From Cixin Liu, the New York Times bestselling author of The Three-Body Problem, To Hold Up the Sky is a breathtaking collection of imaginative science fiction.
Stories included are:
Full Spectrum Barrage Jamming
The Village Teacher
Fire in the Earth
Ode to joy
Cloud of Poems
Sea of Dreams
Cloud of Poems
I received a copy of this book through NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.
I’ve only read one other book by Liu Cixin, The Three Body Problem, but he’s quickly become one of my favorite sci-fi authors. As an engineer with strong background in academic research, Liu’s writing style match both my interested in in-depth science explanations and well written sci-fi quite nicely.
In the forward, Liu talks about balancing the Big, the vastness of the universe and its unknowns, and the Small, individual human desires. On that front, I think he’s done a fantastic job. To Hold Up the Sky has been simultaneously the most grounded short story collection, yet one of the most fantastical I’ve read. Even while the science is thoroughly in-depth and well explained, the human emotion hits equally as hard. For a short story collection with four different translators, the writing is quite cohesive in between shorts.
For me, my three standouts are “The Village Teacher”, “Fire in the Ground”, and “The Thinker”. “The Village Teacher” explores dying wish of an old teacher in rural China. “Fire in the Ground” examines the folly of the idealism of the recent graduate and the pure academic, while “The Thinker” follows the glancing meetings between two academics over almost forty years. What I loved about these stories are both how intrinsically Chinese they are in setting and mood. “The Village Teacher” and “Fire in the Ground” both also act as social commentary on the quality of life in rural, poorer regions of China. All three focus on the Small of humanity while using the Big as a vehicle to further explore those human ties.
I’m also going to give a quick shoutout to “Ode to Joy” for giving me the most laughs while reading. Not only did either the translator or Liu himself drop a unit (unforgivable! ~my engineering professors), but the entire short revolves around a conversation between several heads of state, including China and the US, as well as the UN Secretary General, calmly and intelligently discussing celestial mechanics, astrophysics, and music theory. Truly combining both the “science” and “fiction” of science fiction.
Overall, I rate this collection a 4/5. Obviously some stories hit harder than others, but overall this collection is definitely worth a read for fans of Liu Cixin and fans of sci-fi short stories. I will say that with the level of specificity Liu goes into describing some of the science, it was sometimes hard to bring myself to read more engineering after coming back from a 10 hour workday of engineering.
r/Fantasy Bingo Squares:
- Optimistic SFF
- Climate Fiction (hard mode)
- Novel Published in 2020
- Five SFF Short Stories (hard mode)
- Big Dumb Object (hard mode)
- Novel Featuring Politics