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The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2016)
Featured in the Netflix series Love, Death & Robots

Bestselling author Ken Liu selects his multiple award-winning stories 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 and Other Stories. This mesmerizing collection features many of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards), “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner), “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon Award finalists), “All the Flavors” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist), and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (The only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).

Insightful and stunning stories that plumb the struggle against history and betrayal of relationships in pivotal moments, this collection showcases one of our greatest and original voices.

464 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 8, 2016

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About the author

Ken Liu (http://kenliu.name) 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 Menagerie and Other Stories, has been published in more than a dozen languages. He also wrote the Star Wars novel, The Legends of Luke Skywalker.

He has been involved in multiple media adaptations of his work. The most recent projects include “The Message,” under development by 21 Laps and FilmNation Entertainment; “Good Hunting,” adapted as an episode of Netflix's breakout adult animated series Love, Death + Robots; and AMC's Pantheon, which Craig Silverstein will executive produce, adapted from an interconnected series of short stories by Ken.

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Ken worked as a software engineer, corporate lawyer, and litigation consultant. Ken frequently speaks at conferences and universities on a variety of topics, including futurism, cryptocurrency, history of technology, bookmaking, the mathematics of origami, and other subjects of his expertise.

Ken is also the translator for Liu Cixin's The Three-Body Problem, Hao Jingfang's Vagabonds, Chen Qiufan's Waste Tide, as well as the editor of Invisible Planets and Broken Stars, anthologies of contemporary Chinese science fiction.

He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,258 reviews
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,535 followers
April 4, 2022
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 ideas. But, it is the realistic depiction of his characters and the innate poetry of the prose that helped me plunge into each story. I loved each one and found that each asked fundamental questions:

The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species - this one reminded me a lot of Italo Calvino. Questions asked: What is literature? How is it transmitted and interpreted?
State Change - fantastic compact story with lovely vignettes about TS Elliott, Joan of Arc, etc. Questions asked: What is the soul? What is our capacity for change?
Perfect Match - loved the reference to Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in C Minor, haunting dystopia where Google and Amazon Alexa rule the world. Questions asked: What is free choice? How much are we willing to compromise on privacy before our lives become completely passive?
Good Hunting - love story with magic, steampunk, transformation. Questions asked: How big a cultural price are we willing to pay for technological progress?
The Literomancer - gorgeous, painful, amazing. Love the idea of word magic, poetic. Questions asked: How does language, our choice of works, express identity?
Simulacrum - spooky. Questions asked: Where do we draw the line in reality between the real and the simulated? Once love is objectified, is it still love?

The Regular - great murder mystery - idea of emotion suppressor is great, but open wifi is terrifying. Are emotions an impediment or a tool in a critical situation? Can we be redeemed?
The Paper Menagerie - beautiful and magical story. What is memory? How do we see keep a sense of wonder as we grow older? Does magic exist?
An Advanced Reader’s Picture Book of Comparative Cognition (previously unpublished) - similar to first story but on communication, chocolate analogy. What is thought? How do we learn? Can electric sheep dream?
The Waves - solar sails, greek mythology, russian doll stort stacking, seafoam was a beautiful image. Would immortality be a paradise or a hell? Is death a release or an end? Where is the boundary between machine and consciousness?
Mono no aware - lovely - go and poetry and web of others eyes, kitten's tongue. How do we love? How do we express love?
All the Flavors - western, Idaho City fire 1865 - awesome story about Chinese Immigrants for the railroad that end up mining and classic Chinese myths. How do we set aside preconceived ideas and open up to other cultures? Must the meeting of two disparate cultures always end in tears and bloodshed, or can it be harmonious?
A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel - sci fi dystopia racism formosan. Can one redeem oneself from the unforgivable? What are the limits to human adaptability?
The Litigation Master and the Monkey King - great story from Qinglong dynasty. How do we liberate history from willful forgetfulness? What is a hero?
The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary -devastating but amazing.
See this article to see that the Chinese are making swift progress with quantum entanglement in our era already. As for the atrocities discussed (Nanjing Massacre and especially Unit 731 in Pingfang, China) and the debate around their historicity and the guilt of the perpetrators, this is all very, very real. Note that the US is not innocent here either:
"MacArthur struck a deal with Japanese informants—he secretly granted immunity to the physicians of Unit 731, including their leader, in exchange for providing America, but not the other wartime allies, with their research on biological warfare and data from human experimentation."
From Wikipedia article quoting Unit 731 Testimony by Hal Gold (2011)
Questions asked: What are the relative values to subjective and objective perception? What boundaries define history and ownership of history? How do we deal with acts of extreme depravity without becoming deranged or depraved ourselves? Does every act of preservation necessary involve and act of destruction? How do we assign guilt when the victims are dead, their names and remains vaporized and the perpetrators neatly all dead? How do we validate history? What is truth? What is justice? Yeah, this one opens up a LOT of questions for the reader!

I hope that wasn't too hard to read. Some things I infer about Ken Liu from these stories that may or may not be true:
1/ he has lived in New England and Idaho
2/ he is an incredible linguist with fluency in at least English, Chinese and Japanese
3/ he is extremely well-read
4/ his major social concerns are around cultural preservation, the indelible value of memory, the persistence of love
5/ it would be absolutely fascinating to have a conversation with him over beers, whiskey or wine :-)

Read these stories and be transported to different times and different worlds. Question everything. Lastly remember Socrates: The unexamined life is not worth living.

Nota bene: I listened to this on Amazon Audible and found the dual narrators great - especially in pronouncing the Chinese names. But honestly, this is a book that I have purchased on paper because I want to see if the ideogram analysis he performs in The Literomancer and All the Flavors is illustrated with the Chinese characters he mentions. I have passed it to a friend already and she loves it and can't put it down!
Highly recommended summer reading!!

Fino's Cixin Liu and other Chinese SciFi and Fantasy Reviews
The Three Body Problem
The Dark Forest
Death's End
The Wandering Earth
Supernova Era"
Ball Lightning
The Redemption of Time (Fan Fiction approved by Cixin Liu)
Invisible Planets (Short Story Anthology)
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories
The Grace of Kings
The Wall of Storms
Profile Image for Petrik.
674 reviews42.8k followers
May 4, 2023
I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo

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 stories. Ken Liu did a fantastic job on translating The Three-Body Problem and Death’s End, the first and third book in The Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy by Cixin Liu. Because of this, immediately after I finished reading The Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy by Cixin Liu, I knew that I must also read Ken Liu’s original stories. The result totally exceeded my expectations. Ken Liu truly has a way with words; the Asian-inspired tales he implemented were brilliant, and he weaved these short stories and transformed them into an emotionally impactful reading experience.

“We are defined by the places we hold in the web of others’ lives.”

One of the main topics featured heavily in this collection is the struggle of adapting or coping with Eastern and Western culture; differences in culture, language, and racial prejudice are reoccurring themes. Full disclosure that English is my third language. I’m a Chinese born and raised in Indonesia, and I grew up learning about all three Chinese, Indonesian, and Western cultures and languages due to my upbringing, environment, and education. This is the most pivotal reason why most of the short stories here resonated with me. I understand how difficult it can be to learn and adapt to different cultures and languages, especially on an everyday basis; I’m still learning up to this day, and I will always continue to do so. The majority of my friends and followers on Goodreads, as far as I know, are not Asian, but even if you’re not, this collection is still a must-read if you’re looking for amazing fictions that will also help you understand more about Asian history, way of life, superstition, and struggles.

“Our lives are ruled by these small, seemingly ordinary moments that turn out to have improbably large effects.”

As you can probably guess from the books I’ve reviewed, I’m generally not a fan of short stories or novellas; more often than not, they’re too short to have a lasting impression on me. However, this collection is exceptional. Almost all of the stories exhibited in this collection were wonderfully well-written. They’re memorable, philosophical, introspective, fascinating, and some of them were extraordinarily emotional. I’m thoroughly amazed by the versatility of Liu’s storytelling. Whether it’s fantasy, sci-fi, magical realism, noir thriller, or historical fiction, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories has them all. If you’re a fan of speculative fiction, I honestly don’t see how most of these stories won’t work for you. I’m not kidding, out of fifteen stories included in this collection, only two of them didn’t click with me. As for the rest? I either liked them or absolutely loved them. Due to the short length of the majority of the stories contained here, I won’t be doing any review on them. I do, however, want to do a short review for two of my utmost favorite short stories in this collection: The Paper Menagerie and The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary.

The Paper Menagerie

The Paper Menagerie is purely magical. For those of you who don’t know, The Paper Menagerie was the only work of fiction to ever win all Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards within a single year. It is with many great reasons, validity, and recognitions that this collection is titled The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories; the titular story is simply a scintillating piece of literature. 15 pages long, just within 15 pages, Ken Liu has created something that’s truly emotional, important, and mesmerizing. The topics of empathy, mother’s love for their child, and the acceptance of our own race embedded in this short story undeniably tugged at my heartstrings. The Paper Menagerie is a brilliantly imaginative, poignant, and magnificently written short story that almost made me cry within 15 pages. This is, hands down, the best short stories I’ve ever read, and I don’t think I will ever find a better short story than this in my life. I’d give this masterwork a 6/5 stars rating if I could.

The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary

The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary tells the brutal story of Unit 731—lethal human experimentation that’s responsible for some of the vilest and notorious crimes enacted by the Japanese during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It’s dark, violent, terrifying, depressing, and it made many grimdark novels tame in comparison. The craziest part about this, though, is the fact that the Unit 731 incident is real; this isn’t fictional, Unit 731 is a part of humanity’s history. The world knows about the Nazi and Auschwitz concentration camp, but it’s shocking to me that many people—Asian or not—have never heard about this atrocious incident. If you’re reading this review and you’ve never heard of Unit 731 or the Second Sino-Japanese War, I hope you’ll find the time to do some research on them. These incidents will most likely make you feel grateful for the life you have now. The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary is one of the most powerful novellas I’ve ever read, and it is truly the most fitting story to close this superb collection.

I’ve said all I needed to say; you have to experience this book for yourself. Suffice to say that I’ve arrived at the conclusion that I would be doing myself an immense injustice if I don’t read more of Ken Liu’s works, especially The Dandelion Dynasty series, which sounds like everything I’m looking for in epic fantasy. Intelligently crafted, thought-provoking, and emotionally devastating, I highly recommend The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories collection to every reader of speculative fiction. It is easily one of the finest collection of stories I’ve ever read so far.

