credit.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-42566-7

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1993

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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

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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

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