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Exhalation: Stories par Ted Chiang
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Exhalation: Stories (original 2019; édition 2019)

par Ted Chiang (Auteur)

MembresCritiquesPopularitéÉvaluation moyenneMentions
1,417709,571 (4.16)43
This much-anticipated second collection of stories is signature Ted Chiang, full of revelatory ideas and deeply sympathetic characters. In "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate," a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and the temptation of second chances. In the epistolary "Exhalation," an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications not just for his own people, but for all of reality. And in "The Lifecycle of Software Objects," a woman cares for an artificial intelligence over twenty years, elevating a faddish digital pet into what might be a true living being. Also included are two brand-new stories: "Omphalos" and "Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom." In this fantastical and elegant collection, Ted Chiang wrestles with the oldest questions on earth--What is the nature of the universe? What does it mean to be human?--and ones that no one else has even imagined. And, each in its own way, the stories prove that complex and thoughtful science fiction can rise to new heights of beauty, meaning, and compassion.… (plus d'informations)
Membre:oconnellh
Titre:Exhalation: Stories
Auteurs:Ted Chiang (Auteur)
Info:Knopf (2019), Edition: First Edition, 368 pages
Collections:Votre bibliothèque
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Mots-clés:2020

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Exhalation: Stories par Ted Chiang (2019)

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Affichage de 1-5 de 71 (suivant | tout afficher)
Ted Chiang is a SFF writer who’s been around for a while but has yet to produce a novel. This collection came out in the early days of 2020 and features his work up to 2019.

There are some wonderful short stories in here. Chiang is one of those old fashioned SFF writers, where execution carries the story through. He’s not a wonderful prose stylist; his style is invisible for the most part, which, for certain kinds of stories, it should be. He’s a technical writer by trade, and there’s no room for individual style in that, only clarity of communication. This is something he does very well. I enjoyed all of the stories in this collection, some more than others, and all made an impression on me. I admire his ability to take any conceit, any subject, and really work it and not shy off from its more difficult aspects.

The title story “Exhalation” is the highlight. A race of unnamed, robotlike beings seeks, in a limited world, why their mental and physical processes are running down. A maverick scientist among them does so by disconnecting all the high-pressure lines (for these creatures run on some kind of compressed gas) instead his own skull to investigate by using a system of microscopes and mirrors for disassembly. It’s investigational, creepy, hopeful, and human, all at once. It well deserved its accolades.

The other major story, almost a novelette, is “The Life Cycle of Software Objects” which satirizes, in a loving way, the online gaming industry and its many frustrating, mandated upgrades. Randomly generated AI creatures are adopted by humans and achieve sentience of a sort (the story doesn’t go into if this sentience is “real” or not, that is, actual consciousness) but to develop further from their randomized AI actions, they need nurturing from their human adopters. Tragedy looms when their platform is no longer viable and they must be transferred to another, and the crowdsourcing isn’t there, but all is righted in the end. The story is all the more affecting for the deadpan technical tone of it. At the time I read it, it wasn’t my favorite, but now months later I think of it a lot, and fondly.

Other stories highlight the ways exotic technology can be used to heal humans’ psyches, even if that is not its intended use. In the Arabian Nights pastiche “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” a “slow time machine” allows users to travel to the past, finding that it accommodates the present and offers comfort through “The Will of Allah.”

Another favorite of mine, “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom” is about how an amazing piece of technology known colloquially as a “prism” has affected human society in the small scale. A prism is a laptop-like device that opens a portal through to an alternate universe where face-to-face communication is possible. Operating through the magic of quantum physics, it has a limited number of charges. The act of its first use creates a twin universe from that point in time forward which gradually diverges from the main one, simply through random actions of one thing on another. (Of course, the users in the alternate universe think they are the original universe.) The prisms have become consumer goods the same way cell phones have. Some buyers communicate with their alternate selves to figure out personal problems, even becoming envious of their alternate selves. There’s even a black-market trade in prisms that have especially novel futures. All this way written not to showcase and grandstand the technology, as a flashier writer might do, but to gradually reveal the human, healing side.

All in all, this collection is very recommended by me. ( )
  Cobalt-Jade | Mar 8, 2021 |
Jag är lika kär i den här boken som alla andra verkar vara. Vackra noveller med intressanta idéer. Det är nog den bästa bok jag läst i år. ( )
  krupskaja | Feb 17, 2021 |
Es difícil encontrar en otros autores la capacidad para integrar agudeza intelectual, emoción y humanidad que está presente en los relatos de Ted Chiang. Algunos de los que se recopilan en esta segunda colección traen a la memoria a Borges ("The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate") o las mejores historias de robots de Asimov ("The Lifecycle of Software Objects"). Personalmente, no obstante, me siguen fascinando sobre todo los relatos en los que Chiang es capaz de levantar de forma coherente mundos enteros fundados en cosmovisiones ajenas al acuerdo físico imperante. Esto -que ya realizó a la perfección en "Tower of Babylon" y en "Hell Is the Absence of God"- convierte, a mi juicio, a "Omphalos" en el relato más impactante de este volumen. ( )
  Tremendamente | Jan 23, 2021 |
As I was blow away by Ted Chiang's previous book, [b:Stories of Your Life and Others|25670162|Stories of Your Life and Others|Ted Chiang|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1506951237l/25670162._SY75_.jpg|216334] (see my review here), I didn't doubt that his latest anthology, 'Exhalation', would also speak to me.