“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.”

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You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions

Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!

My Patrons: Alfred, Alya, Annabeth, Blaise, Devin, Diana, Edward, Hamad, Helen, Jimmy Nutts, Joie, Michelle, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas, Zoe.
Profile Image for Adina.
827 reviews3,228 followers
July 26, 2021
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 Bookmaking Habits of Select Species 3*
What the titles says! Encyclopedia style.

State Change 4*
What if your soul would be an ice cube?

The Perfect Match 5*
A short story about social media, surveillance and free will.

"People shape and stage the experiences of their lives for the camera, go on vacations with one eye glued to the video camera. The desire to freeze reality is about avoiding reality."

Good Hunting 4*
A young man and his father hunt a hulijing (female demon-fox shape shifter). The man rescues the hulijing daughter and they become sort of friends over the years. Magic fades with the scientific discoveries. Set in an alternate historical Hong Kong.

The Literomancer 5*
A sad story about the paranoia of cold war and how innocent people are victims sometimes. Also about a bit of magic.

Simulacrum 3*
About the relationship between parents and children

"Perhaps it is the dream of every parent to keep their child in that brief period between helpless dependence and separate selfhood, when the parent is seen as perfect, faultless. It is a dream of control and mastery disguised as love, the dream that Lear had about Cordelia".

The Regular 4*
A novelette about a serial killer, technologic enhancements, loss and addiction.

The Paper Menagerie 5*
Read it some years ago and loved it. The story made me buy this collection.

The Waves 3*
A story about human evolution and the power of stories. Interesting ending.

Mono No Aware 5*
This was such a tearjerker. Ken Liu, what are you doing to me with this stories? This one is about the last Japanese alive and more.

All the Flavors 4.5*
A western about the Chinese men who came to the US to search for gold. Very interesting, I did not know anything about the subject.

A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel 4*
During the Great Depression, the Japanese and the Americans decide to build a tunnel under the ocean to make trade and travel easier. Also, to create jobs and wealth. The project led to abuse from the Japanese. the story is told from the POV of one of the workers.

The Litigation Master and the Monkey King 5*
Set in China during the reign of the Qianlong emperor of Qing dynasty. A litigation master, Tian, with the help of an imaginary demon, helps poor people fight for their rights. When a client asks for help to protect a document that shoes proof of a massacre carried out in the name of the Emperor, Tian has to make a decision.

The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary 5*
This grim SF novella tells the story of Unit 731. There, during WW2, the Japanese performed horrible experiments on Chinese prisoners. One of the worse that are mentioned here are vivisections where humans were cut open without any anesthetic in the name of science. This unit was real and it is not fair that it is not as well known as Auschwitz and the other concentration camps. What happened here is as despicable as what happened in Europe. Please read about this unit if you are reading my review. People should know about these atrocities.

"The fact that we can never have complete, perfect knowledge does not absolve us of the moral duty to judge and to take a stand against evil."
Profile Image for Matt Quann.
628 reviews382 followers
May 24, 2022
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 that it was going to be fantastical. They had no idea that Liu’s eponymous story won the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award all in the same year nor, I hazard, would they have cared. Then, following the reading, I asked them two questions:

1) Did you like the story?
2) What did or didn’t you like?

What follows are my parents’ thoughts (collected interview style post-read) and mine in brief. I’ve done my best to capture my parents’ voices and reactions as accurately as possible, though I’ve truncated some thoughts where appropriate. These stories were read between a brief summer working holiday and the Christmas break. Enjoy!

NOTE: my (brief) overall review is at the very end if you're just looking for my thoughts!

1.The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species

Momma Q: No (emphatically)!
I think the dude that wrote it was on acid or something. People that read by smelling? *inquisitive look* Who has thoughts like that? Those can’t be drug-free thoughts, he couldn’t have not been on drugs.

Dad Q: At times I did like it!
“WTF?”Can I start with that? Am I allowed to say WTF? I enjoyed that people read through science, smells, traveling through stars. I think it is about all the different ways that stories can be told and the way they change like when the Romans told stories compared to someone who does science writing.

Matt: Yeah, I dug this.
As I was reading this, I kept thinking that my parents had to be suffering through it, but I trudged on. Liu’s fantastical creatures have me excited for the rest of the stories and it seems like a pretty smooth move to start off a short story collection with a story about books and stories. I enjoyed my parents’ reactions and I really liked my dad’s interpretation. I’m excited to see what tomorrow’s story brings.

2. State Change

Momma Q: I liked it.
I liked the fact that it ended up nice. Everyone ended up happy and not dead. I like the concept that everyone has a different object as a soul. I wonder what mine is?

Dad Q: Yes, I liked it.
She lived her life as a piece of ice, and it is cool that she was so closed off that people didn’t even know the colour of her eyes. I liked that even though she was a closed off person, she enjoyed reading about other peoples lives. Also, a threesome.

Matt: Oh yeah, big win!
I thought this story was peculiar, but smart, well realized, and the perfect example of sci-fi done right. The story had a lot of heart to it and provided a beautiful metaphor for social isolation and how different personalities interact. This story was also radically different from the first, so I hope that the next brings as much surprise!

3.Perfect Match

Momma Q: I liked it.
The only thing is that it is a story that has been told over and over again.

Dad Q: I really liked it.
I feel like that’s what we’re living right now with our cellphones. Our cellphones have passwords, doctor appointments, phone numbers; it is the world we’re living in.

Matt I liked it too!
I’ll have to side with mom on this one and agree that this is a type of story we see a lot of these days. With that said, this was another well-done, smart sci-fi story. I get the feeling after reading this one that it could be mined for a Hollywood adaptation.

4. Good Hunting

Momma Q: I did like it.
I didn’t know what was going to happen. I really liked how I didn’t have any idea where the story would go. I found it very original.

Dad Q: Yes, I liked it.
I enjoyed that the story was about adapting to changes. It wasn’t a typical love story, but I liked how it was about the two characters adapting together.

[SIDELINE: Mom and Dad debated whether or not this was a story about romantic love, or a different kind of love.]

Matt That was awesome!
This was such an imaginative story and an excellent blend of the fantastical with a peculiar steampunk world. It was really difficult to know where the story was going, and I admit to being genuinely surprised by the ending. Writing was, again, on point.

5. The Literomancer

Momma Q: I liked it.
I don’t know much about Chinese history during the cold war, or that part of the world, really. I like the concept of ‘do unto others.’ The torture scene was awful.

Dad Q: I liked it.
It was a bit all over the place, but it was a good representation of even after a war is over, it has changes. It tears families apart and changes people on both sides. I feel like I learned some life lessons about people doing good.

Matt: I’m into it.
But man, was that ever unexpectedly heavy. It really threw me for a loop to move from the really unique fantasy/sci-fi into this highly serious historical account of the atrocities committed by American spies against the Chinese populace. The mood was dour after this reading, and rightly so. I’m very impressed with Mr. Liu.

6. Simulacrum

Momma Q: I didn’t love it, that’s for sure.
I think that everybody should be forgiven and I think it is a terrible tragedy when people can’t forgive one another.

Dad Q: I didn’t like it.
It felt like one of those “Made-in-Canada” movies. The man was stuck in a life that was fake instead of interacting with the real one.

Matt Hey, I thought it was good!
My parents were, obviously, not that into this one; however, I thought it was poignant. It was so inarguably sad, but the message was a good one: forgive your loved ones. I mean, 10 pages of these poor people stuck in a limbo of dysfunction with an underlying sci-fi concept was, again, a great display of Liu’s skills.

7.The Regular

Momma Q: I didn’t understand it, I guess I didn’t like it.
I had a hard time following it. I fell asleep a bit during the start. I just don’t understand it, that’s all.

Dad Q: Liked it very much.
A great story. The detective’s trauma motivated her to use the regulator to watch her emotions, but her emotions also draw her in to help the victim’s mother. I think story about forgiveness and making amends. I like that all the characters came together through their loss.

Matt This was awesome!
I wasn’t expecting a murder mystery in this collection, but boy, that was great stuff! I often find thrillers to be not thrilling enough, or so fixed on thrills that they just end up being a slight twist on a story you’ve read before. This was smart, the use of sci-fi was original, and there was a strong emotional core to this story. This keeps on being a winner.

8. The Paper Menagerie

Momma Q: I thought it was really nice.
I think it is what happens to us as parents. We’re not in style, or not the prettiest. But if you’re lucky, you get to grow up and find out your parents love you. I think it is a beautiful story.

Dad Q: I liked it.
I think the young fella allowed peer pressure to influence him. You never know a person until you walk a mile in their shoes, and so he never got to know his mother until after she was gone.

Matt Loved it.
Man, this one almost had me tearing up during the reading! Such a touching story that brings home the fraught relationships we can have with our parents and the difficulties we can have in understanding one another. Also, I love learning about Chinese history and Chinese immigrant stories through Liu’s gorgeous writing.

9.An Advanced Readers’ Picture Book of Comparative Cognition

Momma Q: No, I didn’t like it.
I found it so complicated. I don’t know what the point was of telling us all of those science-y things if not just to show off that he knows science-y things.

Dad Q: I didn’t like it.
WTF! The storyline, once you start getting into chemicals, distances between planets, and all that stuff, you lose me. It’s hard to follow a storyline like that, I don’t care about that stuff. I flatlined during this story.

Matt Man, my parents are wack. This was great.
Okay, a bit of an explanation. These are fairy tales about extraterrestrial races who are each supposed to embody one of the cardinal sciences. These stories are also interspersed with the story of a mother who left her family for the stars. I think it would be difficult to enjoy without a strong science background, but I just fawned over it.

10. The Waves

Momma Q: I liked it.
I thought it was awful sad though, everyone was alone.

Dad Q: I liked it.
I love the stories about the gods and goddesses, the whole alien thing was cool too.

Matt I just thought it was okay.
The story’s take on religion and creation was neat, but this was the story that I thought had the least heart. Still, this is a lot better than some sci-fi I’ve read.

11. Mono No Aware

Momma Q: I liked it (though she is crying).
I found it pretty sad. It’s kind of like Jesus isn’t it?

Dad Q: I liked it (not crying).
A few times I found the story a bit scattered, I wasn’t sure when it was set. I liked that the character followed the path that was laid out for him and wasn’t afraid.

Matt I liked it (also, not crying)
A touching story, so I can totally understand why mom put on the waterworks. Once again, this is a space-faring story, but I loved the Japanese influence. I also, completely ignorant of real rocket science, feel that his science fiction is plausible.

