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Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation Hardcover – November 1, 2016
Invisible Planets, edited by multi award-winning writer Ken Liu--translator of the bestselling and Hugo Award-winning novel The Three Body Problem by acclaimed Chinese author Cixin Liu--is his second thought-provoking anthology of Chinese short speculative fiction. Invisible Planets is a groundbreaking anthology of Chinese short speculative fiction.
The thirteen stories in this collection, including two by Cixin Liu and the Hugo and Sturgeon award-nominated “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, add up to a strong and diverse representation of Chinese SF. Some have won awards, some have garnered serioius critical acclaim, some have been selected for Year’s Best anthologies, and some are simply Ken Liu’s personal favorites.
To round out the collection, there are several essays from Chinese scholars and authors, plus an illuminating introduction by Ken Liu. Anyone with an interest in international science fiction will find Invisible Planets an indispensable addition to their collection.
For more Chinese SF in translation, check out Broken Stars.
“The Year of the Rat” by Chen Qiufan
“The Fist of Lijian” by Chen Qiufan
“The Flower of Shazui” by Chen Qiufan
“A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight” by Xia Jia
“Tongtong’s Summer” by Xia Jia
“Night Journey of the Dragon-Horse” by Xia jia
“The City of Silence” by Ma Boyong
“Invisible Planets” by Hao Jingfang
“Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang
“Call Girl” by Tang Fei
“Grave of the Fireflies” by Cheng Jingbo
“The Circle” by Liu Cixin
“Taking Care of God” by Liu Cixin
“The Worst of All Possible Universes and the Best of All Possible Earths: Three-Body and Chinese Science Fiction” by Liu Cixin and Ken Liu
“The Torn Generation” Chinese Science Fiction in a Culture in Transition” by Chen Qiufan and Ken Liu
“What Makes Chinese Science Fiction Chinese?” by Xia Jia and Ken Liu
"What If Everybody Said That?" by Ellen Javernick
What if everybody chose to be kind? | Learn more
"Vibrant collection... these are tales rich with lush language, inventive premises, and heartbreaking storytelling." ―Mary Robinette Kowal
"These stories, along with the rest of the anthology, represent the best in both science fiction and works in translation, detailing situations that appear alien on the surface but deftly reframe contemporary issues to give readers a new view of familiar human experiences.A phenomenal anthology of short speculative fiction." ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Greatly varied in theme and approach, all of these stories impress with their visionary sweep and scope...superb compilation." ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
"With stories ranging over social control, world-building rats and redundant robots who have outlived the humans who made them, this is a collection that will stimulate and delight" ―Daily Mail
'A wonderful collection, it's thoughtful and entertaining fiction that as a western reader opens your eyes to science fiction written by a different, rich culture. My favourite short story collection of the year" ―SF Book Reviews
"Dreamlike and hypnotic, evocative and inspiring'" ―The Bookbag
"There is fabulous variety in this book, ranging from hard Science Fiction to near-future social Science Fiction ... a fine collection" ―SF Crowsnest
About the Author
- Publisher : Tor Books (November 1, 2016)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0765384191
- ISBN-13 : 978-0765384195
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.81 x 1.29 x 8.53 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #545,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the authors
Top reviews from the United States
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Liu’s writing is clearly in the genre of classical science fiction, with interstellar travel, alien species and good hard science fiction technology. I was somewhat disappointed with the work of the other authors. The translator of this work, Ken Liu, explained in his introduction the various sub-genres of Chinese science fiction, with which I was not familiar. Whereas, Cixin Liu fits very comfortable in my understanding of what encompasses science fiction, most of the other short stories didn’t register as science fiction to me at all. In addition, there were recognizable cultural aspects of most of the other work that do not appear in Liu’s work. Aside from the short story Folding Beijing, and Liu’s contributions, I was pretty much underwhelmed.
The anthology opens with ‘Year of the Rat’, by Chen Quifang. This a mysterious story about an unemployed and demoralized university graduate who is drafted into a civil defense force. His unit is armed with spears and sent to the countryside to fight a plague of bio-engineered rats. These might be the mutant descendants of cute and intelligent rats who were bred for export to Europe as pets. I’ll leave you to discover what follows.
The best story is Hao Jingfang’s ‘Folding Beijing’, which won a Hugo for Best Novella in 2016. The story has attracted the attention of engineers in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). In the story, robots and AI produce an abundance of goods. The bulk of the profits accrue to the governing class of 5 million and some to the middle class of 25 million. The lower class of 50 million struggles to survive by laboring long hours cleaning and maintaining the city.
She imagines a coldly dystopian Beijing, optimized to manage this distribution of wealth and work. Beijing within the Sixth Ring Road is a giant urban machine that folds the city upside down every 48 hours. The governing class lives above ground for 24 hours, then the city rotates upside down to expose the buildings of the middle & lower classes. The middle class enjoys the surface for 16 hours, then its buildings retract and the buildings of the lower class unfold. They have 8 hours to clean and maintain the city.
The story is about a lower class worker, hired to carry a message from a grad student in the middle class sector, to the student’s lover on the reverse, wealthy side. Near the close of the story, the protagonist discovers that his life of hard labor in the lower class sector was unnecessary. The work could have been done by robots, but the governing class prefers to keep workers busy.
I was charmed by an explosively colorful and original short story, ‘Call Girl’, by an apparently LGBT writer, Tang Fei. The final short stories are by the modern Sci Fi master, Cixin Liu. For those of you who’ve missed it, I highly recommend his trilogy of novels, The Three-Body Problem. The anthology closes with short essays on the state of Chinese sci fi.
No single message unites these stories. It’s hard however to miss the pervasive mood of anxiety and foreboding. Perhaps that's about what's challenged every Chinese government, the absorption into employment of the annual cohorts of graduating students that emerge from China’s population of 1.4 billion. Or perhaps the darkness relates implicitly to the tragedies of Chinese history: Cixin Liu begins his trilogy with a scene from the Cultural Revolution. Or perhaps Ken Liu is at least partly wrong ,and the source of the darkness is the shadow cast by an enormously powerful state.
Xia Jia’s “A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight” was my favorite story, about a boy living on a street full of ghosts. Xia Jia likens her story to Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book meets Hayao Miyazaki, which is spot on. I also loved Tang Fei’s “Call Girl,” about a girl who takes money in exchange for stories, and Chen Jingbo’s “Grave of the Fireflies,” a fantastic literary wonderland of a tale.
My personal favorite stories were "Folding Beijing" by Hao Jingfang and "Tongtong's Summer" by Xia Jia. "Folding Beijing" is set in a futuristic Beijing where the city is divided by class into three "Spaces." The story follows a man as he travels through and meets people from the different Spaces, as he tries to earn money to send his adopted daughter to preschool. The story doesn't focus very much on science or technology, instead it draws the reader's attention to the inequality between the Spaces. "Tongtong's Summer" is also set in the future, and is told from the point of view of a young girl, named Tongtong. Tongtong's family brings home a robot to help care for her aging grandfather, but her grandfather ends up using the robot to take care of other people.