Exhalation by Ted Chiang – Thoughts

I’m going to start my book reviews or thoughts on the books I’ve read recently, in a slightly different way. Just trying out a different format for my review blogs. I decided to start with the book related discussion questions with you guys first, and then follow it up with my thoughts on the book. So if you like, you can completely skip the rest of the post and just read the discussion questions or give me suggestions on the same.

Book discussion:

Do you read anthologies usually? What is a recent collection of stories that you’ve read and enjoyed and would recommend?

There were many themes in this superb anthology, but one of them stayed with me the most. If you are one who likes to journal or write a diary, would you like to have a technology that is able to record every second of your life as a video, so that you or your friends or family can view the events exactly as it happened in the past?

Thoughts on Exhalation:

Ted Chiang’s Exhalation is featured on the top sci-fi must reads for this year. Once I read it, I realised why this book is so popular. Now I really want to read his first anthology as well. I gave this book a five star too and highly recommend it, if you’re into science fiction and short stories. Here is my breakdown on all the stories that are featured in this collection:

  1. The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate: This story is based on time travel via a gate. The description of the gate was beautifully done. But the premise is that time is considered as a constant here and as a traveller you can visit your past and your future, but you cant change any of the events that have already occurred. This wasn’t one of my favorite stories of the collection though. But my takeaway was that if you do get to visit your past, learn by being an observer instead of trying to change things.
  2. Exhalation: This story was about trying to find out a way to get access to our oldest memories. I liked the message in this story. Be present and marvel at the miracle of existence instead of trying to find answers in your past
  3. What’s expected of us: I didn’t like this story because the premise of this story is something that I just can’t deal with, if its really true. I won’t say more than that here, since its the shortest story in the book and anything else will be a spoiler
  4. The lifecycle of software objects: This was the longest story in the book, almost more than 100 pages long and talks about the future of the relationship between humans and AI. At first I wasn’t sure what the purpose of this narrative was. But the more thought about it, I realised that the author touches upon some important points regarding the human-AI relationship.
  5. Dacey’s patent automatic nanny: This was a cleverly written story with a fictional account of an artefact displayed in a museum. In this case, an automated nanny. The question is, will you trust a robot or a machine to raise your child?
  6. The truth of fact, the truth of feeling: One of my favorite stories in the book, because of the way it is written. This is the story on which my earlier book discussion question is based on. Lots to think about, since I journal a lot and I like to write as well as record memories. What happens when technology assists us in capturing accurate memories via video files?
  7. The great silence: Another short story and written from the perspective of parrots, on the brink of extinction. It makes you realise, how as humans, we keep looking for answers outside, while destroying the magic of our own planet
  8. Omphalos: My second favorite story of this collection. Remember how long time back, the Church used to claim that the Earth is the centre and the Sun revolves around it and science had proven the opposite to be true? What if we find out that there is actually one such planet, which at actually the Omphalos and at the centre of its Sun and at absolute rest?
  9. Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom: This story is about parallel worlds and humans having the technology to access all of these parallel worlds. But the pertinent question for me in this story was, if there are parallel worlds which are created based on a decision we make, does the existence of such parallel worlds have an impact on our decision making abilities based on a moral compass?

Have you read this anthology by Ted Chiang? Do leave your comments below, so we can discuss more πŸ™‚

3 thoughts on “Exhalation by Ted Chiang – Thoughts

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed this too… Definitely one of my favorites this year and such an impactful collection.
    If you do decide to read his first anthology, msg me.. maybe we can try for a buddy read 😊😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

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