12. All The Flavors

Matt: I liked it!
This was one of the long ones (~100 pages), so I just read this one on my own. What surprises me most about this collection is that I expected a straight SF/F set of stories, but I ended up getting a lot of historical fiction. All the Flavors is a tale about Chinese immigrants in the US with a Western setting. Liu’s got a talent for exposing relatively unknown historical facts with heartfelt stories. This one is no different!

13.A Brief History of The Trans-Pacific Tunnel

Momma Q: I liked the story.
I liked that the main character was able to find love and talk about his trauma.

Dad Q: I liked it.
I think it was about how we don’t tell stories until we find someone we can trust.

Matt I liked it.
I liked the alternate history take. Was this supposed to be a realistic take on “digging a tunnel to China?” I certainly thought so. I also like the way Liu includes (fictional) historical documents within his short stories.

14.The Litigation Master and The Monkey King

Momma Q: I liked it.
I found it a little hard to follow with all the Chinese names. It made it difficult for me. I liked the story of a good man helping good people.

Dad Q: I liked it.
I found it very good how they used songs to transport the story like travelling storytellers. I really liked it actually, I enjoy stories about sacrifices by good people.

Matt I liked it.
You know, I should have expected some form of law-based story from Liu, who is also a practicing litigator. I wasn’t absolutely nuts for this one, but I have enjoyed the stories that aren’t SF/F and are instead about Chinese history.

**As a follow-up to mom’s comments about the different names, they were all very similar sounding (pronounced by my unsophisticated tongue), but would be easily differentiated if reading.

15.The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary

Matt: I LOVED this story.
This last one is also fairly long, so I didn’t read it to my parents, though I will probably get them to read it at their leisure in the future. Simply put: this is a harrowing and ingenious story. Liu has managed to marry the atrocities of Pingfang and Unit 731 with a sci-fi concept. In a show of immense skill, Liu examines the societal, legal, and historical consequences of the sci-fi discovery. What a way to end the collection, Liu is a master. This is why I read sci-fi.


What a wonderful, beautiful, powerful, and well-written collection of short stories. You’re not likely to find anything out there quite like Liu’s work. It is unique, well thought-out, and not just SF/F as billed. Instead, there’s a mix of history, literary fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, and intersections of all the aforementioned genres. It is a superb work that I’d recommend to any and all readers!

As for the unique reading/reviewing format: also a success! I had a lot of fun discussing these stories with my parents, and it was a great way to connect over some complex ideas. It was a pleasure to bring a solitary activity into a social atmosphere, plus a lovely way to hang out with the parental units. Thanks Mom and Dad for being co-authors on this review!
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,867 reviews16.5k followers
June 11, 2019
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 Tor.com 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 creating a continuing and pervasive sense of inventiveness. These fifteen stories, some sketches and others novella sized range from cool sci-fi to wildly imaginative fantasy and everything in between.

“State Change” features a girl whose soul was an ice cube. One of my favorites was “The Perfect Match" which describes a futuristic Siri type all inclusive app called Sintillian that takes surveillance to a whole new level and Liu throws in some interesting twists.

“Good Hunting” is a smooth blend of Asian myth and steampunk.

“The Literomancer” is a heartbreaking story that shows an old man tortured and a red headed Texan girl in a morality play on Cold War policies.

Another of my favorites was “The Regular", a novella length cyborg murder mystery.

“The Paper Menagerie” was the story that got all the press and some awards, but it was not my favorite by far. A bittersweet fantasy about generational and cultural chasms.

“An Advanced Reader’s Picture Book of Comparative Cognition” (previously unpublished) is a very Poul Anderson kind of story, reminiscent especially of Anderson’s 1970 Tau Zero. “The Waves” is another Poul Anderson inspired work, this one like The Boat of a Million Years. “Mono no aware” is a Bradburyesque tale of space.

“All the Flavors” is a western from the perspective of a little girl. My favorite TV show of all time is Kung Fu, and the Chinese characters in this western setting reminded me pleasingly of the show.

“A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel” was a very Heinleinesque, optimistic alternate history story about – what else?

“The Litigation Master and the Monkey King" – fantastic and fun, litigators should always be in the protagonist role. Liu the juris doctor shows his stripes.

Liu saved his best and most powerful for the last. “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” Stories of Nazi atrocities are well known in the west but Liu reminds us about horrific injustices committed by the Japanese. Using some ingenious time travel ideas, Liu revisits the Japanese occupation of Manchuria and paints a brutal portrait of inhumanity. I read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany a few years ago and it took months to gear myself up for the task and then months afterwards to recover. There is only so much horror the mind can take. I will someday read The Rape of Nanking that documents this same occupation, but reading Liu’s story has set this reading back further.

For readers of modern speculative fiction, this is a must read.

Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
May 12, 2021
4.5 stars, rounding up. (Note: This review is just for the title story, which you can listen to here: https://podcastle.org/2011/07/12/podc.... 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 live. She makes him a lion, Laohu, a shark, and other paper animals that play and chase around their home.


The details of his childhood, playing with his living origami menagerie, are delightful:
Once, the water buffalo jumped into a dish of soy sauce on the table at dinner. (He wanted to wallow, like a real water buffalo.) I picked him out quickly but the capillary action had already pulled the dark liquid high up into his legs. The sauce-softened legs would not hold him up, and he collapsed onto the table. I dried him out in the sun, but his legs became crooked after that, and he ran around with a limp. Mom eventually wrapped his legs in saran wrap so that he could wallow to his heart’s content (just not in soy sauce).
But as the boy grows older, he experiences the prejudices that those who are different often suffer. Because of his loathing of everything that makes him other, he also grows ashamed of, and then distant from, his very Chinese mother.

This short story hit me hard. I was weeping by the time I finished it (the second time a story made me cry that day -- the other one was The Things We Keep). So I made my 17 year old daughter read it while we were sitting around for half an hour, waiting for her violin recital to start. I felt kind of badly for making her tear up and risk ruining her makeup right before going on stage, but she loved it as well.

I can see why some readers fault this as being overly sentimental, but sometimes we need stories that hit us in the heart and make us appreciate people we've taken for granted. And this story will stick with me.
“Speak English to him,” Dad said to Mom... “You have to. I’ve been too easy on you. Jack needs to fit in.”

Mom looked at him. “If I say ‘love,’ I feel here.” She pointed to her lips. “If I say ‘ai,’ I feel here.” She put her hand over her heart.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
743 reviews11.8k followers
April 27, 2023
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 knew so much about everything. Contempt felt good, like wine.
The need to belong is intrinsic to all people. But especially for children, it is the make-it-or-break-it need, the force that determines their viewpoints, attitudes, the way they experience the world. It is meant to be protective, help become a part of the greater whole, a part of a group, clan, society. But when you come from a background very different from that of most of your peers, how do you reconcile the childhood need to belong to the majority and your heritage? How do you appreciate both without resenting either one? It is immensely difficult, and immigrant children seem to so often go through the grotesquely amplified rebellion of preteen and teen years, rejecting their parents and what they represent with almost unexpected vigor, holding on to the beliefs of their new home and their 'native' peers and turning their back in shame and resentment at the 'different' that their parents signify.
"We are not other families.” I looked at him. Other families don’t have Moms who don’t belong."
It hurts to be different as a child. And just as much it hurts for the parents to be rejected by their child, the one in whom they have hoped to preserve some of their 'old' culture and family and traditions.

(I love "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"! But unlike that movie, this story has none of the lighthearted attitude towards the 'otherness'. There is only sadness.)
"Mom looked at him. “If I say ‘love,’ I feel here." She pointed to her lips.
"If I say ‘ai,’ I feel here." She put her hand over her heart.
Dad shook his head. “You are in America.
And this estrangement felt so very painful in the short space of this story as it was contrasted with the years of Jack's childhood when he was happily laughing at his mother's creations an playing with Laohu the Tiger - the times before he realized his 'difference' and set out onto a determined course to change that. The course that brought him to the point when college became more important than his mother's death.
"If Mom spoke to me in Chinese, I refused to answer her. After a while, she tried to use more English. But her accent and broken sentences embarrassed me. I tried to correct her. Eventually, she stopped speaking altogether if I was around."

"Mom finally stopped making the animals when I was in high school. By then her English was much better, but I was already at that age when I wasn’t interested in what she had to say whatever language she used.
I could easily relate to the teenage feelings of being ashamed of your parents. Isn't that feeling universal to all teenagers, protected by their maximalistic feelings of invulnerability and superiority? But the lengths to Jack goes to estrange his mother from him were so painful, so cruel that my heart was breaking for his mother whom he never understood, the differences from whom he cherished, to whom she became nothing more than an embarrassing awkward former mail-order Chinese bride, little more than a reminder of what made him different from what he wanted to be - a 'native', keeping him from his "all-American pursuit of happiness".
"You shouldn’t treat your mother that way," Dad said. But he couldn’t look me in the eyes as he said it. Deep in his heart, he must have realized that it was a mistake to have tried to take a Chinese peasant girl and expect her to fit in the suburbs of Connecticut."
The quiet mystical element to this story - magical origami animals that came to life with the breath of Jack's mother - felt very organic and, of course, highly symbolic. I loved the quiet presence of magic, filling Jack's childhood like it is for many children, being his connection to his mother, and cruelly put away when it was no longer needed.

The only part I could have lived without was It explained a lot about his mother, but in the end I felt that its well-intentioned heavy-handedness was unnecessary. The impact of this story is already strong enough without knowing all the .
4 stars. A good story that takes only a few minutes to read - so go ahead and read it!
"You know what the Chinese think is the saddest feeling in the world? It’s for a child to finally grow the desire to take care of his parents, only to realize that they were long gone."

Recommended by: Maggie
Profile Image for lisa (lh44's version).
148 reviews552 followers
April 11, 2023
it feels wrong to reduce this short story collection to the last story, so i will try to write something for the other short stories.

