Exhalation Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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This much-anticipated second collection of stories is signature Ted Chiang, full of revelatory ideas and deeply sympathetic characters. In ‘The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate’, a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and the temptation of second chances. In the epistolary ‘Exhalation’, an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications not just for his own people but for all of reality. And in ‘The Lifecycle of Software Objects’, a woman cares for an artificial intelligence over 20 years, elevating a faddish digital pet into what might be a true living being. Also included are two brand-new stories: ‘Omphalos’ and ‘Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom’.
In Exhalation, Ted Chiang wrestles with the oldest questions on earth - what is the nature of the universe? What does it mean to be human? - and ones that no one else has even imagined. And, each in its own way, the stories prove that complex and thoughtful science fiction can rise to new heights of beauty, meaning and compassion.
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|Listening Length||11 hours and 22 minutes|
|Narrator||Ted Chiang, Edoardo Ballerini, Amy Landon, Dominic Hoffman|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com.au Release Date||11 July 2019|
|Best Sellers Rank|| 4,308 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
7 in Science Fiction Anthologies & Short Stories
19 in Science Fiction Anthologies
21 in Time Travel Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
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Top reviews from Australia
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In the opening story a merchant in old Baghdad discovers both a time travel gate and the fact that although the past cannot be changed our understanding of life can be. He finds forgiveness. In another story, people explore determinism or the lack of it in establishing character in a world where through “prisms” they can access alternative versions of themselves in a constantly branching universe. In another, a mechanical scientist, on discovering the entropy that will lead to the extinction of his culture leaves a warm message for the archaeologists of the future. A long story (more a novella) explores the ethical concerns and duties humans will have towards AI creatures as a former zookeeper, re-trained in software, parents a “digient”. Along the same lines, a supposed catalogue for an exhibition of old machines describes the effect on a child of being reared by a mechanical nanny. Banished to a home for the feeble-minded, it becomes apparent to a scientist that the boy is only capable of interacting with machines. In notes at the end, where Chiang describes what prompted the stories, we learn that the origin of this story is the work of an early 20th C psychologist who warned against showing affection to children. His own suffered depression and suicide attempts, one succeeding. Another long story - two stories in one - compares the similar effect of literacy on an oral culture and a future technology which accurately preserves memories. A father finds that he has built his concept of self on a false memory, ascribing to his daughter harsh words which were in fact said by him. Newly humbled, he seeks her forgiveness. It will be apparent that Chiang is deeply concerned with questions that have fascinated us for ages: determinism/free will, our ethical and humane duties to other creatures of all types, seeing clearly and unfearingly (if that’s a word). Heartily recommended, all the more so for being hopeful, rather than dystopian.
Top reviews from other countries
That comment aside, this is a fine collection. ‘The Great Silence’ is a melancholy alternative perspective on communication with alien life and respect for her environment. ‘The Truth Of Fact, The Truth of Feeling’ explores the nature of memory and social relations. ‘What’s Expected of Us’ – previously published in the science journal ‘Nature’ – is both amusing and troubling. ‘The Lifecycle of Software Objects’ is full of good ideas but its length does make one wonder whether Chiang’s unique abilities actual work at anything beyond the short story form. (In this respect he reminds me of James Tiptree/Alice Sheldon.) ‘The Merchant And The Alchemist’s Gate’ is about time travel, and loss, and (that key Chiang interest) determinism. Finally, there is the title story, which starts as an intriguing scientific puzzle and ends with an exhalative view of existence that reminds me of Heidegger and which never fails to move me to tears.
The quality of Chiang’s work is very high. If he does not produce much volume then perhaps that is part of the equation. I still think that he is one of the most exciting things to have happened to SF in years. I’m happy to wait whilst he takes his time.
At times the pace becomes laborious and takes some effort, but if you keep chipping away the structure that is revealed is magnificent. Each story is an epiphany.
The book feels like a philosophical treatise on current science extrapolated ab absurdum. Not a light read but a rewarding one
it is very hard to review short stories without spoilers, so I won't. But if you loved Story of Your Life, then there are things in here to delight you. As with that collection, this one isn't all perfect, but light and share matters in life.