Review: Broken Stars by Ken Liu

RATING: 8/10

SYNOPSIS

Award-winning author Ken Liu presents a new anthology of Chinese short speculative fiction.

Some of the included authors are already familiar to readers in the West (Liu Cixin and Hao Jingfang, both Hugo winners); some are publishing in English for the first time. Because of the growing interest in newer SFF from China, virtually every story here was first published in Chinese in the 2010s. The stories span the range from short-shorts to novellas, and evoke every hue on the emotional spectrum. Besides stories firmly entrenched in subgenres familiar to Western SFF readers such as hard SF, cyberpunk, science fantasy, and space opera, the anthology also includes stories that showcase deeper ties to Chinese culture: alternate Chinese history, chuanyue time travel, satire with historical and contemporary allusions that are likely unknown to the average Western reader. While the anthology makes no claim or attempt to be “representative” or “comprehensive,” it demonstrates the vibrancy and diversity of science fiction being written in China at this moment.

In addition, three essays at the end of the book explore the history of Chinese science fiction publishing, the state of contemporary Chinese fandom, and how the growing interest in science fiction in China has impacted writers who had long labored in obscurity.

Stories included:
“Goodnight, Melancholy” by Xia Jia
“The Snow of Jinyang” by Zhang Ran
“Broken Stars” by Tang Fei
“Submarines” by Han Song
“Salinger and the Koreans” by Han Song
“Under a Dangling Sky” by Cheng
“What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear” by Baoshu
“The New Year Train” by Hao Jingfang
“The Robot Who Liked to Tell Tall Tales” by Fei Dao
“Moonlight” by Liu Cixin
“The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: Laba Porridge, by Anna Wu
“The First Emperor’s Games” by Ma Boyong
“Reflection” by Gu Shi
“The Brain Box” by Regina Kanyu Wang
“Coming of the Light” by Chen Qiufan
“A History of Future Illnesses” by Chen Qiufan

Essays:
“A Brief Introduction to Chinese Science Fiction and Fandom,” by Regina Kanyu Wang,
“A New Continent for China Scholars: Chinese Science Fiction Studies” by Mingwei Song
“Science Fiction: Embarrassing No More” by Fei Dao

For more Chinese short fiction in translation, check out Invisible Planets.

REVIEW

“In this age, truth was as rare as virtue. Even more tragic, when faced with the truth, most people preferred to doubt its veracity because they would rather believe the truthy mirage created by their own minds”

Thank you Definitely Books and Pansing Distribution for sending me a review copy of Broken Stars by Ken Liu (not to mention that the cover for this book is just so beautiful!). Broken Stars is a compilation of 16 short Chinese sci-fi stories edited and translated by Ken Liu. I have translated a number of court documents (for work purposes) and it is such a tedious job. Ken Liu really did a great job in translating all these sci-fi stories especially when it involves a lot of scientific terms and philosophical concepts.

Reading Broken Stars is like watching 16 episodes of Black Mirror. All these stories, while involved some sci-fi elements (some are hard sci-fi), are very thought provoking and it makes you ponder a lot on the values of humanity and the issues that are happening in this new age. My personal favourites (in chronological order) are as follows: –


– “What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear” by Baoshu whereby the author combined the concept of reverse arrow of time with the history of China in a very brilliant way and I am mind blown!
– “Goodnight, Melancholy” by Xia Jia which discussed about depression
– “Broken Stars” by Tang Fei which discussed about school bullying (and its rather dark)
– “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe: Laba Porridge” by Anna Wu which discussed about the importance of simplicity
– “A History of Future Illnesses” by Chen Qiufan which discussed about the disadvantages of technology

A solid 8/10 star rating for Broken Stars. I really have to start picking up Ken Liu’s Dandelion Dynasty series. He sets the bar quite high in the realm of contemporary Chinese sci-fi and I can’t wait to delve into more of his work!

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