"the paper menagerie and other stories" is a patchwork of chinese and other east asian folklores through the sci-fi lens of a very capable writer. my biggest regret while reading this book is that 1. i am profoundly distracted with other things in life (mostly school) and 2. i am in a period where i have finally made peace with my asian identity after years of rejecting it. i am not saying this as in "asian people who don't reject their identity shouldn't read this book." they absolutely can and should do it because ken liu's works deserve every single ounce of praise they got, despite some stories being stronger than others.

but for me, "the man who ended history: a documentary" - the closing short story of the collection - is a masterpiece, not only in the literary perspective, but in the historical one as well. i am grateful to read this during the era of twitter where elon musk's "free speech" policies pave the way for holocaust deniers, amongst others, to gain a platform. this short story sheds light not only on how the japanese government has been successfully getting away with history manipulation and denial, but also how the world would deliberately erase a population's suffering to profit geopolitically. to explain simply, nazi germany only get persecuted because the physical proof of their atrocities (concentration and extermination camps) still stand. people can see it, so they acknowledge it (plus the fact that the allies witnessed it themselves). on the other hand, the debate on whether imperial japan commited atrocities (the rape of nanking, unit 731) continues today, with japan's repreat denials. in this short story, ken liu promptly shows us, through ingenious literary devices, how easily history is manipulated and suppresed to preserve political interests. how the us gets in line with the japanese narrative, fear to lose a powerful ally. how easily the doxa dismisses the excruciating testimonies of japanese soldiers and, above all, survivors because they are supposedly "brainwashed" by the communists, how all these manipulative narratives wrote itself into a long tradition of history denial and the oppression of survivors (e.g. the armenian genocide, the holodomor).

conclusion: everyone should read this by going on ken liu's website to get the free PDF (if you do, hmu so we can nerd together).

my other favorites from the collection: the literomancer, all the flavors - a tale of guan yu, the chinese god of war, in america

post-scriptum: sometimes i wish i was more gifted in the art of articulation because there are so much that i want to say from my perspective as a geopolitics major, but this is the best i can do for now.

post-scriptum 2: i read a review on babelio (french version of goodreads) saying that this short story doesn't matter luch because there will always be history deniers. but isn't that the exact reasons why we need narratives like "a man who ended history" or The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II?

"What we are asking for is a declaration from this body that it is the belief of the United States Congress that the victims of Unit 731 should be honored and remembered, and that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes be condemned. There is no Bill of Attainder here, no corruption of blood. We are not calling Japan to pay compensation. All we are asking for is a commitment to truth, a commitment to remember.
Profile Image for Allen Walker.
152 reviews1,324 followers
Want to read
October 13, 2022
The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

What a cool story to serve as my intro to Ken Liu. It's wildly imaginative and just a delight to read about how these various races pass down their stories.

State Change - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Really beautiful story about our fear of living life. I love the way Liu writes, hard to describe but evocative. The letter at the end went on too long and was too on the nose and also, Cicero didn't speak with a pebble in his mouth; that was Demosthenes.

The Perfect Match - ⭐⭐⭐💫

Well-written and fast moving, but an on-the-nose episode of Black Mirror before Black Mirror was a thing.
Profile Image for Ivan.
417 reviews278 followers
June 29, 2017
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 historical fiction, steampunk, magical realism and even noir thriller. What they do have in common are some reoccurring themes like clash of eastern and western culture, search for self identify, troubles fitting in, racism and racial prejudice.

Favorite stories:
Paper menagerie
State change
Mono no aware

Honorable mentions:

The waves
Profile Image for Nika.
134 reviews139 followers
March 17, 2023
In the face of the inevitable, the only choice is to adapt.

But is this statement true? I should probably ask Tilly. Are you curious about who Tilly is? She is an artificial personal assistant that is available 24/7.

This story deals with technology and how it impacts the daily lives of ordinary citizens. It features a society where AI has penetrated all sides of life. Most people count on Tilly. The decisions that Tilly makes for humans are considered unmatched in most cases.
One of the main characters, Sai, is not an exception. He is accustomed to asking Tilly and trusting her words.
His life goes this way, and Sai seems to be satisfied with this state of affairs until, one day, he talks with his neighbor. She holds an opposite view on Tilly and the general situation in the country. Moreover, she is determined not to give ground and conform as many others have done. She is not ready to put her trust in algorithms.
This brief meeting between the two neighbors is about to bring out certain hidden aspects behind AI and its role in people’s lives. Can those with vested interests use AI and a new reality to their benefit?

It seems that people in this upgraded society sometimes fail to distinguish between doing something on their own initiative and following Tilly's recommendations without even giving it a second thought.
The story is largely about decision-making and freedom of choice. To what extent are our choices free? Broadly speaking, is it that good to have freedom of choice? Would it not be better to delegate some important decisions to impartial and industrious AI?

The concept laid out by the author is not original. It is easy to manipulate those who do not want to think for themselves. But what does thinking for themselves mean for different people in various circumstances?
The title is cleverly done. It hints at potential problems with the way people live in this story. After all, can any match be perfect?

I gave this short story 3.5 stars. It could have been four stars, but the story, both the concept and its execution, felt to a certain extent predictable.

The Perfect Match can be read here.
Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
569 reviews3,928 followers
March 2, 2020
Tenía muchísimas ganas de leer este libro de relatos y al mismo tiempo miedo a que me decepcionara (todas las críticas son excelentes), pero realmente me ha entusiasmado.
Y aún siendo yo una persona poco dada a los relatos y disfrutando mucho más con la novela larga, he conseguido conectar con la mayoría de estas pequeñas historias que imaginó Ken Liu.
En todas hay mitología o un ápice de fantasía, un mundo postapocalíptico o un pasado reimaginado, pero lo que más me ha gustado es que logra mantener siempre los pies en la tierra, todas las historias están muy apegadas a nuestro mundo real, a nuestras preocupaciones y a personajes muy humanos. Además la cultura asiática, la Historia de China y esa mezcla cultural con occidente está enormemente presente en todos ellos, otra cosa que he disfrutado muchísimo.
La manera de escribir de Liu es lo que menos me ha gustado, no me parece un narrador excepcional ni mucho menos, pero consigue con un lenguaje sencillo y directo llegarte al corazón con sus relatos.
Mi preferido sin ninguna duda es 'El zoo de papel', pero también adoré 'Buena caza', 'El literomante', 'Las olas' y 'Mono no aware'. Lo sorprendente es que no hay ninguno que no me gustara o al que no le encontrara algo interesante... y eso en un libro de 15 relatos y 500 páginas... es difícil.
Me hubiera gustado eso sí, que publicarasen estos relatos en dos volúmenes, se que es algo personal, pero me parecen demasiados relatos para un solo libro y leerlos del tirón puede hacer que disfrutes menos de la experiencia, recomiendo ir degustándolos poquito a poco e intercalándolos con otras lecturas.
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,041 reviews3,440 followers
November 4, 2022
Wow. Just...wow.

Ken Liu is a genius and I'm so glad I finally read from him. This collection is smart, well-researched, hard-hitting, and made me cry several times, which isn't an easy feat. It makes brilliant use of science fiction and fantasy elements, but also pulls in real world technology and history, while never losing a sense of humanity. I could say so much but if you haven't read this, you really should. I think everyone should read this collection and I will certainly be reading more from Liu.

And for anyone who wants to see me alternately gush about how amazing the writing is and cry on camera, (while also discussing the themes & content of the stories) I have a reading vlog available to Patrons: https://www.patreon.com/posts/7422949...
Profile Image for CC.
79 reviews50 followers
Shelved as 'maybe-later'
March 19, 2023
Two years after putting this collection on indefinite hold, I guess I should at least sum up how I felt about it (thanks Hirondelle and L for making me realize I need to do that. See L's review here, which pretty much captured my own thoughts).

I was trying out podcasts when I stumbled upon the Lightspeed reprint of The Paper Menagerie. It was short, so I gave it a go. I did NOT expect it to bring me to tears. The generational and cultural trauma in that story spoke to me almost too personally--coming from the same cultural background as the author and the main character of the tale, I understand too well all the sentiments buried in those lines, sometimes even experience it myself. It was truly a story that touched my soul, and up to this date, it is still the only full 5-star rating I've given wholeheartedly on goodreads.

That was when I decided to check out this collection. To continue with my podcast trials, I listened to all the individual stories I was able to find online (Ken Liu's website provides a nicely compiled list of all his published stories and where to find them), which ended up covering about a third of this collection. But after finishing those podcasts... I again did not expect to start losing interest.

Here's the thing. Ken Liu is a master at telling a heartwrenching story that delves deep into familial bonds, cultural identification, and dark historical past. And he does that in just about every, single, story he writes. It's not necessarily a bad thing--people have their signature styles--but it does make a collection such as this one very hard to read. After a while, it gets repetitive, and after some more while, it even gets a bit heavy-handed, to the point that I can read a sentence and immediately recognize it's trying to make me cry.

My feeling towards Ken Liu's stories, at this point, is therefore complicated. I'm not judging this collection, nor his work in general, but I do need to take a break. So my suggestion for anyone new to this author is: read The Paper Menagerie first. The emotional impact would be much stronger if you're coming into his style with a fresh eye. Then, if you want to keep going, space out the rest of this large volume. One story at a time whenever you feel like a gut punch, and the slow savoring might just make you love it much more.

Individual ratings for stories that I finished, in order of how much I liked them:

The Paper Menagerie: 5 stars
Good Hunting: 4 stars
Simulacrum: 4 stars (the Lightspeed podcast was superb)
Mono No Aware: 3 stars (LeVar Burton's live narration with orchestra background was cool)
State Change: 3 stars
The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species: 3 stars
The Perfect Match: 3 stars
Profile Image for ❄️BooksofRadiance❄️.
603 reviews731 followers
May 26, 2018

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 only cemented that fact.

The sheer magnificence of his writing seriously knows no bounds.
Easily the best short story collection I've ever read.

➛ The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species: 3⭐️

➛ State Change: 3⭐️

Favourite ➛ The Perfect Match: 4.5⭐️

Favourite ➛ Good Hunting: 5⭐️

Favourite ➛ The Literomancer: 4.75⭐️

➛ Simulacrum: 3.5⭐️

Favourite ➛ The Regular: 4.5⭐️

Favourite ➛ The Paper Menagerie: 5⭐️

➛ An Advanced Reader’s Picture Book of Comparative Cognition: 3⭐️

➛ The Waves: 4⭐️

➛ Mono no aware: 4⭐️

Favourite ➛ All the Flavors: 4.75⭐️

➛ A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel: 4⭐️

Favourite ➛ The Litigation Master and the Monkey King: 5⭐️

Favourite ➛ The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary: 5⭐️
Profile Image for Spencer Orey.
540 reviews123 followers
December 26, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,458 reviews8,559 followers
February 7, 2017
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 under-reported aspect of history* to write about" and then conjuring characters to fit his brilliant idea, rather than letting his characters drive the stories in a more organic way. Thus, while The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories stimulated my intellect, it failed to stir any deep feelings within my heart.

