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Exhalation
Cover of Exhalation
Exhalation
Stories
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ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
A NATIONAL BESTSELLER
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR:
THE WASHINGTON POST  TIME MAGAZINE • NPR  ESQUIRE • VOX • THE A.V. CLUB • THE GUARDIAN • FINANCIAL TIMES • THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS 

Exhalation by Ted Chiang is a collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feel more human. The best kind of science fiction.” —Barack Obama, via Facebook
"THE UNIVERSE BEGAN AS AN ENORMOUS BREATH BEING HELD."

In these nine stunningly original, provocative, and poignant stories, Ted Chiang tackles some of humanity’s oldest questions along with new quandaries only he could imagine.
In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In “Exhalation,” an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal. In “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom,” the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will.
Including stories being published for the first time as well as some of his rare and classic uncollected work, Exhalation is Ted Chiang at his best: profound, sympathetic—revelatory.
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
A NATIONAL BESTSELLER
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR:
THE WASHINGTON POST  TIME MAGAZINE • NPR  ESQUIRE • VOX • THE A.V. CLUB • THE GUARDIAN • FINANCIAL TIMES • THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS 

Exhalation by Ted Chiang is a collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feel more human. The best kind of science fiction.” —Barack Obama, via Facebook
"THE UNIVERSE BEGAN AS AN ENORMOUS BREATH BEING HELD."

In these nine stunningly original, provocative, and poignant stories, Ted Chiang tackles some of humanity’s oldest questions along with new quandaries only he could imagine.
In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In “Exhalation,” an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal. In “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom,” the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will.
Including stories being published for the first time as well as some of his rare and classic uncollected work, Exhalation is Ted Chiang at his best: profound, sympathetic—revelatory.
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  • From the book THE MERCHANT AND THE ALCHEMIST'S GATE

    O mighty Caliph and Commander of the Faithful, I am humbled to be in the splendor of your presence; a man can hope for no greater blessing as long as he lives. The story I have to tell is truly a strange one, and were the entirety to be tattooed at the corner of one’s eye, the marvel of its presentation would not exceed that of the events recounted, for it is a warning to those who would be warned and a lesson to those who would learn.
     
    My name is Fuwaad ibn Abbas, and I was born here in Baghdad, City of Peace. My father was a grain merchant, but for much of my life I have worked as a purveyor of fine fabrics, trading in silk from Damascus and linen from Egypt and scarves from Morocco that are embroidered with gold. I was prosperous, but my heart was troubled, and neither the purchase of luxuries nor the giving of alms was able to soothe it. Now I stand before you without a single dirham in my purse, but I am at peace.
     
    Allah is the beginning of all things, but with Your Majesty’s permission, I begin my story with the day I took a walk through the district of metalsmiths. I needed to purchase a gift for a man I had to do business with, and had been told he might appreciate a tray made of silver. After browsing for half an hour, I noticed that one of the largest shops in the market had been taken over by a new merchant. It was a prized location that must have been expensive to acquire, so I entered to peruse its wares.
     
    Never before had I seen such a marvelous assortment of goods. Near the entrance there was an astrolabe equipped with seven plates inlaid with silver, a water clock that chimed on the hour, and a nightingale made of brass that sang when the wind blew. Farther inside there were even-more-ingenious mechanisms, and I stared at them the way a child watches a juggler, when an old man stepped out from a doorway in the back.
     
    “Welcome to my humble shop, my lord,” he said. “My name is Bashaarat. How may I assist you?”
     
    “These are remarkable items that you have for sale. I deal with traders from every corner of the world, and yet I have never seen their like. From where, may I ask, did you acquire your merchandise?”
     
    “I am grateful to you for your kind words,” he said. “Everything you see here was made in my workshop, by myself or by my assistants under my direction.”
     
    I was impressed that this man could be so well versed in so many arts. I asked him about the various instruments in his shop and listened to him discourse learnedly about astrology, mathematics, geomancy, and medicine. We spoke for more than an hour, and my fascination and respect bloomed like a flower warmed by the dawn, until he mentioned his experiments in alchemy.
     
    “Alchemy?” I said. This surprised me, for he did not seem the sort to make such a sharper’s claim. “You mean you can turn base metal into gold?”
     
    “I can, my lord, but that is not in fact what most seek from alchemy.”
     
    “What do most seek, then?”
     
    “They seek a source of gold that is cheaper than mining ore from the ground. Alchemy does describe a means to make gold, but the procedure is so arduous that, by comparison, digging beneath a mountain is as easy as plucking peaches from a tree.”
     
    I smiled. “A clever reply. No one could dispute that you are a learned man, but I know better than to credit alchemy.”
     
    Bashaarat looked at me and considered. “I have recently built something that may change...
About the Author-
  • Ted Chiang's fiction has won four Hugo, four Nebula, and four Locus awards, and has been featured in The Best American Short Stories. His debut collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, has been translated into twenty-one languages. He was born in Port Jefferson, New York, and currently lives near Seattle, Washington.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    February 1, 2019

    Chiang (Stories of Your Life and Others) is always thought provoking, and his latest collection is no exception. "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" considers artificial intelligence, with one woman wondering if they should be treated as living beings. "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" asks, if the past cannot change, is life driven by fate? "The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling" posits a future in which we record every moment of our lives and how that affects us, with a second narrative featuring a man who learns to read and write and its impact on his oral storytelling culture. Two of the nine pieces are new: "Omphalos" deals with creationism as science, and "Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom" centers on talking to our other selves in alternate worlds. VERDICT Any sf reader can dive into these stories and find something exciting. Especially recommended for fans of Greg Egan, Ken Liu, and Netflix's Black Mirror. [See Prepub Alert, 11/19/18]--Lucy Roehrig, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from March 1, 2019
    Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity's evolutionary journey.Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate," which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong--and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include "The Lifecycle of Software Objects," a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; "The Great Silence," which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and "Dacey's Patent Automatic Nanny," which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach "equilibrium," its parting advice will resonate with everyone: "Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so."Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from April 1, 2019
    Chiang's long-awaited second collection (after Stories of Your Life (2002), the basis for the 2016 movie Arrival) continues to explore emotional and metaphysical landscapes with precise and incisive prose. The stories range in length from "The Great Silence," a brief and mournful account of humanity's search for other intelligent life from the point of view of a parrot, to "The Lifecycle of Software Objects," a novella told from the perspective of the inventors and caretakers of digients, sentient software beings. Many stories explore the dynamics of a radically different cosmos, such as the titular "Exhalation," set in a sealed metal world whose mechanical inhabitants rely on continuous supplies of air to operate their bodies, or the previously unpublished "Omphalos," about a world where visible evidence of an active and creative God is everywhere. Other stories explore scenarios involving radical changes in human consciousness, such as "Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom," where technology that allows communication with alternate selves results in a whole new set of anxieties and complexes. Chiang remains one of the most skilled stylists in sf, and this will appeal to genre and literary-fiction fans alike.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

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