It is very rare to come across a short story collection that can have so much to tell readers that go beyond the stories within it. That is the experience that I had when I read the book The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu. Here was a book that did not just entertain me with stories of what the future may hold or how technology impacts our lives, but also stories from history brought to life through the lives of fictional characters. Liu masterfully weaves tales that pull the reader through the chasms of time to see in a real-life way just what kind of stories history has to tell us.
And while there are stories in this book that were inspired by historical events, as well as cultural tales retold across the centuries, there are also stories that ask “what if?” – with very interesting answers! What if Earth was destroyed – where will everybody go? How will that happen? What if we could live forever – in space and time? What if Big Brother goes commando and nothing is no longer secret in our lives? There are stories in this book that explore such ideas and I enjoyed reading them very much. I liked the story “The Perfect Match” and “The Regular” is another good story. Actually, it was an AMAZING story. When I found out what the Regulator is, I thought that such an implant is a bad idea. Sure, our emotions can cause us to make bad decisions and also hurt others, but relying on such a thing to navigate the muddy waters of life can cause problems. Sometimes, too much emotion can be a good thing. And also, we are led by a false sense of security that the implant will ensure that we get through tight spots okay. As the character notes later in the story, "Can she trust a machine to save her daughter?" I also loved the story “Good Hunting.” It shows how those who cling to the old ways struggle to cope with change and new ideas.
“The Literomancer” is a story that made me cry at the end. I did not know about the 228 Massacre. It prompted me to learn more about it. This story really put a human face on that part of Chinese history. Ditto with the last story in the book. I never knew about Unit 731 but I did some light research on it and will also read the book mentioned in the story, The Devil's Gluttony.
This is certainly a book of many stories. There are stories within stories. Someone who likes having stories told to them would enjoy this book, as there are many characters telling stories. Just as characters in these stories recount stories of their past, Liu deftly tells stories about THE past: Stories from Chinese history and Japanese history. He brings them to life through characters living in those times in history. In doing so, he gives a voice to the voiceless – the victims of historical atrocities. Hold on to this book and never forget the cries of the voiceless within. This book is not just a collection of stories, but a testament of historical atrocities committed by those in power who had the freedom to perform such heinous acts on innocent people, and a final unsung plea by the victims to have what happened to them remembered.
A publishing event: Bestselling author Ken Liu selects his award-winning science fiction and fantasy tales for a groundbreaking collection—including a brand-new piece exclusive to this volume.
With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie. This mesmerizing collection features all of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards), “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner), “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon award finalists), “All the Flavors” (Nebula award finalist), “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist), and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (The only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).
A must-have for every science fiction and fantasy fan, this beautiful book is an anthology to savor.