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review 2017-03-08 12:03
Story of your Life
Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang,Abby Craden,Todd McLaren

Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life" was the basis for the new film "The Arrival." The story itself is a thoughtful meditation on the meaning of one's time on earth, and the choices we make. The movie takes it in a more plot-driven direction. But what's brilliant about the movie is that it preserves the central idea of Ted's story.

If you read the entire anthology of these stories, it's also interesting to observe that Ted's general approach is a meditative questioning of the meaning of our work, our relationships and our being in the world. I personally love these kind of slowly thoughtful and illuminating stories. But perhaps they are not for everyone. If you like your SF fast and furious, Ted Chiang is probably not your cup of tea.

Oh, and I had the pleasure of meeting Ted recently and talking with him at length. His style reflects his stories: gracious, thoughtful and insightful. A true pleasure!

Source: nednote.com
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review 2017-02-17 13:45
Stories of Your Life and Others
Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang Please note that I gave this story 4.5 stars and rounded it up to 5 stars on Goodreads.

So I got this book via the library and boy was there a long wait. I think the movie "Arrival" is the main reason why this one took so long to get via Overdrive. I saw Arrival right after the elections and seriously, that was the movie I needed to see at that point. In a big theater with several hundred people getting to watch this amazing story that really showcases why words and language are so important. The visuals were great, so was the music, and the ending left me with so many questions. Once I saw the words based on in the end credits, I made a note of the title and author and promptly went home and put in a hold request. The story based on Arrival is in this collection of works by Chiang. But so are some other stories. Some that definitely made me think and wonder. Some that also made me scratch my head. And there was one that left me feeling somewhat odd and needing to go to church soon. I do love that the overall theme though is how important words and language ultimately are to the people in these stories.

For those who are not used to my reviews based on anthologies/collections, I always give each story it's own rating, and then the overall collection a rating.

"Tower of Babylon" (5 stars)- Who does not know about the Tower of Babylon? I really enjoyed Chiang's look at the workers who built the tower, and what these men really wanted. They wanted to be in the presence of the Creator and wanted to reach the vault of heaven. You actually feel a little sorry for the characters you meet, because you as the reader know how this story is going to end. However, the ending to this one does not follow the Biblical story. It ends up leaving you with a reminder about those who go in search of the divine. I absolutely loved the description of this epic tower. The people who lived within it, and what the sun, moon, and stars looked like from the top of the tower.

"Understand" (5 stars)-This was more science fiction that most of the other stories. Reading about how a man is given an injection that ends up boosting his intelligence is a trope in many movies/books (Flowers for Algernon anyone?) but Chiang goes a step further showing how this man ultimately starts to believe he is above other humans and goes about seeing hat he can do to ultimately be rid of them. There's just a small flaw in his plan. He may not be the only one out there just like him. The ending was pretty smart I thought.

"Division by Zero" (3.5 stars)- I really didn't get this one at all. Probably because I have loathed math most of my life and I still have bad flashbacks to Algebra II and Calculus I courses. I didn't get what was going on with the mathematical theorem in this one, or why the one character was slowly becoming undone by it. It didn't help that we were going back and forth between two characters this whole story who I was flabbergasted to see were more close than I thought until the end. I don't know, the ending was odd and I maybe went huh a few times. Okay a lot.

"Story of Your Life" (5 stars)-This is the story that Arrival was based on. I really enjoyed more in depth information that we got in the book. And I finally understood a few things that had me wondering from the movie. This set-up makes better sense than the movie version. Only because there's a minor issue with us seeing Amy Adams character teaching others the new alien language, though the book shows that maybe only two characters can read and understand the language. And the story leaves you with a question about divine will and what you would do if you knew you could alter something, and what if you did alter something but things stayed the same, because if something is supposed to happen, won't it still happen? This is definitely a story that will have you thinking about fate, the meaning of life, and just a ton of other thoughts meant for 3 a.m. when you can't sleep.

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"Seventy-Two Letters" (2 stars)-The X-Files did it better. Yeah I said it. Reading about a golem, some weird science fiction explanation that had me scratching my head, and this taking place I think in Victorian times (or another Victorian timeline from our understanding of it) just had me confused.

