Book Review: “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang

exhalation2019 is shaping up to be the year of the short story, as it has seen one impressive collection after another arrive on our shelves. Ted Chiang’s second may be the best one yet, filled with 9 stories of varying length that will all leave you ruminating on their themes long after you’ve read them. These tales are ostensibly about many of the usual sci-fi themes like time travel, alternate dimensions, artificial intelligence, and technology, but as with the hit Netflix series Black Mirror, those subjects are rarely the real point of the stories. That show and Mr. Chiang would instead want us to think about the very nature of humanity and our relationship to the world around us, though this book feels quite a bit less bleak than that television program can be. That doesn’t mean there isn’t darkness here, but a lot of these stories are anchored in hope, and a general sense that if we really try, humanity might be capable of being our best selves. Every story here is well-written, full of memorable scenarios, and littered with deep and philosophical thoughts that you’ll want to come back to and think on again and again. In a year that has already seen its fair share of great books, this is easily one of the best, and very likely the smartest. ★★★★★ – Sean Farrell

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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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