Review by Booklist Review
Prolific writer and translator Liu (The Wall of Storms, 2016) brings together a selection of his more recent short work. The bulk of the collection is made up of linked stories dealing with various versions of a gradually depopulated post-Singularity Earth, with three stories specifically following one girl as she deals with her supposedly dead father being transformed into the first generation of AI ""gods."" Other stories such as ""Seven Birthdays"" and ""Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer"" chronicle the lives of a completely digital humanity as they journey into the depths of virtual worlds and the farthest reaches of space. While most of the selections are overwhelmingly sf, there are a few stories for fans of Liu's ""silkpunk"" fantasy such as the multi-dimensional Tang dynasty assassins of ""The Hidden Girl,"" as well as the shape-shifting magic of the title characters in ""Grey Rabbit, Crimson Mare, and Coal Leopard."" Neither new readers nor fans of Liu's previous work will be disappointed, although those interested in his fantasy writing may want to start elsewhere.--Nell Keep Copyright 2019 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Cycles of violence, unquiet ghosts, and troubled parent-child relationships pervade Hugo Award--winner Liu's inconsistent second collection. Though Liu's dexterous prose is on display throughout, static story structures and sketchy characters plague these 19 idea-driven tales. At their best, these stories inject high-minded scientific concepts with deeper themes: "Maxwell's Demon" uses Maxwell's equations to explore cycles of violence and the loyalty oaths forced on Japanese Americans during WWII, "The Gods Will Not Be Chained" transcends the ghost-in-the-machine subgenre with its familial tenderness, and the title story resonates with a stubborn, determined protagonist. Weaker offerings violate Liu's assertion in the preface that "a good story cannot function like a legal brief," forgoing narrative momentum in favor of overexplaining their conceits. The worst offenders are "Byzantine Empathy" and "Real Artists," which read as infomercials for fictional technologies. Readers will also be disappointed in how the female protagonists frequently descend into cliché. Though some readers will struggle to find a way in to these emotionally flat stories, Liu's strong sentences and intelligent what-ifs will appeal to fans of Asimov-ian science fiction. Agent: Russel Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary. (Feb.)
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Review by Library Journal Review
Whether short- or long-form, Liu's fiction racks up awards; "The Paper Menagerie" is the first work of fiction to win the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy honors simultaneously. Fans will welcome this second volume of stories, featuring 16 of his best sf/fantasy pieces appearing over the last five years, plus a new novella and an excerpt from The Veiled Throne, the third book in the "Dandelion Dynasty" series. With a 50,000-copy first printing.
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Science fiction author (The Wall of Storms, 2016) and translator (The Redemption of Time, Baoshu, 2019) Liu's short stories explore the nature of identity, consciousness, and autonomy in hostile and chaotic worlds.Liu deftly and compassionately draws connections between a genetically altered girl struggling to reconcile her human and alien sides and 20th-century Chinese young men who admire aspects of Western culture even as they confront its xenophobia ("Ghost Days"). A poor salvager on a distant planet learns to channel a revolutionary spirit through her alter ego of a rabbit ("Grey Rabbit, Crimson Mare, Coal Leopard"). In "Byzantine Empathy," a passionate hacktivist attempts to upend charitable giving through blockchain and VR technology even as her college roommate, an executive at a major nonprofit, fights to co-opt the process, a struggle which asks the question of whether pure empathy is possibleor even desiredin our complex geopolitical structure. Much of the collection is taken up by a series of overlapping and somewhat repetitive stories about the singularity, in which human minds are scanned and uploaded to servers, establishing an immortal existence in virtuality, a concept which many previous SF authors have already explored exhaustively. (Liu also never explains how an Earth that is rapidly becoming depleted of vital resources somehow manages to indefinitely power servers capable of supporting 300 billion digital lives.) However, one of those stories exhibits undoubted poignance in its depiction of a father who stubbornly clings to a flesh-and-blood existence for himself and his loved ones in the rotting remains of human society years after most people have uploaded themselves ("Staying Behind"). There is also some charm in the title tale, a fantasy stand-alone concerning a young woman snatched from her home and trained as a supernaturally powered assassin who retains a stubborn desire to seek her own path in life.A mixed bag of stories: some tired but several capable of poetically piercing the heart. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.