An introduction to a promising writer who knows how to get a reader’s attention, though he occasionally has trouble sticking...

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STORIES

Unusual culture clashes between the Philippines and the West drive this intimate and admirably controlled debut story collection.

Tenorio has a great knack for striking story premises. “Help” is narrated by a young man who’s recruited by his uncle to attack the Beatles at the Manila airport for supposedly disrespecting Imelda Marcos. “The View From Culion” is set in a leper colony where a young Filipino woman attempts to connect with a stranded American. “Felix Starro” is narrated by a young man who helps take advantage of San Franciscans with a faith-healing scam, and the heroine of the title story is an attractive actress who’s spent much of her career relegated to wearing monster costumes in junky B-movies. In each of these eight stories, Tenorio cultivates a plainspoken (but not blunt) style that recalls Tobias Wolff, and the conflicts are straightforward as well, usually dealing with lost innocence and heartbreak. The best stories add an extra layer of complexity: “The Brothers” tracks the different impacts a transsexual man’s death has on his family and his friends in the community, while “Save the I-Hotel” leaps back and forth in time to follow the tense relationship between two Filipino immigrants in San Francisco as they manage homophobia, xenophobia and the destruction of the residence hotel where they’d spent their lives. Like many young story writers, Tenorio has talent and ideas to burn, though he isn’t always certain where he wants to take those ideas. For every story like “I-Hotel” or “Superassassin,” in which a young man’s anger metastasizes into a terrifying comic-book fantasy, there are others that end with vaguely artful gestures that don’t quite clarify what has changed within the characters.

An introduction to a promising writer who knows how to get a reader’s attention, though he occasionally has trouble sticking the landing.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-205956-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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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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