Overall, recommended to those who want a short story collection that features many novel concepts, in particular pertaining to technology, culture, and the past and future of the human race. The collection contained a few heart-rending moments - the cultural disconnect between a mother and her son in "The Paper Menagerie," a woman who learns to melt away her inhibitions in "State Change," a daughter who refuses to forgive her father's mistakes in "Simulacrum" - but these come far and in between. Again, these stories spoke more to my brain than my heart, so if you want that type of experience, come dive right into this unique collection.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
April 7, 2016
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.com/2016/04/07/b...

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 stories in here that I liked more than others, but overall I feel confident saying this is one of the best anthologies I have ever read. The book contains fifteen tales, showcasing a stunningly wide spread of themes and subjects. Readers of speculative fiction will enjoy stories featuring everything from artificial intelligence and virtual reality to space exploration and time travel. Many of the stories also combine these elements with influences from with cultural and historical sources, with a strong focus on Asian philosophy, mythology, and identity. Together, they come to create this profoundly heartfelt collection filled with beauty and emotion. For a more in-depth look at my thoughts on each story, please see below.

“The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” is the first story, kicking off the anthology with a series of imaginative and somewhat quirky reference-style descriptions of several alien approaches to reading, writing, and communication. It is a quick, experimental “tale” that teases Liu’s unique brand of creativity and promises more to come in the rest of this collection, while also providing a lighthearted opener for readers before delving into the more emotional and sorrowful stories.

“State Change” is a story about a young woman named Rina who lives in a world where everyone’s soul manifests in a physical object from the moment you are born, from Cicero’s stone to T.S. Eliot’s coffee can. Rina’s soul is an ice cube, required to be kept close to her and frozen everywhere she goes, which understandably puts a damper on her social life. Liu uses this concept as a clever allegory to speculate how one might live with such a limitation, treating Rina’s personal journey with empathy but also some light humor.

“The Perfect Match” was one of the better stories in this collection, imagining what a world would look like if, say, Apple and Amazon and Google all got together and decided to take over all our lives. The scary thing is that if this ever happened, we’d probably not even realize it. The story’s main character Sai shares every detail of his life with his phone so that the AI named Tilly can plan his day using his personal data to cater to his every needs, making suggestions that range from what he should have for dinner (she has a coupon!) to whom he should date. But what is a life without predictability and its surprises? As Sai grows closer to his paranoid and conspiracy theorist neighbor Jenny, he begins to question this himself.

“Good Hunting” is a story about a father-son demon hunting team. Liang and his father are on tail of a hulijing, a kind of mischievous fox spirit in Chinese legend said take the form of beautiful women to lure unsuspecting young men. However, Liang ends up befriending a hulijing girl named Yan and discovers that magic is seeping from the world as history ushers in the age of steam and steel. As Yan loses her shapeshifting powers and Liang runs out of demons to hunt, the two reflect upon bygone times and what their futures may hold. This story hit me especially hard because I can’t help seeing it a metaphor for my own gradual abandonment of cultural traditions. My mother still observes the ritual of burning “spirit money” for the Ghost Festival like the characters do in this story, but it’s unlikely that I will continue it; I still remember the slight hint of resignation in her eyes when I told her, which strikes the same kind of melancholic tone set by this tale about cultural change.

“The Literomancer” was probably even harder to read emotionally, because it is a sad story that ends with a punch in the gut. Lilly Dyer is a young American girl living with her expatriate parents in Taiwan in the early 1960s during the height of communist rule in China. Having not made many friends at school, Lilly immediately grows closer to a local boy named Teddy and his grandfather Mr. Kan who is literomancer, someone who reads fortunes based on written words. Mr. Kan tells Lilly stories, which she innocently repeats to her parents not understanding the unfortunate consequences that could lead to.

“Simulacrum” explores the effects of virtual technology in this tale about Paul Larimore, the inventor of a machine capable of capturing a person’s essence and projecting it into 3D, and his relationship with his daughter, Anna Larimore. Anna is estranged from her father, and this story explains why. Interesting concept, but the ending was a little too abrupt.

“The Regular” was my favorite story in this book, an easy 5 stars if I am rating it on its own. A perfect blend of sci-fi tech and crime noir, this is a compact tale starring Ruth, a private investigator on the trail of “The Watcher”, a serial killer who targets prostitutes—except what he’s after is not sex but something far stranger. It’s your standard murder mystery, but with its cybernetic sci-fi twist and fantastic protagonist, this one had me riveted from beginning to end, which isn’t something all mystery/thriller writers can achieve, even with full length novels.

“The Paper Menagerie” is the titular story, and for good reason; it was the one that won Ken Liu the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy awards. Jack is the son of an American father and a Chinese mother who immigrated to be with her husband after he purchased her from a bride catalogue. Growing up, Jack’s mom folded elaborate origami animals that would come to life around him, but eventually he grew ashamed of these paper toys and of his Chinese heritage, preferring to play American action figures, eat American food, and speak American English in order to fit in. Again, I find it difficult sometimes to view stories like this because many of its themes hit too close to home. Suffice to say, it’s a very emotional story about cultural identity, acceptance, and growing up. Embrace those close to you and tell them how you feel; you never know when it’ll be too late.

“An Advance Readers’ Picture Book of Comparative Cognition” follows in much the same vein as “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species”, this time describing the different approaches to thought and communication. However, even though it contains a narrative about a woman and her child, this story didn’t quite speak to me the same way the first one did, probably because most of the descriptions of physics and technology went over my head.

“The Waves” features Captain Maggie Chao of the generation ship Sea Foam leading her passengers on a long journey to colonize a new planet many lightyears away. To pass the time, Maggie tells stories of creation to her children. When a new discovery comes to light, the crew will have to make a decision that might affect the course of their mission and alter the future of their people. Sad to say, this is another story that didn’t make much of an impression, and was probably one of the least memorable for me in this collection.

“Mono No Aware” is another generation ship story, featuring a group of survivors aboard the Hopeful after a massive asteroid makes impact with earth. It’s also powerful story about sacrifice and survival, but probably not as hard-hitting for me as some of the other offerings in this anthology.

“All the Flavors (A Tale of Guan Yu, the Chinese God of War, in America)” is a cool little historical tale (though it is probably one of the longer stories in this collection) about Lily Seaver, a girl living on the frontier settlements of Idaho during the gold rush of the 1860s. Her town is happy to welcome a group of Chinese miners after a great fire wipes out most of its business and homes, for their money if not for their actual presence. Lily befriends Lao Guan, who tells her stories about Guan Yu, a deified military general worshipped by the Chinese. “All the Flavors” is different from the rest of the collection in that it veers away from sci-fi territory, focusing more on mythology and history so that this story reads more like a historical fantasy.

“A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel” is an alternate historical about a joint venture between Asia and the Americas to build a giant tunnel connecting the two regions. Charlie was a former foreman on the project, reliving gut-wrenching memories of his time in the construction site overseeing the work of Chinese prisoners. The completed tunnel is a work of technological wonder, but at what cost? This story proposes that great accomplishments often belie the amount of suffering and blood spilled in their achievement. It’s an interesting one, but not one of my favorites.

“The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” was probably one of the more disappointing stories, given my high hopes for it. Few Chinese children grow up without hearing about the legend of Sun Wukong the Monkey King, and when I saw the title I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this. Tian is a litigator who communes with the Monkey King. He’s also a clever and soft soul who likes to represent people from the poorer villages, and one day a woman comes to him begging for help. Instead of a cheerful take on the popular myth, this one actually takes a turn for the brutally depressing. I liked its noble themes, but it was still pretty gloomy, as it is with most of the stories in this collection.

“The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” closes out this anthology with a devastating look back at the atrocities committed in World War II by Unit 731, a Japanese facility that tortured and conducted human experiments on Chinese prisoners. Following the end of the war, the scientists received immunity in exchange for handling over their research. Evan Wei is a historian who is determined to use a new technology to expose these crimes against humanity to the world, calling for history to condemn the actions of Unit 731 and recognize its victims. However, this new technology has a major flaw, namely that only one person can return to the past to view a certain event, but he or she will then prevent anyone else from doing so. For a short story, this one actually contains a lot of very complex themes and philosophical dilemmas. First of foremost, the description of the kind of “time traveling” technology described here poses the question: To whom, if anyone, does history belong? A thoughtful but rather dispiriting story told in the form of a documentary transcript, “The Man Who Ended History” is a powerful conclusion that reiterates and brings together many of the themes presented in the previous fourteen tales in this collection.

In sum, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is an amazing anthology, even if it is somewhat front-loaded with the more memorable stories at the beginning. Some stories worked better for me than others, that is true—but most of the tales in here are captivating in very profound ways and at times carried a personal meaning for this reviewer. I don’t often recommend short story collections, but I will for this one, and with much enthusiasm. Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is a beautiful work of art, guaranteed to touch hearts and engage minds.
Profile Image for Mangrii.
866 reviews243 followers
July 6, 2018
4,5 / 5

Quince relatos y novelas cortas de uno de los mejores escritores de ficción breve de la ciencia-ficción y fantasía que cualquier lector puede y debe disfrutar. Ken Liu es un prolífico relatista ganador de los máximos galardones del género como son el premio Nebula, el premio Hugo o el Fantasy World Award en dichas categorías. En El zoo de papel y otros relatos encontraremos una muestra amplia y perfecta de los temas y estilos que asolan toda la obra de Liu y que lo han encumbrado como uno de los mejores dentro del género. Ciencia ficción pura, fantasía histórica, ucronía, thriller, mitología, realismo mágico, new weird o historias más experimentales se dan la mano a lo largo de toda la colección.

Todas las historias tienen algún componente de ciencia ficción, fantasía, mitología e historia, pero el punto fuerte de cada una es la capacidad para arraigarla con historias tan emocionales, que tocan tanto la fibra, que te dejan el corazón en un puño. ¿Como nos afecta la tecnología? ¿Qué es un héroe? ¿cuánta importancia tiene la familia en nuestra vida? Los elementos fantásticos o de ciencia ficción se dan la mano en una serie de historias profundas y cargadas de significado en una lectura profunda. Un tema común vendrá dado por su herencia China a la que aludirá tanto en forma de mitos o de episodios de historia que te dejan los pelos como escarpias.

