Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Books: The Paper Menagerie

Author Ken Liu and I have a few things in common, in that we're both Chinese-American attorneys with a background in computers. It's no great surprise, then, that I enjoyed "The Paper Menagerie," Liu's collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories. Some of the 15 works here are new, most are previously published, but the quality of the stories is uniformly high, and they all draw on Liu's background in some way or another.

There are technology-focused tales, like "The Perfect Match" (a man struggles with an overbearing Siri-like computer) and "Simulacrum" (a man creates a semi-conscious hologram of his daughter). These essentially read like episodes of "Black Mirror" - except they are way better than the actual episodes of "Black Mirror." There are also fantasy stories ("Good Hunting") which draw heavily from Chinese culture. They're fun, and very different from Western fantasy (if you like what's here, check out Liu's silkpunk novels, starting with "The Grace of Kings").

Occasionally, things get poignant for poignancy's sake. I thought some of the emotional beats in "The Regular" and title story "The Paper Menagerie" were forced, for instance, but they were undeniably dramatic. It's merely a small quibble with Liu's writing style; if you like science fiction or fantasy at all, you'll probably like the book.


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