Four Letter Nerd

4LN Book Review – “The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories” by Ken Liu

Title: “The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories”
Author: Ken Liu
Publisher: Saga Press

Summary: A publishing event: Bestselling author Ken Liu selects his award-winning science fiction and fantasy tales for a groundbreaking collection—including a brand-new piece exclusive to this volume.

With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie. This mesmerizing collection features all of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards), “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner), “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon award finalists), “All the Flavors” (Nebula award finalist), “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist), and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (The only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).

A must-have for every science fiction and fantasy fan, this beautiful book is an anthology to savor.

Recently, a Scottish man recommended to me a particular brand of Scotch, and I figured if anyone knows Scotch, it’s a Scot.  I also have a certain affinity for a particular translation of the Bible because a man dressed as Elvis claiming to be the son of Elvis told me that this translation would be the one his daddy would want me to have, and, let’s be honest, who would be comfortable not buying something a man that’s most likely delusional asked you to buy?  Anyway, the point I am getting at is this: sometimes someone suggests something to you that is outside of your norm, you partake of whatever is suggested, and you end up liking it.  That is what happened to me with “The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories.”

I am not generally a reader of short stories, but when this book was suggested to me I read the summary (shown above) and thought it sounded interesting.  I didn’t know what to expect when I cracked open the book, and I was pleasantly surprised to find some really intriguing stuff.  Some stories, particularly ‘The Regular’ and ‘The Perfect Match’ are as captivating as they are unnerving, while the titular short story, ‘The Paper Menagerie,’ is heartbreakingly beautiful.

‘The Regular’ is a futuristic crime thriller that oscillates between a private detective and an escort murdering serial killer.  The deeper I got into this story the more uncomfortable it got.  The crimes are disturbing.  It was fantastic.  ‘The Perfect Match’ was unnerving in a completely different way.  This short story follows Sai as he comes to terms with just how invasive technology has become in everyone’s life.  Tilly, the AI interface, is always in the ear of almost everyone making suggestions about everything from date ideas and suggested talking points to… well, basically every aspect of everyone’s life.  It’s like social media, Google, and HAL 9000 all rolled into one (less murderous) entity.  There is always something unsettling about AI, at least for me, and this story sets the creep-bar pretty damn high.

Overall, Ken Liu’s “The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories” is a fantastic read that spans an enormous range of emotions.  If the girl from Pixar’s “Inside Out” read this book the five anthropomorphic emotions would be going haywire.  If you are in any way a fan of science-fiction, “The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories” has something for you.

“The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories” is available in bookstores and online stores today, with an audiobook version also available!

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Cam Clark

Cam is a husband, father, and a fan of many things. In college, he wrote his senior thesis on Mythological, Philosophical, and Theological Themes in Star Wars, and now spends his days causally specializing in Star Wars, Tolkien, and cubical work. No relation to Bill Clark.

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