Book Review: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

Its been a while since I’ve read some fiction that I got really into. I like fiction, both written, on the screen, and everything else. But its pretty uncommon that I find something I like enough that I would recommend it highly to others. After reading The Paper Menageries and Other Stories I can say that the short stories of Ken Liu are the kind of fiction I feel very comfortable recommending- engaging stories that suck you in, and have something to say.

The actual story that the collection refers to in its title is actually one of the less memorable ones. Its by no means bad, and its shorter than many in the collection, making it a good place to start- though strangely its halfway through the book. I don’t recall the last time I’ve read a collection of short stories so I don’t know if this is typical, but I had assumed the namesake of the collection would be the first thing in it. Since I was curious about The Paper Menagerie, I jumped to that story in my audiobook and read from there. When the story ended I read on to the end, then went back to the beginning of the collection and read until I reached The Paper Menagerie.

As I said, the story is a good place to start, not just because its a good story and a fast read, but because it features an east vs west culture clash that’s a major theme running through many of the stories in this collection. This culture clash provides fertile ground for animating stories, and as an American reader I found the Chinese perspective of these stories to be a fresh one. Good Hunting was possibly the most memorable of these stories, and probably of the entire collection. It also displays the authors comfort with both science fiction and fantasy, sometimes in the same story. Its hardly surprising that the story was adapted into a short for the animated anthology show Love Sex and Robots, though unsurprisingly the adaptation was quite inferior to its source material.

After reading this collection its hardly surprising that Ken Liu has been attracting the amount of attention he has, and I look forward to getting into more of his work. Its also exciting to imagine this being part of a larger trend of genre fiction expanding to feature more diverse voices with distinctive stories to tell.

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