These eight stories highlight the lives of lonely people with empathy.

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LAST OF HER NAME

This intelligent debut collection of short stories features Chinese people around the globe struggling to connect with those closest to them.

Many of Lok's stories unfold in a series of juxtapositions; it's up to the reader to make connections between the different lives portrayed. For example, in "Last of Her Name," a Chinese girl in England dreams of living heroically like the martial artist protagonist of her favorite TV show while, in a series of flashbacks, the reader sees her mother struggling to survive in Hong Kong under Japanese assault during World War II. In "The Wrong Dave," a Chinese man in London strikes up a heartfelt email correspondence with a young woman in Hong Kong. He met her several years ago at a wedding, and when he gets an email from her out of the blue, seeming to pick up a conversation in the middle, he doesn't tell her he thinks she's sent her email to the wrong person named Dave. As he prepares for his wedding, he feels more emotionally open with her than with his own fiancee. A young woman in California cannot fathom her globe-trotting brother's joyful rootlessness in "Bad Influence." And in the novella The Woman in the Closet, an elderly homeless woman in Hong Kong moves into the closet of a busy, lonely young man and secretly insinuates herself into his life, taking over for his negligent housekeeper and his emotionally distant girlfriend. A few stories are more experimental in form: For example, one moody story, "Accident," lasts only two pages, and "Wedding Night" unfolds for stretches in a series of single paragraphs, one per page, relaying images and poetrylike moments in the characters' lives. Are disconnection and loneliness inevitable side effects of modern life or of living in diaspora? These stories raise intriguing questions but do not attempt any simple answers.

These eight stories highlight the lives of lonely people with empathy.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-885030-61-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Kaya Press

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

A PERMANENT MEMBER OF THE FAMILY

One of America’s great novelists (Lost Memory of Skin, 2011, etc.) also writes excellent stories, as his sixth collection reminds readers.

Don’t expect atmospheric mood poems or avant-garde stylistic games in these dozen tales. Banks is a traditionalist, interested in narrative and character development; his simple, flexible prose doesn’t call attention to itself as it serves those aims. The intricate, not necessarily permanent bonds of family are a central concern. The bleak, stoic “Former Marine” depicts an aging father driven to extremes because he’s too proud to admit to his adult sons that he can no longer take care of himself. In the heartbreaking title story, the death of a beloved dog signals the final rupture in a family already rent by divorce. Fraught marriages in all their variety are unsparingly scrutinized in “Christmas Party,” Big Dog” and “The Outer Banks." But as the collection moves along, interactions with strangers begin to occupy center stage. The protagonist of “The Invisible Parrot” transcends the anxieties of his hard-pressed life through an impromptu act of generosity to a junkie. A man waiting in an airport bar is the uneasy recipient of confidences about “Searching for Veronica” from a woman whose truthfulness and motives he begins to suspect, until he flees since “the only safe response is to quarantine yourself.” Lurking menace that erupts into violence features in many Banks novels, and here, it provides jarring climaxes to two otherwise solid stories, “Blue” and “The Green Door.” Yet Banks quietly conveys compassion for even the darkest of his characters. Many of them (like their author) are older, at a point in life where options narrow and the future is uncomfortably close at hand—which is why widowed Isabel’s fearless shucking of her confining past is so exhilarating in “SnowBirds,” albeit counterbalanced by her friend Jane’s bleak acceptance of her own limited prospects.

Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-185765-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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