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"The Evolution of Human Science" (2 stars)- I really don't get what this was supposed to be. It was so short compared to the other stories and pretty much walks you through how there are metahumans and humans and humans should not be worried about being wiped out because of metahumans. I started humming the X-Men cartoon series theme song while reading this.

"Hell is the Absence of God" (5 stars)-This one was fairly long and I loved the idea about it. I take it based on the author notes at the end that Chiang meant this to be a more modern look at Job. And I definitely loved it from beginning to end. I also kind of love a world where angels just randomly appear and people believe in blessings, or some don't, and the question of salvation and devotion comes up a lot. I was discussing this story with one of my friends who is very devout and he loved the whole story-line. I think I may have caused him to go find this collection because he thought all of the stories sounded interesting.

"Liking What You See: A Documentary" (5 stars) This should seriously be a Black Mirror episode. If I hadn't binge watched the most reason season I probably would not have thought that, but seriously, this short story would be pretty cool to see on screen. The idea that people have the ability to have something called a calli turned on and off. Calli allows you through something called Spex to view people as if they had cosmetic surgery. In people's minds, if everyone is equally beautiful this would lead to a utopia since no one would be discriminated against for not being beautiful or having perfect features. This whole thing is messed up and I adored every second of it. I think an article I read a few years ago talked about this about how people are more apt to think a beautiful person is telling the truth than those who are not deemed beautiful. I distrust most people until I know them better, and have had grown men and women look me in the eye and lie to me (and yeah I knew it, sometimes I love my job, other times I just sigh) so I think that depending on your job, beauty doesn't factor into it much. I tend to look at body language a lot when talking to anyone in order to determine if someone is not being truthful. Anyway, this documentary style story was great. You get to follow several characters and follow a proposal that would enforce all kids who attend one college to always have calli due to many thinking lookism causing a lot of problems in the world.
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review 2016-09-27 10:55
Coding Languages vs. Natural Languages: “Story of Your Life and Others” by Ted Chiang
Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang

Are you familiar with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis? Back in the day when I was in college I remember writing a paper on applying this language paradigm to coding. It was so long ago I don’t really remember what I wrote, but I still remember agreeing with the fact that coding could also be a fitting subject to the Sapir-Whorf wisdom… Thinking it over once again, and being a “more mature human being” (meaning: “being advanced in years”), I still think we can draw some parallels between natural and programming languages. For starters, the way both types of languages are built allow coders to adapt and shift their ways of thinking more fluidly as they learn new programming languages than as they learn new spoken languages. It is that diversity that allowed me to both grow individually as a programmer and further advanced my own tastes when it came to choosing my favourite programming languages.

 

The rest of this review can be read elsewhere.

 

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text 2016-08-21 19:13
Reading progress update: I've read 52%.
Stories of Your Life: And Others - Ted Chiang

Stories of your life: and Others is a short story collection, which contains eight science fiction- / speculative fiction short stories. So far I have only finished four of these stories, but ever since finishing story number four, Story of your Life, I can´t stop thinking about it (there´s an upcoming movie adaption of this story as well and I cannot wait to see it).

 

Story of your Life tells the story of Louisa Banks, a linguist, who is assigned to make first contact with an alien species. Additionally we get glimpses of Louisas relationship with her daughter thorughout the narrative.

Okay, the bare facts of this short story may not sound that interesting. But how Ted Chiang explores the limits and possibilities of language and how certain kinds of language and thought patterns define, how we experience the world and our place in it, is remarkable. And the ending is just mind blowing. I will definitely have to do a reread of this one.

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text 2016-07-05 01:04
Reading progress update: I've read 40%.
Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang

This is slow going mainly because the author makes me feel stupid and I really hate being reminded that. The third story, Division by Zero, was about a mathematician, suicide and marriage. I'm beginning to believe Chiang is some sort of math genius and likes to remind the rest of us how great he is. Without having any appreciation for math, I couldn't feel for the character or how hard it must be for her to accept her solving some math problem that proved her entire life was a waste of time. In that context I can possibly understand how horrible it might be but I hate math so I didn't care that she lost it.

 

Throughout this story Chiang uses math proofs or definitions to introduce the chapter, I about gave up half way through but I persevered, finished the story and quickly found some silly war book to read to get my head away from math. 

 

I will eventually finish this just to see how much more about math Chiang can interweave within his characters but I think the Goblin Emperor is calling me much louder than Chiang's math stories.  

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