A haunting, surprising, and rebellious collection that contains multitudes.

THOUGH I GET HOME

A mosaic of stories about state- and self-imposed silence and what it means to find your voice.

The 14 stories in Chin’s debut collection are centered around Malaysia: the people, culture, and country. Interconnected (sometimes loosely, sometimes overtly) by characters, the stories also share themes like patriotism, censorship, personhood, and art as protest. In “When Starbucks Came,” a woman contemplates her unfulfilling relationship in the wake of the coffee chain's opening a store in Taiping. In “A Malaysian Man in Mayor Bloomberg’s Silicon Alley,” a young man living in America returns home to vote and struggles with his dueling identities. When asked by the American woman he’s dating for one thing only true Malaysians would know, he replies: “we either think we are the best country in the world, or the worst country in the world.” These stories exist in the gray area in between. Corruption and state violence exist in the same world as forbidden family stories and “rain-betting.”Isabella Sin, who serves as the throughline for the collection, is first introduced in “Though She Gets Home” when she goes to her first protest and is later arrested for writing “inflammatory…pornographic” poems. An unexpected twist slowly revealed over the course of a few stories leads to the final tale, “So She Gets Home,” which sees Isabella home from the “country’s most notorious prison.” In the wake of her detainment, she is trying to navigate the Venn diagram of her identity: how others define her and how she defines herself. The idea of becoming who she is meant to be leaves the sometimes-devastating book on a hopeful note.

A haunting, surprising, and rebellious collection that contains multitudes.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-93693-216-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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