La edición de El zoo de papel y otros relatos es un botín muy goloso para cualquier lector, y Runas lo sabía, por lo que ha apostado muy fuerte respetando la edición original. Como toda antología cada uno tendrá sus favoritos y sus preferencias, pero todo el nivel medio exhibido por Liu es de una calidad exhorbitante. Tanto que yo deseo que salga una nueva antología recopilando más material del autor. Mis favoritos han sido El literomante, Como anillo al dedo, Regulada, El zoo de papel, Mono no aware y Todos los colores; pero tengo en alta estima todos los relatos, todos han tenido algo que los hace únicos y especiales.

Reseña extensa en: http://boywithletters.blogspot.com.es...
Profile Image for Metodi Markov.
1,303 reviews299 followers
April 18, 2023
Не знам защо, но очаквах нещо много по-епично, нещо много по-фантастично.

Кен Лиу ме покори с кроткия си маниер на разказване, с интересните си истории и с това, че книгата му хвърля мостове към Китай и Япония, такива които са рядко по силите на множеството писатели, опитали се да ги съградят преди него. Имаше нещо като от Мураками, нещо от Робърт Ван Хюлик, от Ричард Морган и от други страхотни писатели, един микс носещ ми единствено силни и приятни емоции, като при среща със стари приятели.

Американски китаец по произход, Лиу е получил отлично образование в един от водещите в света университети - Харвард и в момента е високо платен технически и правен консултант. Но това не му пречи, наред с твърдата фантастика в своите разкази, да прелива умело историята и митологията на своя роден континент - Азия. За това, че се справя повече от успешно свидетелстват многобройните му литературни награди и най вече признането на читателите от цял свят. Сам обяснява, че понеже е преводач ��т китайски на английски на изявени китайски фантасти, това му помага при нареждането на нанизите думи в собствените му творби.

Разказите, които най-много ми харесаха:

Как някои разумни видове създават книги
Редовен клиент
Хартиената менажерия
Моно но аваре
Всички вкусове
Майсторът на съдебни спорове
Царят на маймуните

Бележките под линия на Тодор Кенов са отлични, свършил е много обемна и трудна работа, поздравления също и за превода.

Благодаря и на издателството "Еуниката", за смелостта да издаде тази книга, в последните няколко години не се издава почти никаква нова фантастика на български, което ме дразни и натъжава изключително много.

Profile Image for Gabrielle.
996 reviews1,129 followers
May 2, 2020
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 of subtlety about word use that I think unilingual writers usually don’t have. The act of translating, of substituting a word in one language for a word in a different one, is a very delicate and tricky process, which means every word must be chosen with extreme care, and I knew right away that every word in the book I held in my hands had been chosen with deliberation, in full knowledge of every possible facet of its meaning.

The themes of immigration, family, transhumanism, identity and belonging are in almost every short story or novella in this collection, and you can feel the very personal impact of these issues on the characters – and on yourself. The prose is elegant and rich with meaning and feelings, without ever falling into saccharine sentimentality, though it did make me cry on a couple of occasions. There’s a Bradbury-esque quality to this collection, perhaps because of the wistfulness, the gentle pull of a simpler past on the characters, of their longing for a home that doesn’t exist anymore. Liu has an incredible imagination: his surreal aliens, his retelling of Chinese myths and how he weaves them into history, his homage to the simple, yet magical things that create bonds between people.

I would be hard press to pick a favorite, but it must be said that the title story is an absolute gem about the strange disconnect that can happen between parent and child and the challenges of communicating and growing up. “The Perfect Match” is as eerie as the best “Black Mirror” episodes, “The Regular” is a great spin on the classic trope of private investigator with substance abuse issues, and "The Man Who Ended History" is an inventive and devastating tale about time travel, war and cultural patrimony. The truth is that there is not a bad story in here, and that any fan of literary speculative fiction owes it to themselves to check this out.
Profile Image for Ellie.
575 reviews2,118 followers
July 11, 2020
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 feels being caught between Asian and American cultures, Ken Liu does a magnificent job in conveying this complexity.


> The Bookmarking Habits of Select Species (3.5 stars)
Something fans of Becky Chambers may enjoy, this is a short sci-fi story about different alien races and how they retain memory in their own unique ways. (Also a Nebula and Theordore Sturgeon Award finalist.)

> State Change (4 stars)
In a world where people's souls manifest as objects, a girl lives life cautiously as her own soul is an ice cube - which when melted, may kill her. Or not.

> The Perfect Match (5 stars)
Like an excellent episode of Black Mirror, this one is a creepy yet clever story about artificial intelligence and surveillance.

> Good Hunting (5 stars)
This exquisitely wrought short story combines tradition with modernity as China becomes industrialised. The narrator, raised to be a demon hunter, moves to Hong Kong to become an engineer, whilst a hulijng (a nine-tailed fox) has to adapt as her magic fades, destroyed as the land is overtaken by industrial development. Particularly memorable line: "In this new age of steam and electricity, in this great metropolis [...] is anyone still in their true form."

> The Literomancer (5 stars)
Wow, the stories in this collection just get better and better. In 1961, Lilly moves with her family from Texas to Taiwan. She befriends the kind Mr. Kan and his adopted grandson Teddy, but Lilly unintentionally lets slip information to her father over dinner that leads to both being incriminated. There's a lot of historical context behind this story - in simplest terms, to do with the Sino-American alliance and joint American-ROC covert operations against the PRC during the Cold War. The story itself is heartbreaking.

> Simalcrum (4 stars)
A man designs the technology to make digital simulacrums/copies of people, but his use of them causes a rift between the designer and his daughter. He creates a simulacrum of her, from memories of back when she loved him, but she sees his replica of her as a violation.

> The Regular (4 stars)
In a contemporary world similar to our own, just where cybernetic are slightly more advanced, a private investigator looks into the deaths of escorts, and the motives of the man who is killing them.

> The Paper Menagerie (5 stars)
The titular story of the collection, 'The Paper Menagerie' is one of the shortest stories in the collection. A mother makes enchanted origami for her son, hoping for it to bring them together. But her son begins to reject his Chinese heritage when he is bullied about it, and by extension, neglects his mother. It has many different themes - the difficulty of being a Chinese-American child in America for one, but I especially liked hearing the mother's story, and her wish to remain close to her culture whilst so far for the land she grew up in. (Fun fact: this is the only story to win the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy awards)

> An Advanced Readers' Picture Book of Comparative Cognition (4 stars)
It's been years since I last had to google a word to figure out what it meant, and in the first paragraph I found myself doing this twice. In this short story, a couple is pulled apart by dreams and the differing concepts of an ideal life, but for their daughter, the fact remains: There are many ways to say I love you in this cold, dark universe, as many as the twinkling stars.

> The Waves (4 stars)
A group sets out to colonise a future world as Earth lies dying. But when they arrive, they learn they have been surpassed by colonists who left later but arrived earlier due to technological advancement, and humanity no longer looks the same. It is a story that engages with the concept of how humanity might advance in the future, but how the concept of 'being human' may be lost along the way. (A Nebula Award finalist.)

> Mono no Aware (4 stars)
On a dying planet, a young boy gets one of the final seats on the only ship leaving Earth. Later, he works as part of the team regulating the ship's sails, and makes a sacrifice. (Hugo Award winner)

> All the Flavours (3.8 stars)
Based on the history of the Chinese communities that settled in Idaho during the gold rush. This one was really long, but I did like the entwined narrative strands, and the look at little-seen Chinese-American history. (Nebula Award finalist)

> A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel (4 stars)
Alternate history where a tunnel was built under the earth's crust during the early 1900s, linking Japan to America. Although it is alt-history, it nevertheless shines a light on the mistreatment of manual labourers that is rife throughout history.

> The Litigation Master and the Monkey King (4 stars)
Focusing on a crafty songshi who helped people out with the law during the Qing dynasty, this short story also engages with the lore of the Monkey King. But when he runs into a man who begs for his help in hiding a book filled with details about the truth of the Yangzhou Massacre, he uses his wit to ensure the truth will be known throughout history. (Nebula Award finalist)

> The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary (5 stars)
When the ability to travel into the past is discovered, the method is used to send people back into the past, to the time when Unit 731 was operational during the Second Sino-Japanese War/WW2. It is hoped that it will help verify and confirm the presence of Unit 731, a team of Japanese doctors who partook in human experiments and mass human rights violations whilst researching biological weapons. (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon Awards.)
Profile Image for Monica.
592 reviews621 followers
July 17, 2021
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) don't seem to pay much attention to the differences in culture and history in what is collectively referred to as Asia. Liu is highlighting that there are significant differences in culture and world view. In this book the differences manifest themselves (in some of the stories) as the difference between the oppressors and the oppressed. But Liu seems to revere as well as condemn some of these cultures. For example, in his story "Mono No Aware" he tends to value and praise the Japanese sense of honor and sacrifice while in his story "The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary" he shows contempt for their lack of humanity and scoff at their long-term guilt and hubris. But all of the power structures in Liu's stories are brutal. These "fictional" windows into history in that part of the world are really frightening. It makes me both curious and slightly terrified of those worlds. And though fiction, it is fiction born of the reality of such oppressive lived experiences passed down through families.

As with any short story collection, there were varying degrees of effectiveness. I find Liu to be a little detached. Like he is an observer. But I found his stories quite rich and full of dimension and cultural and historical detail. They are also quite sad and brutal. I learned quite a bit through he well-crafted stories and the nuances of many different cultures. His stories haven't left my mind since I read this so many months ago. Some of the stories are so poignant, they deserve a review of their own. The most affecting stories for me were near the end with his "The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary" being one of the most interesting and powerful stories I've read in a very long time. In terms of thoughtful, interesting and philosophical, this collection is one of the best I've read.

4.5+ Stars

Read on kindle
Profile Image for Mike.
483 reviews375 followers
November 28, 2016
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 cultural/technological equivalent), another about decisions various species would make to ensure the survival of the next generation. All had really interesting ideas for alien biology and culture.

The other stories ram the gamut from techno thrillers that examined the pervasiveness and control of user-tailored choice algorithms to the Chinese immigrant experience in 19th century Idaho to an alternative history dealing with a transpacific tunnel with plenty more in between All had a bit of Chinese culture or perspective in them and they all offered up some interesting questions or perspectives to ponder.