This new bundle contains nine stories, of which two are new and not published before:

1) The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate (2007):
Exquisite writing, simply amazing. A story about travelling back and forth in time, in order to: improve your future? Improve your present? At what price? Is the future dependent on the present? Are you aware of possible consequences? Set in an Arabic setting, we follow a merchant seeking to raise his living standard through unconventional means, which involves meeting up with his future self. As other readers wrote, similar to 'The Arabian Nights'.

2) Exhalation (2008):
What is the source of life? Light, earth, air, water, ...? Can one live without air, as this is the central element in this story? By the way, you can read the story on Lightspeedmagazine.com (direct link). The main character is a robot, who thinks about life and the necessity of air, as he too needs air to move and live. 'Exhalation' is a deep, philosophical story about life, the universe, being human, ... In the context of environmental issues, even more pertinent.

3) What's Expected of Us (2005):
This is a very short story, only a few pages "long". You can read it on Nature.com (direct link). It revolves around a device (Predictor) with a green LED-light and whether or not you have free will in using it. Very much food for thought.

4) The Lifecycle of Software Objects (2010):
A story about virtual animals and avatars, with an animal caretaker and programmer as main characters. As these digients grow, evolve, learn new things, how does one deal with them? Are they to be considered equal to real animals? Are they just bits and bytes, even if they talk back to you? And what when they need to be converted to be able to live on? Software changes all the time, as does hardware. Without progress, there's standstill and eventually loss. Unless there's enough budget to convert your programmes to current standards. What if that money comes from companies who see a bright (read: very profitable) future for those digients? Which raises the question again: Are these digients simply bits and bytes or to be considered proper creatures with own personalities? What about your own personal life, your own relationships, ...? How can they be combined with your work? Where's the balance?

In short: a story about very advanced versions of Tamagotchis. I remember when these little creatures were a hype, especially in school. I never understood the hype or the purpose of these products, though. Yes, they are/were products. So, yes, bits and bytes, in my humble opinion.

5) Dacey's Patent Automatic Nanny (2011):
This story reminded me a little of 'The Jetsons' and their robotic maid. Here it's a story about having a robot, an AI, taking care of raising one's child. Obviously, here too, ethical questions come into play. A child not raised by people, by a mother and a father, in warm and loving circumstances, will not develop certain emotions and feelings or even skills.

6) The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling (2013): A story about converting a tribe, more precisely Tiv (Africa). Whose vision of the world, whose way of life, is the right one? The tribe's, relying on nature and its spirits and oral history? Or the coloniser's, which relies on the written word and chronicles? We all know that history is usually written by the survivors and/or the conquerors, and that the written word can be manipulated, modified, altered as well. As is very much the case today, and not just in 1984.

Parallel with this story, a second one: People using 'Remem' to register (video/audio) everything they have ever said and done. Useful to solve quarrels and prove who said what to whom when. Everything will then be saved in the cloud, you could say. If you want to revisit certain situations or look up specific moments, you only have to "google" them and videos (either those you shot or the fragments in which you're featured, as filmed by other people) will show up.

Which begs the question: What if everything was registered? Everything you ever said to anyone, everything you filmed yourself, every event you were at, every bite you took, every drink you drank, and so on, and so forth. Would you be able and willing to revise your opinion on certain utterances? Would you be willing to admit you were wrong at moment x, instead of always having believed and been convinced it happened differently, at least to your personal memory? What if others used that recorded information to get back at you?

7) The Great Silence (2015):
Is there alien life out there? Surely humans aren't the only intelligent species in the galaxy? Mankind has undertaken various attempts to find out, to send out signals and what not. No reply has been received as of yet. But why would one look for alien life in space, when one doesn't even understand or hasn't "catalogued" the majority of Earth's species? We still can't communicate properly with various animals, because we don't speak their language (yet?) and neither do they speak "human".

You can read this story for free here. Claudia added in her review links about Alex, the Grey parrot, as he's mentioned in the story. See this link.

The title of this story refers to the Fermi paradox.

8) Omphalos (new):
Was the world created billions or "only" several thousands of years ago? Creationism vs science. Who's right? It's not a black-and-white story, rather one that poses the question: What if the world was not created for mankind? What if mankind is not the centre of the world? Why do humans exist? What's each person's purpose in life? Just live and die?

