HOTEL LAMBOSA

AND OTHER STORIES

A well-known poet's first collection of stories (in a new series from the publisher; also see Jessica Treat, below): short- shorts that are beautifully observed, refreshingly good-humored, and packed with pleasing details of a colorful life in the bohemian 60's. Of the 70 or so pieces assembled here, many are sketches of friends and family in exotic settings; others deftly re-create hotels, cafes, minor museums, and streets and beaches of European cities where brief epiphanies or romantic interludes took place 30 years ago. All follow the narrator/protagonist as he makes his way from Paris to Italy, Greece, and North Africa in the midst of an artistic revolution—sometimes trailing wives and children, other times traveling alone, always warmly and carefully observing local shamans, students, poets, painters, librettists and musicians, beautiful or homely young women, the men around whom beautiful young women for no discernible reason swarm, and children—lots of children populate these tales, which is endearing. Central moments tend to evoke pleasure; frequently, as in the title story about the seduction of a student in Gabon, the pleasure is intellectual and sensual, focused on a small shock of recognition: ``It was a quiet sensation, and a sweet one, the feeling that each had that the other would be lovely to be with in a bed....The feeling turned out to match the truth, and the strong, swift sunlight cluttered their room with pennies of the future.'' Original, shapely, and richly detailed scenes from the not- too-distant past.

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-56689-008-X

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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