I read this as part of my reading challenge: 25 short stories in 25 days.
This was definitely a different kind of story to the last few ones I have read. This to me read very much like a scientific essay rather than a short story, this of course was an extension of the fact that our point of view character is in fact a scientist. So it is a very conscious choice of voice on Ted Chiang’s part. I did however think that it subtracted from my enjoyment of the story. I was kind of tired and I find that kind of tone generally boring so I had a hard time concentrating on the story. Which was really a shame because the story was really good and the world building very interesting.
This was a story about a people whom I came to understand as some sort of mechanical creatures, kind of steampunky automatons. They live in a small “universe” surrounded by an impenetrable wall/shell. The POV character (I am not sure he is named or gendered for that matter) decides to explore how his own brain work and in that process he realises that the entropy of the world will mean their existence will within a calculable future. They are an immortal race so this is a rather huge blow to their society. But he remains hopeful.
The story is as I said a good story and very powerful. The POV character is on a quest for knowledge which leads to a huge leap of understanding for them. Which is in of it self interesting. If it was not for the scientific tone of the voice of the narrator I think I would have loved the story, the voice did however mean that I found reading the story boring. I got a master’s degree in history and social studies so it isn’t that I can’t read science text, I just generally choose not to do it for fun, and they do tend to bore me to sleep.
I am not discouraged from reading other things by Ted Chiang but right this minute I do not feel any great need to go out and buy some.
A bit of background:
Last night I decided to survey the authors that I have read for this challenge so far, 10 stories read seemed like a good time to take stock.
Apparently all the stories I have read are written by authors currently living in the United States. And only a single author was not pasty white (judging from their photographs). In science fiction and fantasy, if you just pick random stories this is very likely to be the case. Not just because there are more stories written by americans whites, but also because they tend to be more visible. So if I want to read stories that are different from that, I will have to do so consciously. So I decided that I wanted to read something written by a different background for the next few stories. So this story is the first story with that goal in mind. Ted Chiang is also an american, but at least he is not a pasty-white guy of European descent like 90 % of what else I have read in this challenge.
Interestingly enough the gender balance of what I had read so far was perfect, 5 female authors and 5 male ones. I have not consciously tried to balance this out, so I do find that kind of awesome. But I think the challenge tomorrow is reading something by a person who don’t currently live in the United States.