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Exhalation

Length: 11 hrs and 22 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (164 ratings)

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Summary

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.

©2019 Ted Chiang (P)2019 Macmillan Digital Audio

What listeners say about Exhalation

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Entrancing

I've read some negative reviews of this collection, but I loved it. Each story is carefully developed, beautifully written and completely absorbing. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” is one of the best things I've read in ages. I even loved the parrot story, which people say is the weakest in the book. From the first, beautifully crafted Arabian Nights-style tale about time, and redemption, I was engaged. Every page of this collection is suffused with optimism. It's clever, kind, thoughtful and thought provoking and I highly recommend it. Yes, even the parrots.

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good but slow

I do realise that Ted's stories can be slow over a novel, but I hoped these may have been less of a plod. several chapters were given to one arc about AI which seemed a real waste of potential, whereas others lost the plot as they meandered along.

this isn't punchy short sci-fi, but worth listening to if you're a fan

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Fascinating ideas, plodding storytelling.

A fascinating exploration of ideas, just don't expect gripping storylines or intresting characters. . .

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Short stories from Ted Chiang's bottom drawer.

Performance lacked lustre. Notes from the author were used to pad out a collection of works that failed to live up to Ted Chiang's reputation. Unsatisfactory conclusions and no effort to develop characters other than that of the narrator. A disappointment.

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A collection to revisit

It's almost inevitable that a collection will miss a five star rating because some part of it doesn't appeal and that's the case here. These are stories with the nature of parables - and so slightly moralistic at times - but that, wherever they're set, have a science/speculative fiction slant. The title story, Exhalation, is superb and The Lifecycle of Software Objects is a dissection of difference, AI, and what constitutes sentience in virtual world entities. Sentience comes up again in The Great Silence, this time in a tale spanning Arecibo, the Fermi Paradox, and parrots, while Omphalos gently and carefully challenges one person's profound faith in a deity. Humanity with its strengths and failings is the driving force for all of these stories; how we think and feel and relate to others and what happens when technology becomes a part of the picture. It isn't dystopian, it doesn't preach, and nor does it labour its message of who and what we are; but it does make us think.

The stories vary considerably in length (I listened on Audible where they ranged from around six minutes to over three hours) and the style is often an account delivered from a particular and singular perspective. It's one of the books I will return to because there's likely to be much that I've missed.

I'll just add that the Author's notes, which pop up at the end of each story and are delivered by the author and give a little bit of the background theoretical context, are slightly jarring in audio but will be much less so in text. I will re-visit these too.

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  • GW
  • 03-02-20

A philosophical Black Mirror

Engaging well voice acted philosophical scifi - each short story is engaging, witty and generally leaves you with a lot to think about. Authors notes between stories felt a bit unnecessary, but in the end I enjoyed his perspective. Will listen to the rest of his work now.

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Great SF

This is the best science fiction short story collection I have read in many years. Good narrator.

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Just Great

I love sci-fi and these short stories are just wonderful thought provoking bites for the busy person. As I am getting older and a bit busier at work, I don't have the time always to get stuck into a long book. This is where the art of the short story can really come to the rescue. Somehow, Ted Chiang seems to pack a punch well above its weight in word count. Each story is meaningful and will get you thinking on a deeper level while keeping you throughly entertained.

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some good stories

I enjoyed all the stories but some were much better than others. some 5*, some I'd rate 2* if they were stand alone. As a collection overall though, it's okay.

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Thought provoking and well delivered.

I really enjoyed this especially with the author's notes at the end of each story. Such a clever author and a master at work.

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  • Ed Dowding
  • 17-10-19

contains lots of content from previous books

so alas it is not as good value as I'd hoped, but still sufficiently entertaining

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  • Magnus M. Hustveit
  • 13-09-19

Anthology thought experiments perfectly executed

Ted Chiang combines excellent writing with interesting scenarios in a way which engages deeply. If you are not thinking after listening to this book, it's on you.