I think my two favorite were Good Hunting, about a very unique serial killer and the detective that tries to hunt him down and The Man Who Ended History which put forth a fascinating technology which allows people to experience the past directly, though at the cost of consuming that moment forever. These two stories showcased Liu's ability to write compelling characters and tense scenes as well as ability to offer up innovative ideas and extrapolate out how these ideas would change the way people acted and behaved.

All in all a really top notch collection of short stories that will keep you fascinated and engaged throughout. Check out my status updates for a mini-run down of each story.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
December 31, 2016
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 topics that they dealt with. The SFF elements were toned down and paired back which meant that the stories felt as though they had more room to explore. I felt as though every tale had a deeper layer and meaning beneath when you looked into it.

My favourite of the stories was The Paper Menagerie (the title story) and this is the one which won 3 amazing awards, World Fantasy, Hugo and Nebula. I loved the creativity of the tale, with origami creatures coming to life and fascinating a young child, but I also adored the heart and soul of the relationships within the story. The moments where we're left to question the child's motives and the mother's wishes, and I could feel the raw love.

The other story which really moved me (although to be honest SO MANY of them did!) was the final one, The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary, becuase this was about Unit 731 in Pingfang, Japan. Unit 731 was an experimental facility where drugs and nasty horrible tests took place on human specimens...live ones. This is a horrendous piece of history that I had never heard of. I was astonished that not only had I not heard of it but it was hushed up for a very long time by the leaders in Japan, and sadly now that it's come to light the stories we do hear are horrific. This story touched me, it was harsh, horrific and filled with death and disinterest. I couldn't believe the reaction of some people to the claims and when I learned more about it (from my own research after finishing) I was more horrified and disgusted. I am very glad that I learned of this, people who suffered should never be forgotten...

That's not to say that all the stories within this focus on negatives, we have space exploration, time machines, fantastical creatures and much more. I loved the way that Ken Liu clearly took influences and reference from modern day, current science. We see one story about a man who was recruited to build the Trans-Pacific Tunnel (a concept proposed in 2014 but not yet actually sanctioned) and some very cool molecular discussions. I find that science can often go over my head when we get into nitty-gritty details, but I think Liu's way of describing things is both detailed and interesting with a sense of ease too.

On the whole there wasn't a bad story within this for me and whilst I had a few which I 'only' liked there were so many I loved I couldn't deny this a 5* rating. I would hugely recommend this to you if you want something surprising, imaginative and filled with science and fantasy. It was a unique read with the Chinese references and influences too, and all of that combined made it work so well. If Liu publishes another short story collection I will for sure be buying that one too :) Highly recommended :)
Profile Image for Claudia.
954 reviews534 followers
October 3, 2020
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 of his stories are too sad for my taste, I cannot but acknowledge his writing skills.

Few writers can mingle sci-fi, fantasy, magical realism, myths, history and ancient legends the way he does. I was enthralled from the first page to the last. You don't have to be a sci-fi or a fantasy fan to like this book; there is a story for everyone in it, because they are not based on technology or science, but on human condition, virtues, actions and emotions.

With on exception (The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary), all stories here were new to me. Here is the list:

The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species
State Change
The Perfect Match
Good Hunting
The Literomancer
The Regular
The Paper Menagerie
An Advanced Readers' Picture Book of Comparative Cognition
The Waves
Mono No Aware
All the Flavors
A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel
The Litigation Master and the Monkey King
The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary

I truly hope you'll give it a try; you won't be disappointed.
Profile Image for TS Chan.
699 reviews869 followers
October 16, 2020
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 preface to the collection. I've highlighted at least half of it because it was so well-written.

"Every act of communication is a miracle of translation.

... 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 the thought not make the universe seem just a bit kinder, a bit brighter, a bit warmer and more human?
We live for such miracles."

It was my intention to read Paper Menagerie and Other Stories slowly; no more than a story a day. Below are my brief thoughts right after I finished each one.

The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species

5 stars - such an inventive, profound and thought-provoking piece. I'm in awe with Ken Liu's mind on crafting this brilliant narrative about the various methods of creating and consuming books.  These allegories drawn from alien manifestations are still completely relatable to human beings.

State Change

4.5 stars - what an original and emotional story about souls being represented by inanimate objects. Objects that truly represent the aura of the person whose soul it contains.

The Perfect Match

4 stars - a relevant story about how internet giants are taking over our lives. Amazon, Facebook, Google are pretty much synonymous with vast data sharing, 24/7 surveillance and consumer targeting algorithms. I think if I've not read quite a few other great short stories with a similar theme, this would have had even more of an impact.

Good Hunting

4 stars - an imaginative and though-provoking narrative on the transformation of the world from old magic (supernatural) to new magic (technology).


4.5 stars - wow, this was beautiful and brutally sad in equal measure. A really well-written short story about literomancy, racism and the revolution against Communism in Taiwan.


4 stars - this story about a camera being able to capture a person into a simulation of a particular moment was deeply affecting. It is both disturbing and very poignant. Told from two perspectives of a father and his daughter.

The Regular

3.5 stars - a decent murder mystery with emotion suppression as its core theme. Is it ever a good idea to suppress emotions, be it fear, grief or rage?

Paper Menagerie

5 stars - magical, emotional and poignant, Ken Liu managed to hit really hard in just 15 pages. This short story deserved all its awards, and it's a must-read.

Note: If you want to read this extraordinary short story to get a taste of Liu's genius, you can do so here.

Advanced Readers' Picture Book of Comparative Cognition

4 stars - another profound piece of writing where Ken Liu created comparative cognition between various alien species and humans; concept of memory, falling in love, depletion of natural resources, and parental control/decision. One of the more hard sci-fi entries in the collection.

The Waves

5 stars - wow, yet another profound piece that juxtaposed creation myths against a story of humans becoming immortal as they sought the stars and explore the universe. It became so surreal until the last moment when the story came full circle back to creation.

Mono No Aware

4.5 stars - a beautiful story about the transcience of life in the universe told with Japanese sensibilities.

All the Flavors

4 stars - the longest story in the collection, it depicted the settlement of the Chinese in the America as they sought make their fortune in a country known to them as Old Gold Mountain. Woven through the frame story was a tale of Guan Yu, a deified military general worshipped as the God of War by the Chinese.

A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel

4 stars - an alternate history piece where Japan proposed to connect the major Eastern cities to America with a tunnel under the Pacific ocean. While a marvellous achievement, the Trans-Pacific Tunnel was constructed at a huge cost, in every sense of the word. A pointed allegory of humanity's capacity to do whatever it takes for advancement.

The Litigation Master and The Monkey King

4 stars - a bleak and depressing story that commemorated those who suffered under the brutality of the Manchu rulers in China. The addition of The Monkey King added a most unusual conflicting tone of irreverence to the bleak narrative.

The Man Who Killed History: A Documentary

5 stars - a very powerful and thought-provoking narrative that evoked the horrors and atrocities committed in Pingfang by Unit 731 during the Second Sino-Japanese War. A brilliant science fiction piece where the concept of quantum entanglement enabled time travel back in time to revisit history; history that had been sanitised or altogether silenced for political gain and power. Another must-read alongside with the titular story.

As with most collections, the quality inevitably varies from one story to another. Regardless, as a collective, they echo the same theme, and that is the importance of stories, regardless of which genre it came in. The majority of these short pieces were incredibly moving. That Ken Liu managed to convey so much through so few words is a testament of his immense talent and the profundity of his imagination.  His writing is evocative with an Eastern-like grace which is understated yet heartbreaking. The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories is an enchanting collection of short stories that is meant to be savoured time and again.

You can purchase the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping)| Bookshop.Org

You can find this and my other reviews at Novel Notions.
Profile Image for Panagiotis.
297 reviews111 followers
September 13, 2016
Έχω αναπτύξει μια αμφιλεγόμενη σχέση με τις συλλογές διηγημάτων. Εδώ και καιρό τις αναζητώ με λαχτάρα, καταχωρώ συνεχώς βιβλία που πέφτουν στην αντίληψή μου. Μερικές με έχουν ενθουσιάσει, οι περισσότερες, όμως, με αφήνουν με μια γλυκόπικρη αίσθηση μιας υπόσχεσης που δεν τηρήθηκε. Μα ακόμα κι έτσι συνεχίζω να εναποθέτω μεγάλο μέρος των αναγνωστικών μου προσδοκιών στην μικρή φόρμα.

Ένα βιβλίο το ξεκινάω  συνήθως πολύ καιρό αφότου το έχω καταχωρήσει στα "προς ανάγνωση". Οι απρόβλεπτες διαθέσεις μου κάνουν ανακατατάξεις, χώνοντας λαχταριστά και ποθητά βιβλία στον πάτο. Έτσι ξεκινάω έχοντας υπόψη πολύ στοιχειώδη πράματα. Για τον Λιου είχα τα εξής: θυμόμουν πως τον είχα ανακαλύψει στις κριτικές των New York Times και πως ήταν γυναίκα. Αμφότερα δίνουν μια προδιάθεση. Το γένος φυσικά ήταν λάθος, ο άνθρωπος είναι άντρας. Η πηγή τουλάχιστον ήταν σωστή, προδιαθέτοντάς με για κάτι λογοτεχνικά τουλάχιστον αξιόλογο.

Ο Λιου είναι πολυβραβευμένος από θεσμούς γίγαντες της Ε.Φ. - οποιοδήποτε βραβείο μπορείτε να ανακαλέσετε είμαι σίγουρος, το ΄χει κερδίσει: Nebula, Hugo, World Fantasy, Sidewise, Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation. Θα συμπληρωνόταν εντυπωσιακά η λίστα με ένα Locus, για το οποίο ήταν υποψήφιος. Κρατούσα στα χέρια μου έναν βαρέων-βαρών Ε.Φ. συγγραφέα, με εξώφυλλο που θα μπορούσε να κοσμεί υποψήφια Booker, με διθυραμβικές κριτικές από τον κόσμο του Φρόερ και Φράνζεν. Οι προσδοκίες μου απορυθμισμένες, ήταν ήδη πολύ ψηλά.

