On the Horizon – the hidden girl and other stories (Ken Liu)

Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this short story  collection eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

the hidden girl and other stories (Ken Liu)

Title: the hidden girl and other stories

Author: Ken Liu

Publisher: Saga Press

Publication Date: TODAY! (hardcover / e-book)

ISBN: 978-1982134037

Source: NetGalley

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories

One of the best short stories I have ever read was Ken Liu’s the paper menagerie which in 2012 was the first work to win the Hugo, the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award.  Ye can read it for free by clicking here.  This lovely cover for his second short story collection caught me eye and I was excited to read more of his work.  This book has 16 stories from the past five years and a brand new novelette.  There were 19 all together.

All short story collections are kinda hard to review.  I usually try to give thoughts about each story individually but I am not able to do that for this book.  This stems from the fact that the stories, as the author’s preface states, have been arranged by the editor into a “meta-narrative.”  The stories at the beginning seem to standalone but later stories have many characters and plots reappear.  I think the beginning of the collection was the strongest but much of the middle blurred together and felt very slow for reasons I will get to.  Here are the stories that I loved:

“Ghost Days” – The first story was cool and the historical fiction aspects excellent.  I didn’t particularly love the ending but I did learn about bubi which are awesome Chinese coins.  After the story I went looking to find out more about them and found this cool page.

“Maxwell’s Demon”- This was the second story and the best for me.  It deals with the Japanese internment in 1943 and ghosts.  Poignant and beautiful.

“Thoughts and Prayers” – A thought-provoking tale about the consequences of a mass shooting on one family and how the digital world impacts how each member deals with grief.

“Real Artists” – A weird but fascinating look at how films could be made.

“Grey Rabbit, Crimson Mare, Coal Leopard” – Cool magic.  Super fun characters.  I wouldn’t mind this one being expanded into a longer form.

“The Hidden Girl”- Assassins and magic.  Arrrr!

“The Message”- Lovely story about familial bonds, alien archaeology, and tough choices.  Bittersweet.

About 30% of the way through is where the tone switched.  Much of the middle of this book deals with the unforeseen impact of technology advancing.  One story dealt with what happens when ye crowdfund charity and the non-profits have to compete.  Multiple stories dealt with uploading the human consciousness to computers.

Two repeating ones were 1) a girl, Maddie, who talks to her dead AI father and 2) the Singularity which is where people gave up their physical bodies.  Many of the stories with Maddie used emoji which I couldn’t see very well on me Kindle and couldn’t enlarge.  It irked me and I missed a lot of the meaning.  I enjoyed the Singularity ones better.  But the switching back and forth did lead to some whiplash.  And some of the tech made no sense to me so I was just confused about what was going on.

At 65% it switched to fantasy second with the “Grey Rabbit” story.  I loved that one.  Next from 76 – 81% there was an excerpt from the third Dandelion Dynasty book.  Horrible, horrible choice.  It didn’t fit and should have been put at the end of the book if they wanted to promote it.  Blech.  “The Hidden Girl” was next.  Fantastic story whose theme and tone matched the “Grey Rabbit” story.  The remainder of the stories were good.

Out of the 19 stories, I loved 7, enjoyed 7, and didn’t like 5.  That is pretty darn good for me and a collection.  So while there were quibbles, I am very glad to have read this collection.

So lastly . . .

Thank you Saga Press!

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

From award-winning author Ken Liu comes his much anticipated second volume of short stories.

Ken Liu is one of the most lauded short story writers of our time. This collection includes a selection of his science fiction and fantasy stories from the last five years — sixteen of his best — plus a new novelette.

In addition to these seventeen selections, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories also features an excerpt from book three in the Dandelion Dynasty series, The Veiled Throne.

To visit the author’s website go to:

Ken Liu – Author

To buy the novel please visit:

the hidden girl and other stories – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

24 thoughts on “On the Horizon – the hidden girl and other stories (Ken Liu)

  1. Seems like we had very similar feelings on this one. I also thought those first two stories were brilliant. I also enjoyed the one with the girl and her dad and emojis, but I had a print copy so that might have been a factor.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This worked out well for you – I will give it a miss though, short stories and I just don’t get on and no matter how many times I try they don’t do it for me – so I’ve reached the decision to be fair to all the authors involved to just not go there because I pretty much know before I even start that I’ll either not finish or like the odd story but want it to be longer.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am that way about graphic novels. I tried a few and liked the art but the medium itself just frustrates me. I am not visual so I feel that I miss huge chucks of story. Words are much better for me.
      x The Captain


      1. I have an entire folder of short stories I haven’t read yet. Any time someones posts one that sound interesting I add it to that list. I think I have about 50 links though some have multiple stories on them. Plus tor.com has tons on their website and I can’t keep up!
        x The Captain

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This might go on my list, thanks.

    I’m glad to encounter someone who thought Dandelion Dynasty was subpar too – that was such a big letdown after The Paper Menagerie. Sad marketing creeps up in what is clearly his strength, short stories.

    Beautiful cover indeed, btw – just as for his first collection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really need to read his first collection. I am in the middle of one for Elizabeth Bear so it will have to wait a little bit though. I am sorry to hear that his novel didn’t work for ye either. I don’t tend to hear much either way about it really.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am reading the best of elizabeth bear which was published by Subterranean Press. It has been taking me a long while to read because it is over 500 pages and has over 27 stories and novellas. They are so different and I am spreading them out. I have read eight of her novels and have enjoyed them all.
        x The Captain

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I absolutely ADORE Ken Liu’s writing, but I haven’t read any of his longer forms yet. The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories was one of my favorite books in 2019. I’ll definitely be reading this collection.

    You’re right that the Dandelion Dynasty excerpt is weird… I wonder why that was included? His other collection features a wide variety of genres with very little interconnection between characters, themes, genres, and settings. I enjoyed that vast pool. I wonder if this one feels different because there seems to be a connection.

    The idea of writing with emoji’s is cool, but I’m sorry the format didn’t quite work for that. I’m reading The Ruin of Kings right now on ebook and I’m struggling with some of the formatting as well. We need better editors for ebook editions! I hope you gave that feedback to the publisher.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really should read Liu’s first collection at some point. But I am in the middle of another author’s collection and will need a break from them after that. And aye, I did give that feedback to the publisher. I keep telling the ebook people that ye need to be able to zoom in on images and maps and such. I don’t like missing things. That said, I am not an emoji user (non-visual thinker) and so I don’t know if I would have loved that format anyway. I can’t help but prefer words.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re the middle of another collection? Shock. 😉

        Hm. An interesting connection there. I don’t see pictures in my head, but I use emojis all the time to convey the emotional context of my text when I’m communicating via the written word. I never thought about it as a form of visual thinking. I like how visuals enhance my ability to connect the dots with reality because I cannot see pictures in my brain. I wonder how I might interpret the emoji conversation if I don’t use them as a substitue for communication. How fascinating!

        Liked by 1 person

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