My first impressions of reading the story Paper Menagerie were that it was relatable and could had a universal appeal. The story is about a boy whose mother was a mail order bride from China, and growing up he didn’t quite fit in with other kids. Despite the fact that his mother created magical toys that came to life, he still felt inadequate because his toys weren’t cool enough. This story is about an adult coming to grips with his identity, about how he felt about his mother and realizing that she was a magical being who worked very hard for him despite the odds. I feel a lot of people will relate to this no matter your nationality.
What was great about this book was this rich tapestry of myth and love myth. Maybe it’s my imagination but I found The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species to be very esoteric, to put it generically. I felt like I was reading Fernando Pessoia’s “The Book of Disquiet”, but I’m going to reread some of these stories again, in case I might have missed something, but I still found it to be whimsical like a fantastical fairy tale. I wasn’t sure where it was going, which for me was refreshingly non-formulaic.
But in staying true with the theme of menagerie each story is another genre melded with another. In State Change I thought this was a very quirky tale and could easily be a Guy Madden film, or “The Book of Urantia” (a collection of Biblical knowledge of creation from a sci-fi perspective). In it, Rina is reading about the memoir of TS Eliot. Your mind stays busy bridging the gaps of what’s not being told to you while she is obsessing with great works of literature. It read like what ordinary life would be like in the near future working in a office.
As I write this I wonder how many Fox references were presented throughout the book. I felt like I needed to know more about the mythology of the Fox in Asian tradition because I remember a dream sequence from a Kurosawa film where a little boy is hiding behind a tree because he did not want to be caught observing a group of foxes walking through the forest. According to the film doing so was bad luck, and I still don’t understand why. In Good Hunting Liu treads old and new magic with how the old ways of Feng Shui are becoming useless and how through technology, the shapeshifting Foxes find reinvention through androids slowly, in incremental installments.
Regulars is an action-packed murder mystery where the detective Ruth is part cyborg after being enhanced over the years. I would place this on the shelf with Tad Williams’ Otherland and William Gibson and my favorite Philip K Dick. It read like all these guys got together to write a episode of Cagney and Lacey or Murder, She Wrote as a near future cyborg cozy, with the detective wondering whether or not she’s too old to keep doing what she’s doing.
The Waves is a mind-numbing cerebral blend. A family living in space on a ship called the Sea Foam, with parents Joao and Maggie able to communicate telepathically using a device implanted inside their heads. They struggle with leaving their children in suspended animation to be children forever, with allowing themselves to become more cyborg and less human as the years and light-years pass, with whether or not to carry on being human or become fully cyborg and immortal, to complete the human colonization mission of a distant, Earth-like planet.
After reading this it is obvious the future is going to be beyond what we think is weird. There are those who prefer the adventure of traditional space opera star such as Star Wars or Star Trek. But does for me, this story captures the real drama of the lives and feelings we would have in such a future. This collection brings up a lot of story and myth, and the issue of earth as being a more than a planet but a space ship. But only philosophically. Don’t run with that because it is just one story.
This collection has a lot of material for readers to think about, more than good against evil but also about our existence and its meaning. I wish there were cool books like this when I was in college, and I would put Ken Liu on the same level with William Gibson or Harlan Ellison. You don’t always have to have great Great Epic Scope to avenge your family’s blood line. Sometimes ordinary people set in the near future weave tales just as deep and satisfying.
This book is crammed with depth, emotion and well as crafted out origami creatures that come to life with utter vivid rich detail. Some of the styling makes me wonder if Liu also writes poems. Do yourself a favor, relax with it and marvel. I think my favorite writers past and present would love this book and I’m making sure the ones I know know it. I highly recommend considering this as a gift to yourself.
The other stories treaded many layers of genres which is very bold for writer. I felt like I was getting a lot of information in a couple of pages, which is something I haven’t seen since Philip K Dick. I could only imagine what Ken Liu’s influences are? I would also be curious to know if he has a collection of poetry planned.
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.
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Saga Press (March 8, 2016)
"The Paper Menagerie" by Ken Liu
This book is crammed with depth, emotion and well as crafted out origami creatures that come to life with utter vivid rich detail. Some of the styling makes me wonder if Liu also writes poems. Do yourself a favor, relax with it and marvel. I think my favorite writers past and present would love this book and those I’m making sure the ones I know it. I highly recommend considering this as a gift to yourself.