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)
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.
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