Not especially original in theme, but Upadhyay’s flinty, oddly proper style is attractive and succeeds in bringing life to...




Debut volume of diverting if sometimes lukewarm tales about contemporary Nepalese men and women adapting to the ethos of the West while bearing (and sometimes suffering) the cultural expectations of their native land.

Born and raised in Nepal, Upadhyay came to the US at 22, which is about the age of many of his young people, all of them struggling with their native past while trying to make an American future. The collection progresses from settings entirely in Nepal to those that include characters affiliated with both America and Nepal. In the opener, “The Good Shopkeeper,” a young accountant is fired from his job and abandons his conventional life for the very American pursuit of happiness, which here includes therapeutic sex with a local housemaid. “Deepak Misra’s Secretary” concerns a young businessman who is abandoned by his Westernized wife but finds comfort in the austere personality of his severe secretary, with whom he has variably interesting sex. In “During the Festival,” a young husband is persuaded that his beautiful wife is having an affair with a neighbor, a man who must suddenly come to terms with his own mother: a Freudian tale told from an a-Freudian-Nepalese perspective. In one of the strongest pieces here, young Kanti—on the brink of earning her Ph.D. from Duke University—finds herself deeply attracted to the unreliable Jaya, who inevitable cheats on her. When approached by the stolid, English-educated, and refined Prakash, a physician who has recently opened a local clinic in Nepal, she endures the ancient tug-of-war between prudence and passion. Ultimately, she opts to return to the States to complete her education and hope for the best.

Not especially original in theme, but Upadhyay’s flinty, oddly proper style is attractive and succeeds in bringing life to these otherwise unpromising (and often seemingly misogynistic) scenarios.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-04371-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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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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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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