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Exhalation Reviews

Exhalation by Ted Chiang


Ted Chiang

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: Picador
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication date: 9 Jul 2019
ISBN: 9781529014488

From an award-winning science fiction writer (whose short story `The Story of Your Life' was the basis for the Academy Award-nominated movie Arrival), the long-awaited second collection of stunningly original, humane, and already celebrated short stories.

3 stars out of 5
27 Aug 2019

"Ted Chiang's ingenious experiments lead readers back to the future"

The best way to convey the appeal of Chiang’s stories is simply to describe their premisses. “Liking What You See”, for instance, is set in a world in which people can take a drug that prevents them from recognizing whether a person is attractive. Formatted as the script of a campus documentary, the story moves between college students sharing their experiences with “lookism” and trying to parse the ethics of using the drug. In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate”, from Exhalation, an Iraqi trader recounts his experiences with time travel.


3 stars out of 5
Adam Roberts
12 Jul 2019

"The collection’s two finest stories both achieve this expert balance of the emotional and the cerebral."

That said, there is an inevitable danger in accelerating SF hype into hyperspace. 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?...
The collection’s two finest stories both achieve this expert balance of the emotional and the cerebral. “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” is an intricate and delightful Arabian Nights-style yarn about a time gate; and the title story deftly creates an alien world, bounded by solid chromium, in which live touchingly thoughtful robotic creatures. One dissects its own head in an attempt to understand how the myriad flaps of gold leaf inside its brain generate its consciousness and in doing so discovers a profound truth about the strange cosmos it inhabits. Chiang makes this entropic revelation ring like a bell, and his quaint world suddenly focuses a truth about all existence. It’s Chiang at his best, and worth the price of admission on its own.