What if you're a devout believer, but your occupation as a scientist is in conflict with your conviction? What if proof of God's creation is not really hard to find, but you either fail to see or acknowledge it? Why are only human creations (buildings, designs, ...) a sign of splendour? Without a framework, a basis, ... man cannot create the edifices, the arts,

9) Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom (new):
Another story around the concept of free will. Here, prisms are a key product of quantum communication, allowing its user(s) to communicate with their virtual selves and other people. Real and virtual life differ from each other. One's acts and behaviour can also influence the virtual future. As it goes with electronic devices, they can be manipulated and used for selfish, criminal purposes. More often than not, the consequences can be severe. However, there are positive aspects to the use of a prism. Free will also plays a role here and it's up to the user to decide how much time s/he wants to spend with the prism. In other words, see the impact of social media (and smartphones, tablets, ...) on our daily lives.

At the end there are notes explaining how each story came to be, what inspired Mr Chiang to write them. Some are based on true events, but fictionalised for the bundle; others are a mix of events put together into one story.

Like his previous book, this new one is more than highly recommended. Each story makes you step back and look at the world today, look at your own life today, and how we deal with the daily challenges. Most of these stories will/can slap you so hard in the face and review your convictions, your views on life and the world, in this day and age. And maybe even make you look back at where you came from, the path you have travelled to this date, and where you would like to go.

----------

A few other, worthwhile reviews:
Claudia
Cecily
Mark ( )
  TechThing | Jan 22, 2021 |
Ted Chiang is a genius! I am not much into science fiction, but this is a truly splendid collection of wondrous short stories. A friend of mine was right on spot when she said "I can only read good books now... cannot afford mediocre!" I love the story notes Chiang provides at the end - everything's explained, but there's still enough room for an exciting discussion with the book club. ( )
  readalicious | Jan 7, 2021 |
Affichage de 1-5 de 71 (suivant | tout afficher)
Exhalation’s nine stories are … fine. A couple are excellent, most are good, a couple don’t really work. It feels like damning the book with faint praise to say so, but isn’t that exactly how short-story collections generally work?
 
I can’t think of another modern genre writer like him, myself: his tales make me think of the same sort of impact a Bradbury or a Heinlein story had in the Golden Age, where readers would read something just because it is written by the author.
 
In the hands of a truly fatalistic writer, the premises and conceits in Exhalation would frogmarch us down the tired path to dystopia. But Chiang takes the constraints on our freedom as a starting point from which we have to decide what it means to act as if our decisions still matter.
 
Chiang is a writer of precision and grace. His stories extrapolate from first premises with the logic and rigor of a well-designed experiment but at the same time are deeply affecting, responsive to the complexities and variability of human life.
 
[Chiang's] voice and style are so beautifully trim it makes you think that, like one of his characters, he has a magical looking-box hidden in his basement that shows him nothing except the final texts of stories he has already written — just so he'll know exactly how to write them well in the first place.
 

» Ajouter d'autres auteur(e)s (3 possibles)

Nom de l'auteur(e)RôleType d'auteurŒuvre ?Statut
Ted Chiangauteur(e) principal(e)toutes les éditionscalculé
Ballerini, EdoardoNarrateurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Blair, KellyConcepteur de la couvertureauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Hoffman, DominicNarrateurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Kim, NaConcepteur de la couvertureauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Landon, AmyNarrateurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Lew, BettyConcepteurauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
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The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate
O might caliph and commander of the faithful, I am humbled to be in the splendor of your presence; a man can hope for no greater blessing as long as he lives.
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Nothing erases the past. There is repentance, there is atonement, and there is forgiveness. That is all, but that is enough.
--"The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate"
My message to you is this: Pretend that you have free will. It's essential that you behave as if your decisions matter, even though you know they don't. The reality isn't important; what's important is your belief, and believing the lie is the only way to avoid a waking coma. Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has.
--"What's Expected of Us"
But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren't they interested in listening to our voices?
  We're a nonhuman species capable of communicating with them. Aren't we exactly what humans are looking for?
--"The Great Silence"
Experience is algorithmically incompressible.
--"Exhalation"
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This is the collection that includes the title story. Please do not combine with the individual story.
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This much-anticipated second collection of stories is signature Ted Chiang, full of revelatory ideas and deeply sympathetic characters. In "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate," a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and the temptation of second chances. In the epistolary "Exhalation," an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications not just for his own people, but for all of reality. And in "The Lifecycle of Software Objects," a woman cares for an artificial intelligence over twenty years, elevating a faddish digital pet into what might be a true living being. Also included are two brand-new stories: "Omphalos" and "Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom." In this fantastical and elegant collection, Ted Chiang wrestles with the oldest questions on earth--What is the nature of the universe? What does it mean to be human?--and ones that no one else has even imagined. And, each in its own way, the stories prove that complex and thoughtful science fiction can rise to new heights of beauty, meaning, and compassion.

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