This turned out to be a huge disappointment. It wasn't a total loss because the last two stories were Liu in his true form, but the other 8 or 10 stories felt like filler. Was Liu short on money? Was publisher forcing him to publish something? Was he digging out old stories he had never gotten published before?
Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan, Ken Liu (translator)
I discovered Qiufan's work in Ken Liu's sci-fi anthology, Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation. I've been turned onto Chinese sci-fi ever since. I was enthralled by Liu Cixin's “Three Body Problem” series. I devoured Liu's 2nd Chinese sci-fi anthology too, Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation. I guess living in a repressive, authoritarian regime produces good sci-fi?
But I digress, this novel Waste Tide is a great novel. It's about set in the not-too-distant-future where Silicon Isle (somewhere in China) is a e-waste hell hole. Migrant workers, 'waste people', move there to make their fortunes by sorting the e-waste. They eek out a living, quickly succumbing to illness and death, while the 'clans', comprised of locals, reap the vast rewards. The conflict in the novel is an American recycling company that is looking to help modernize the e-waste recycling program in Silicon Isle. This would upset the balance of power with the 'clans' of course. Mixed in there is a bit of mysticism/magic with VR headsets and some other things I won't spoil for you.
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories – Ken Liu
Ken Liu is maybe most well-known for his stellar translations of other superstars like Ci Lixin (Three Body Problem) but he also is a great writer in his own right.
This collection of stories are varied. Some are about: historical fiction, alternative histories, evolution of humans, robot ghosts, and even musings on the book making habits of fictional alien races.
In each story Liu can blend elements from Chinese folklore, history, and culture into all his work. He puts a piece of himself into all these stories along with his fantastic imagination. I also appreciate how he often leaves a note at the end of his stories to a link to the idea that sparked the story.
Stories in this collection:
- The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species
- State Change
- The Perfect Match
- Good Hunting
- The Literomancer
- The Regular
- The Paper Menagerie
- An Advanced Readers' Picture Book of Comparative Cognition
- The Waves
- Mono No Aware
- All the Flavors
- A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel
- The Litigation Master and the Monkey King
- The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary
NOTE: The short-story “Good Hunting” has been adapted into an episode of Netflix's “Love, Death + Robots”. It's episode 8 in the series.
Book #58 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge
#BookReview #KenLiu #scifi #ShortStory