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The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  21,671 ratings  ·  3,307 reviews
A publishing event: Bestselling author Ken Liu selects his award-winning science fiction and fantasy tales for a groundbreaking collection—including a brand-new piece exclusive to this volume.

With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie. This mesmerizing collection features
Hardcover, First Edition, 464 pages
Published March 8th 2016 by Gallery / Saga Press
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Leah Rachel von Essen Because people believe that accessible writing isn't for adults.

I often see this problem with fantasy and sci fi being considered for young readers si…more
Because people believe that accessible writing isn't for adults.

I often see this problem with fantasy and sci fi being considered for young readers simply because it is genre fiction. It's a common supposition that's unfair to most authors categorized that way.(less)
Mingyang 《登乐游原》 or simply《乐游原》. Two more translations:

Translation 1 "Leyou Plateau"
> I didn’t feel very good in the afternoon, so I drove the carriage to the L…more
《登乐游原》 or simply《乐游原》. Two more translations:

Translation 1 "Leyou Plateau"
> I didn’t feel very good in the afternoon, so I drove the carriage to the Leyou Plateau alone.
> The sunset is really beautiful, but unfortunately it is nearing dusk.

Translation 2 "Atop Mount Leyou"
> Evening approaches finding my spirit indisposed,
> So I rode a buggy up the historic site.
> Sunset is ever so beautiful,
> Regrettably as dusk fades, impends night.

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.38  · 
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 ·  21,671 ratings  ·  3,307 reviews

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Michael Finocchiaro
Absolutely stunning collection of short stories which teach and entertain in equal measure. Ken Liu has an incredible imagination and these stories are all so different and yet all so amazing. I, like many others, come to Ken Liu after his superb translations of Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem and Death's End and I can see that he was the perfect choice because his love of language and culture echoes that of Cixin Liu in many, many ways. I also saw some commonality in some of their sci fi ide ...more
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Petrik by: Katherine
Shelves: favorites
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4.5/5 stars

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is an intimately powerful and beautiful collection of stories that encompassed some of the most relatable themes to our society, and some stories contained in this collection felt personal and evocative to me.

“Every act of communication is a miracle of translation.”

Excluding translation works, this collection marked my first experience of reading Ken Liu’s original sto
Jun 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This collection was beautifully written and powerful. The stories range in genre from historical to fantasy and speculative. They are all Asian inspired and most of them are quite sad and present some injustice or a sacrifice made by the characters. The stories are very well researched and they made me learn more about Asian history and culture. The last story, about the Japanese Unit 731 during the WW2 shocked me because I did not know about the atrocities that were performed there.

The Bookmak
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written, powerful anthology of first-rate speculative fiction stories.

Ken Liu is an impressive guy, besides writing he is also a lawyer and a programmer. Many readers first read his translation of Liu Cixin’s Hugo award winning novel The Three-Body Problem. I read his 2014 short work Reborn and so had a good idea he can produce a gem on his own.

Building on ubiquitous themes of Asian-American cultural pluralities and Chinese myth and legend, Liu does an impressive job creati
Matthew Quann
A review of all short stories in this collection featuring my parents!

Herein contains a review unlike any other I’ve done! I get home so infrequently that I drummed up the idea of involving my parents in some of my reading. My parents enjoy the odd book, but aren’t what I would describe as avid readers. So I proposed that I would read them a story a night (for 15 nights) from acclaimed sci-fi and fantasy author Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie.

All they knew about the book prior to the reading was
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
4.5 stars, rounding up. (Note: This review is just for the title story, which you can listen to here: GR merged my single short story review into this collection. I've read several of the other stories online - they're all excellent. I'd love to read this whole collection but haven't gotten to it yet.) A young boy, the son of an American father and a Chinese immigrant mother, discovers that his mother has the magical gift of making origami animals that l ...more
Jun 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nataliya by: Maggie
This short, bittersweet, and deceptively simple 15-page story (which you can read free here) focuses on the unexpected pain of trying to belong, showing it through a boy's troubled relationship with his mother, viewed through the prism of cultural conflict, the inevitable clash between the old and the new, and the soft tinge of origami-shaped sadness.
" Dad had picked Mom out of a catalog."
"What kind of woman puts herself into a catalog so that she can be bought? The high school me thought I kne
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
3.5 Stars ⭐️. Some I loved a lot and a couple, not so much. The one with the ice cube blew my mind!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I rated each story separate in updates and I could make average rating but I'm not going to do that. Whole is more than sum of it's parts and as a whole this short story collection is an easy 5 stars and only short story collection that I give 5 stars that isn't written by Ray Bradbury. Best stories in this collection are among best I read overall and even "lesser" ones didn't left me indifferent.
In genre stories are rather diverse. There is good ol' hard sci-fi, alternative history and historic
Spencer Orey
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
A great mix of stories. Very serious sff, without much humor but without getting terribly heavy either. Some of the stories think through big contemporary issues (like tech surveillance) in very thoughtful ways.

