Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

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Stories of Your Life and Others is a collection of tales by Ted Chiang, famous recently for the movie Arrival, that is based on the story that titles the book.

Story of Your Life is wonderful and compelling, and the mix between reading the story and seeing the movie helps in understanding better the thematic (time perception, cause – effect system, interacting with an alien culture); it’s one of the rare situation when text and video helps themselves.

The tales have a philosophical / theological implication: the ambition to reach the divine in Tower of Babylon, the angelic influx to human in Hell is the absence of God, the contact between science and religion in Division by Zero.

Other tales explore ethics and moral: Seventy-Two Letters is set in a hypothetical reality where man is able to give life to golem (that can be compared to artificial intelligences), Liking What You See: A Documentary analyze the theme of perceiving beauty also with respect to the actual standards provided by the media, and Understand shows two opposite ways of dealing with supreme knowledge.

The collection is of great quality, the main thread is the speculation of science fiction; the stories are useful to reflect, but they are not suited for the sf action-lovers.


Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang ★★★★☆

*I read this book in english

[ARC] Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade by Joe R. Lansdale

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The novel belongs to the famous series based on the adventures of Hap and Leonard, notorious protagonists of lots of Joe Lansdale’s novels.

The book is a mosaic one: Hap and Leonard remembers some stories of their childhood – like when the met each other – and tell them to their families and friends.

In the end its a collection of stories linked by a common thread; like other mosaic novel or collections not every story is at the same narrative level, and only some of them leave a mark.

One of the major topic is racism (the setting is mostly in Texas) and the struggle to overcome prejudices (Hap’s mother is a truly positive example).

Overall it’s a nice book, but I still prefer the “standard” novels of the series that deal with a single aventure with a wider scope.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade by Joe R. Lansdale ★★★☆☆

*I read this book in english

[ARC] Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson

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The book collects some tales by Shirley Jackson, author I already know for the novel We have always lived in the castle and for a couple of stories.

The tales belong the genres of horror and weird: the typical structure begins with a normal setting where dark elements appears and disturb the normal atmosphere. The endings close perfectly the tales and leave a sense of unease to the reader.

It’s a very good collection that I will absolutely suggest to the ones who want to discover the imaginary of this author.

Here follows the table of content of the book.

  1. The Possibility of Evil
  2. Louisa, Please Come Home
  3. Paranoia
  4. The Honeymoon of Mrs Smith
  5. The Story We Used to Tell
  6. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  7. Jack the Ripper
  8. The Beautiful Stranger
  9. All She Said Was Yes
  10. What a Thought
  11. The Bus
  12. Family Treasures
  13. A Visit
  14. The Good Wife
  15. The Man in the Woods
  16. Home
  17. The summer people

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson ★★★★☆

*I read this book in english

[ARC] Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith

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Public libraries and other stories is a collection of stories by Ali Smith; after each tale there is a recollection or an episode about public libraries and the cultural and educational role they have in modern society.

I honestly prefer other books by Ali Smith (like the beautiful How to be both and the nice Autumn), and I like more her narrative style in the novel form, however I still remember some images from this collection of stories:

  • the books that contain short text in the boundary and the poet Olive Fraser who frees them at the end of the tale that tells a fictional episode of her life;
  • the old lady forgotten on the train and the group of teenagers who help her;
  • the child who wants to pay an object with flowers;
  • the mix of bureaucracy and technology that make ourself lose control of our life (the cloned credit card, the man declared dead multiple times without reason).

To the readers wanting to read for the first time something by this author I think it’s better to go for a novel.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith ★★★☆☆

*I read this book in english

[ARC] All That Man Is by David Szalay

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David Szalay seems to ask: what is important to a man? All that man is should be the answere, and it is quite depressing: men’s life is about sex, money and work.

The author proposes ten stories, each with a different protagonist and each older than the previous one, from the two young adults having an interrail vacation in East Europe to the old English politician counsellor in his Italian home.

All the protagonists of the stories are away from home, and this allows the author to talk about different EU features: the luxury prostitution in London, the real estate operation in France to attract foreign buyers, the rich Russian enterpreneurs, the consequences of a political scandal in Denmark (a politician ruined because he’s having and affair with a married woman, being an Italian I’m totally #notimpressed).

Each man is shown during an introspective moment of his life, due to either an external cause (work change / loss, love issues,…) or to the old age that makes everyone more wise.

The stories are nice, but I think it’s not a novel, also becuse the lack of link between the stories (only the first and the last one have some common elements).

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* All That Man Is by David Szalay ★★★☆☆½

*I read this book in english

A Glove Shop in Vienna and Other Stories by Eva Ibbotson

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A glove shop in Vienna & other stories is a collection of 19 tales by Eva Ibbotson.

Eva Ibbotson’s stories are romantic and positive, a true panacea when I’m sad or dejected. I did not like all the tales the same, but every collection has its highs and lows.

The best tales are the ones a friend defines “concentrated novels”, where the protagonists meet, are separated and then get together again in the most romantic ending; in this category belong the following:  A rose in Amazonia, Sidi, Theatre Street. Other tales have some funny elements, or near-paradox situations, A little disagreement where an old lady uses to act frequently the day of her death, The great carp Ferdinand where the main dish of the Christmas Eve dinner refuses to die, or The Magi of Markham Street and The Little Countess where respectively we have a Christmas play with unexpected ending and a governess is exhausted by the customs of the Russian family she attends to.

Other tales I liked are: Vicky and the Christmas Angel, Osmandine, A Glove shop in Vienna.

The tales have beautiful plot, but the narrative style should be mentioned, too: Ibbotson’s style is beautiful, using few words a scene becomes alive, and the background is full of characters reflecting culture and life style of the period.


* A Glove Shop in Vienna and Other Stories by Eva Ibbotson ★★★★☆

*I read this book in english

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

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The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is a collection of stories by Ken Liu, some of them are already famous for being nominated or winning some awards (Nebula, Hugo, …), some of them are published for the first time.

The book is quite heterogeneous for the length of the stories and their contents; these go from science fiction to fantasy and in some case are about historical

Considering the overall collection, the story to be praised the most is the one that provides the book title, then a couple of tales shine for the creepy technological settings (Black Mirror like, to be clear), and they are The Perfect Match and Simulacrum.

Another couple have a space opera setting (The Waves e Mono no aware), but to both of them I preferred the mixture of technology and myth in Good Hunting.

Some stories mix fiction to History (All the Flavors, A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel, The Literomancer) but in some cases the historical explanation weights too much in the story. The most famous story in this context is The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary.

The book is overall nice, the author is well-known for the quality of his tales and some stories are able not to be forgotten.


The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu ★★★★☆

*I read this book in english