Invisible Planets by Ken Liu
Invisible Planets is a brilliant anthology of Chinese science fiction. Liu offers a wonderful inventive mixture of stories, preceded by a great cautionary warning not to fall into a typical East versus West mindset. This is all proceeded by three essays that deal with the subjects of Chinese science fiction, its history, and its authors. The art of short story writing is one that requires great restraint and careful world building. Each of these stories are more than meets the eye, exploring issues of identity and essential questions of what our future holds and who we are as humans.
To avoid overgeneralizations or plot summaries, stories such as “The Year of the Rat” and “The City of Silence” explore issues of prescribed societal roles and how we manage these roles. “The Fish of Lijang”, “TongTong’s Summer” and “The Flower of Shazui” question the choices we make in our culture and what the meaning of these actions are. The story of the “Invisible Planets” serves as a metaphor to describe the different lenses of science fiction we must wear as well as the varying perspectives of our world. This list merely highlights some of the stories, but the rest explore similar issues of identity and values in deeply imaginative and surreal settings. There are beautiful moments of overt confusion and subtle clarity that leave the readers in an introspective haze.
This is an excellent collection of stories that challenge and astonish, pushing the boundaries of what we know about (Chinese) science fiction and our world. There is something for everyone in these stories as their style and content changes with each additional story. Even if you are a seasoned science fiction reader, I would encourage you to pick this up, for it deals with the core questions in our world in inventive ways. For those who are not used to (Chinese) science fiction, this is a fantastic and intriguing starting place, not to mention an enjoyable read.
Book cover image from Netgalley.
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.
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