The day I read a book written by Ken Liu and think it's less than pure magnificent is the day the world will cease to exist.
Once again, I'm entranced.

I was first introduced to his genius through his Dandelion Dynasty series and the Wall of Storms (second book) instantly became one of my top five favourite books of all time.
I knew then he was a once-in-a-generation author and this is by no means an exaggeration, just a simple statement of fact and this beautiful collection of short stories
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

One of my favorite books last year was The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu, but before he published his debut novel he was already an accomplished writer of many award-winning short stories. While in general I am not a big reader of short fiction, I’d happily make the exception for some authors’ anthologies and you can definitely bet Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is one of them.

Like many collections, there are stor
How often does this happen : you have barely passed the introduction of a book and you feel your heart swelling with that very particular feeling of love for the words that drives bookworms such as myself to pile up books in every nook and cranny of the house. Well, this is what happened to me when I curled up in bed one evening last week with Ken Liu’s collection “The Paper Menagerie”. On top of being a very talented author, Mr. Liu is also a translator, and as such, he has a grasp over a layer ...more
I wanted to love this short story collection, but most of Ken Liu's characters fell flat. These stories contain so much good stuff: fascinating elements of science-fiction and fantasy, themes that include culture and racism and fighting for justice, surprising turns of plot that keep you on your toes - but very few of them create a lasting emotional impact. Throughout reading these individual stories, I envisioned Liu thinking "oh, this could be a really cool *insert magical realism device or un ...more
Ellie (faerieontheshelf)
Frankly, this collection of short stories is one of the best I've ever read, if not the best. It's common, when reading a short short collection, to find some stories less engaging than others, but I was invested in every story in this collection. These stories run through a gamut of genres: science fiction to fantasy to history, often combining aspects from many, but they always had a stark focus on humanity. From what makes us human to human monstrosity to culture and colonialism and how it fe ...more
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who post inspirational stories about kittens on their Facebook feeds
This sounds to me like something a college sophomore would write because he's like "If I write about my heritage and sad dead mom my creative writing professor pretty much has to give me an A, right?" And when he reads it in class everyone says it's great because emotions, man, except that one sortof bitchy darkhaired girl who listens to a lot of Tori Amos and everybody hates her except you, you kindof have a crush on her, and in fact next year you will have a brief, disappointing relationship w ...more
In retrospect I decided to up this book to a full five stars. It truly was a wonderful read and had some many diverse and interesting stories within it. While perhaps not as strongly linked thematically as Stories of Your Life and Others (also by a Chinese-American writer), they nearly all delivered on fascinating and engaging stories.

One common motif he employed was writing about various alien (and I mean ALIEN) species and civilizations. One story looked at how they created books (or their cul
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful collection of short SFF/Speculative fiction stories all written by the highly intelligent and eloquent Ken Liu. This wasn't my first time reading from Liu as I read his translation of the Three Body Problem, but this was my first time reading his own work and I was thoroughly impressed!

What I think I loved most about the stories within this collection is that each one felt unique and genuine. Every voice of the narrator was different and they all had differing themes and topi
A profound and interesting collection of stories. I am hesitant to say I enjoyed reading it. It is a searing and brutal collection. For me it was both an intimate look at Asian culture and history. It was also a detached one. There are a variety of different types of stories: fiction, historical, magical realism, science fiction etc. Liu does all of them very well. In addition, Lui doesn't stay in China. His stories are set In Taiwan, Japan, China, the US etc. People (Americans in particular) do ...more
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm filled with shame for not having read these fantastic short stories earlier. Instead, I just focused on reading Ken Liu's translations of Cixin Liu, and Ken Liu's own enormous epic fantasy, ignoring, (wrongly-so) his award-winning short fiction.

*rubs hands together and gets to work*

I was delighted by almost all the short, sometimes strange, fiction that filled the first pages.

The Bookmaking Species of Select Species tickled all my librophile instincts.

State Change made me change tracks HAR
Initially I thought to write a few words about each story, as usual, but I realized that they would be repetitive, filled with words like awesome, great, exquisite and the like. Therefore, I'll just say that the whole collection is fascinating, mesmerizing, and superbly written.

He was already on a pedestal in my preferences because of his excellent translations, but after this collection I have to say his writing is flawless; he has a way with words that touches the reader deeply. Even if some
TS Chan
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars.

