Todd Mason sent me a link to the LOCUS lists of the best SF ever published. You can find those lists here. Todd mentioned that Ted Chiang managed to garner six spots on those lists that included Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, and other giants of Science Fiction Land. I had read Ted Chiang’s The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate but nothing else. So I quickly acquired Stories of Your Life and Other Stories published in 2002 and Life Cycle of Software Objects published in 2010.
“Tower of Babylon” plays with the premise that miners could enter the Vault of Heaven from a tower that takes a year to climb. I loved “Understand,” a story about a man who takes the secret Hormone K and becomes super-intelligent. I did not like the ending and wish I could write a sequel that would set things right. “Division by Zero” explores the implications that arithmetic isn’t correct (I’ve secretly believed this for years). “The Story of Your Life” shows how humans process time is affected by using an alien language. “Seventy-Two Letters” is about golems. “The Evolution of Human Science” shows what happens when metahumans publish their advanced research that mere humans can’t process. “Hell Is the Absense of God” is my least favorite story. It involves angels. “Liking What You See: A Documentary” is a series of reactions by various characters to a chip that cancels out the human brain’s ability to recognize beauty or ugliness. As you can see, Chiang writes about a variety of topics.
Life Cycle of Software Objects tells what happens when a company sells virtual pets that may or may not have artificial intelligence. Like the other stories Chiang has published, there is little or no humor in these works. Chiang is big on science, mathematics, and linguistics. Do Chiang’s stories approach the classic stories of Asimov and Heinlein? This stories are good, but they’re not great. GRADE: B+