I've been meaning to read Ken Liu's collection of short stories for a quite a while. His translation for two of Cixin Liu's books in the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy was excellent and I've heard a lot of great things about the titular short story of this collection.

In my opinion, the preface alone warrants at least a 5-star and an award. Liu's writing is utterly beautiful and profound, and one can clearly see how talented and intelligent this author is just from reading his pref
Apr 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Flannery by: Tatiana
Shelves: read-in-2012, shorts
This short story won the 2011 Nebula Prize for Short Fiction. The Paper Menagerie is a very quick 15 or so page read about a young man's relationship with his mother. The narrator is half American/half Chinese and his mother came to live in the suburbs of Connecticut as a mail order bride. He can't understand why she was ever a mail order bride, why his father married her, and why she won't learn English or try harder to fit into American culture. The strongest connection between mother and son ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I will keep track of notes of the stories as I go since I'm reading this between other things.

The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species
More about storytelling and how our sense of being informs how we save and tell stories, I know I've read this one before. The ideas are very imaginative.

State Change
What if your soul were a cigarette box, or an ice cube? What happens when you smoke the last one or the ice melts?

The Perfect Match
The dangers of what we trade for our privacy. This was a bit preachy b
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An amazing collection of Ken Liu's shorter work that is always moving but often harrowing, and at its most disturbing when he turns his beautiful prose to historical events.

This collection includes the brilliant "Mono No Aware", set on a lightsail spaceship fleeing a destroyed Earth and the emotionally gutting "The Paper Menagerie", dealing with the relationship a half-Chinese man has with his Chinese mother. Both of these are Hugo winners, but they're far from the only brilliant stories in the
I loved this collection of stories. Beautiful prose, interesting ideas, and at times deeply sad. Ken Liu is clearly adept at a number of styles and subgenres; the collection ranges from coming of age to mystery to time travel to others. I was particularly moved by “The Paper Menagerie” story; it was wonderful and made me teary.
I listened to this, and enjoyed the the use of two narrators. (On a side note, I also listened to LeVar Burton's interpretation (on his LeVar Reads podcast) of “The Paper
Dec 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While my appreciation of the various stories in this collection remains uneven, a prevalent number of Ken Liu’s tales proved absolutely fantastic and would deserve five full stars (six stars! seven stars!) on an individual basis. For one thing, the author’s talent with uchronias blew me away. For another, even though I’ve had a soft spot of sorts for robots and cyborgs ever since I was a kid, as an adult I’m usually disappointed with literature that features them – I should probably mention that ...more
picoas picoas
Jul 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Mono No Aware: "The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories" by Ken Liu

After finishing "The Three-Body Problem", I was curious to know more about Ken Liu, the book's translator. And I picked up this collection. I've always thought short fiction is harder to write than longer works. And what a choice it was. Not all of the stories are clear winners, but the ones that are, oh my.

When I'm driving and the sun sets over the huge fields around me
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Despite a shaky start — a thoughtful story that’s a tad too clinical for my liking — this collection blew me away. Ken Liu talks in the preface about prizing the logic of metaphors and you can see how carefully he prizes that in his stories. Nearly every one works on multiple levels without feeling heavy handed. Some stories he manages to write historical fiction that’s somehow science fiction at the same time, others are straight ahead sci-fi thrillers that could easily warrant an entire book. ...more
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Review at my blog.

Merged review:

This is only a summary of the full reviews of the stories in this collection. You'll find detailed reviews at my blog.

I've previously read Lius's story The Regular and his last year's novel The Grace of Kings. Both make me think that this could be a must-read. I went first to the eponymous story The Paper Menagerie and after a couple of stories, I realized the author's diversity in style and topics: I became a fan of this author, as you'll never get bored, be it t
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Ken Liu ( is an American author of speculative fiction. He has won the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards, as well as top genre honors in Japan, Spain, and France, among other places.

Ken's debut novel, The Grace of Kings, is the first volume in a silkpunk epic fantasy series, The Dandelion Dynasty, in which engineers play the role of wizards. His debut collection, The Paper

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“Who can say if the thoughts you have in your mind as you read these words are the same thoughts I had in my mind as I typed them? We are different, you and I, and the qualia of our consciousnesses are as divergent as two stars at the ends of the universe.

And yet, whatever has been lost in translation in the long journey of my thoughts through the maze of civilization to your mind, I think you do understand me, and you think you do understand me. Our minds managed to touch, if but briefly and imperfectly.

Does that thought not make the universe seem just a bit kinder, a bit brighter, a bit warmer and more human?

We live for such miracles.”
“Every act of communication is a miracle of translation.” 71 likes
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