Το πρώτο πράμα που γίνεται σαφές είναι πως ο Λιου είναι εντυπωσιακός, είναι διαβασμένος άνθρωπος και ως συγγραφέας χαρακτηρίζεται από δύο πράματα. Πρώτον  η γραφή του. Οι ιστορίες του βρίθουν από ετερόκλητους χαρακτήρες, άλλοι προσγειωμένοι, άλλοι αιθεροβάμονες, περνάνε μπροστά μας ως τυχαία δείγμα του είδους μας από διαφορετικές ιστορικές περιόδους και τόπους της γης. Η αφήγησή του Λιου μεταπηδάει με μια εξαιρετική ευκολία ανάμεσα σε διάφορες φωνές ενός φάσματος, από την ποιητικότητα μέχρι τον ορθολογιστικό τόνο ενός ντοκουμέντου. Κατά δεύτερον ο Λιου είναι οραματιστής. Γράφει αυτό που κάποτε αποκαλούσαν speculative fiction την δεκαετία του 60 μέχρι που επικράτησε οριστικά ο ήδη πιο λαοφιλής όρος science fiction. Κι όμως εδώ περισσότερο από ποτέ, είτε γράφει μελλοντολογικές ιστορίες είτε εναλλακτικές εκδοχές της πραγματικότητας, με μια εξοργιστική ευρυμάθεια ιστορίας, τεχνολογίας και θετικών επιστημών, η βάση του είναι τα μονοπάτια και τα παρακλάδια τους που ορίζουν την μοίρα της ανθρωπότητας. Από τις σελίδες του βιβλίου περνάνε μύθοι παγκόσμιοι, από την Ανατολή μέχρι τη Δύση, ιστορίες ενηλικίωσης, μικρές καθημερινές περιπέτειες, εναλλακτικές πραγματικότητες όπου μηχανολογικά και τεχνολογικά θαύματα, όπως η υποθαλάσσια σήραγγα που ενώνει την Ασία με την Αμερική, έχουν αλλάξει λίγο την ανθρωπότητα, μετατοπίζοντας πολιτικά ρεύματα και πολεμικά μέτωπα. Μα τελικά, φαίνεται να λέει ο Λιου, δεν αλλάζουν πολλά. Είμαστε η ίδια ανθρωπότητα, με τις ίδιες αδυναμίες, να παλεύουμε με την μοχθηρότητα και την καλοσύνη.

Στα μισά της ανάγνωσης άρχισα να νιώθω μια δυσφορία. Είχα πλάσει στο νου μου λόγια που θα τον κατέτασσαν στους εξαιρετικούς συγγραφείς που δεν μου κάνουν κλικ, χώριζα μέσα μου αποφασιστικά τα καλά βιβλία σε αυτά που απολαμβάνω και αυτά που εκτιμώ, τσουβαλιάζοντας τον Λιου στην δεύτερη κατηγορία. Ώσπου διάβασα την τελευταία ιστορία: ένα συγκλονιστικό όραμα του παρόντος, όπου μια φυσικός έχει βρει τον τρόπο να επισκεφτούμε το παρελθόν. Ο ιστορικός άντρας της χρησιμοποιεί την μέθοδό της για να στείλει συγγενείς από τα θύματα μια φρικαλεότητας των Ιαπώνων επί Κινεζικού εδάφους κατά τον Β’ Παγκόσμιο πόλεμο. Μέσα από τις μαρτυρίες ανθρώπων που επισκέφτηκαν το παρελθόν, καταγεγραμμένα συμβούλια των μεγάλων δυνάμεων για την ορθότητα του εγχειρήματος και δημοσκοπήσεις της κοινής γνώμης, έγινα μάρτυρας ενός δράματος πολιτικών, γεωπολιτικών προεκτάσεων, πάντα με μια στέρεα επιστημονική βάση που ποτέ δεν απαιτεί μερίδιο αναγνωστικό παραπάνω από όσο χρειάζεται για να γίνει ρεαλιστικό το όραμα του Λιου. Η διεισδυτικότητα του Λιου στον τρόπο που προσεγγίζει την ιστορία του όχι μόνο προσφέρει μια από τις καλύτερες ιστορίες που έχω διαβάσει τα τελευταία χρόνια, αλλά επανατοποθέτησε μέσα μου όλο το υπόλοιπο βιβλίο.

Είμαστε καλομαθημένοι εμείς οι αναγνώστες, όπως είμαστε καλομαθημένοι γενικά σαν όντα και δεν εκτιμάμε πολλές φορές τις ταινίες και τα βιβλία που μας προσφέρονται απλόχερα για να δίνουν ένα νόημα στην μουντή ζωή μας. Ήμουν έτοιμος να ρίξω τούτο το βιβλίο σε μια αρμαθιά με άλλα υποδεέστερα και άοσμα, πάνω σε μια στιγμή διαταραγμένης εχεφροσύνης. Κι αυτό ήταν άλλο ένα μάθημα που πήρα: πρέπει να παίρνουμε τον χρόνο μας, ακόμα και με τα ωραία βιβλία, γιατί οι χάρες και αρετές κρύβονται καμιά φορά σε μέρη που η γκρινιάρικη και αχάριστη πτυχή μας θα προσπεράσει.
Ένα από τα πιο αξιόλογα βιβλία που διάβασα φέτος.
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654 reviews45 followers
March 16, 2023
Every act of communication is a miracle of translation.

“The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories” is a collection of short stories traversing the science fiction and fantasy genre. The author’s note at the beginning itself deserves five stars. It was so powerful.

The Bookmaking Habits Of Select Species:★★★★★💌
Everyone makes books.

This story reads like a history book on the various alien species in the universe. A short and fast read we learn of the bookmaking habits of five different species: the Allatians, the Quatzoli, the Hesperoe, the Tull-Toks and the Caru’ee. My personal favourite being the Allatians.

State Change:★★★★★💌
I have no candle to burn at both ends. I won’t measure my life with coffee spoons. I have no spring water to quiet desire, because I have left behind my frozen bit of almost-death.   What I have is my life.

Everyone is born with a physical manifestation of their soul. For our protagonist Rina, it's a single ice cube. Her entire life she's been cautious, desperate for it not to melt and for her to die. I loved this, I was teary eyed by the end of it.

The Perfect Match:★★★★✰
“Churchill said that we shape our buildings, and afterward our buildings shape us. We made machines to help us think, and now the machines think for us.”

This was a scary read. Scary in the fact that I can see it already happening. Our main character Sai, like many others, is aided by a software named Tilly, in making his life easier. Based on his likes and dislikes, Tilly is able to suggest the perfect food, perfect music, even the perfect girlfriend. Then one day, his neighbour Jenny says something that sticks with him. ‘Do you even know what you really want?’ or all his choices made by Tilly. He’s quick to disregard that because Centillion is not some big, scary government. It’s a private company, whose motto happens to be “Make things better!” This was haunting to read and I can’t help but see its eventuality. As one character said: “In the face of the inevitable, the only choice is to adapt.”

Good Hunting:★★★✰✰
“I thought that he was not unlike those he had hunted all his life: They were all sustained by an old magic that had left and would not return, and they did not know how to survive without it.”

Liang and his father are demon hunters. One night Liang finds himself befriending a hulijing but as the years go by and the old magic dies, being replaced by the technology of the colonisers, Yan and Liang struggle to survive. This was unexpectedly sad.

The Literomancer:★★★★★💌
The character for ‘mob’ is formed from the character for ‘nobility’ on one side and the character for ‘sheep’ on the other. So that’s what a mob is, a herd of sheep that turns into a pack of wolves because they believe themselves to be serving a noble cause.

This just made me hate America even more. The land of liberty, freedom and justice. Please. As Mr. Kan said: “A man holds up a sheep for sacrifice, and he thinks he has truth, justice, and the magic that will save the world. It’s funny, isn’t it?”

[A] photograph is not only an image (as a painting is an image), an interpretation of the real; it is also a trace, something directly stenciled off the real, like a footprint or a death mask.

Follows the strained relationship between a father and daughter. When you become guilty of what you accuse others of doing.

The Regular:★★★✰✰
Relief spreads out from the center of her mind to the very tips of her fingers, the soothing, numbing serenity of a regulated, disciplined mind. To be regulated is to be a regular person.

A murder mystery following a P.I and a killer known as ‘The Watcher’.

The Paper Menagerie:★★★★✰
You know what the Chinese think is the saddest feeling in the world? It’s for a child to finally grow the desire to take care of his parents, only to realize that they were long gone.

Pain. Pain. More pain. What’s that over there? You guessed it, pain. This is the titular story of the collection and it explores racism and the struggle of belonging when you come from two different cultures.

An Advanced Readers’ Picture Book of Comparative Cognition:★★★★✰
Time’s arrow is the loss of fidelity in compression. A sketch, not a photograph. A memory is a re-creation, precious because it is both more and less than the original.

I have no idea how to explain what this was about but I would love a full book about this. This is a story from a father to his daughter about the world, science and the many ways to say I love you.

The Waves:★★★★✰
“People change, as a species and as individuals. We don’t know what he would have chosen if he had been offered your choice. But no matter what, never let the past pick your life for you.”

Famine and disease rampage the earth. As a last effort, a ship is sent out to scavenge the universe for a new home. On their journey, the secret to immortality is discovered and shared with those on the ship. With death no longer an option, Earth will soon be overpopulated, needing them to find more habitable planets. Not going to lie, this creeped me out. I’d never choose immortality.

Mono No Aware:★★★★★💌
“It is in the face of disasters that we show our strength as a people. Understand that we are not defined by our individual loneliness, but by the web of relationships in which we’re enmeshed. A person must rise above his selfish needs so that all of us can live in harmony. The individual is small and powerless, but bound tightly together, as a whole, the Japanese nation is invincible.”

I’m writing these reviews as I read the stories and this made me cry the hardest so far. The world is ending. An asteroid is heading towards earth and a collision is unavoidable. We follow Hiroto in the past and present as we see the world before it ends and on the ship towards another planet. This was a beautiful read about love, family and sacrifice. “Wareware ha, hoshi no aida ni kyaku ni kite.”  We have come to be guests among the stars.

All the Flavors:★★★★✰
“All life is an experiment. But at the end of our lives we’d know that no man could do with our lives as he pleased except ourselves, and our triumphs and mistakes alike were our own.”

A retelling of the Tale of Guan Yu, the Chinese God of War and his sworn brothers, in America. This was so wholesome. I loved the relationships here, especially the ones between Lilly, Jack, Ah Yan and Lao Guan. And Lao Guan! A god among men!

A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel:★★★★✰
“I don’t know if it’s going to make any difference, change anyone’s mind. But it doesn’t matter. It’s good enough for me that he is speaking, that he is not silent. He’s making the secret a little bit harder to keep, and that counts for something.”

We follow our main character. Though Formosan, he prefers to be called Charlie. He was one of the diggers for the Trans-Pacific tunnel that connects Asia and the USA. The story happens during the 20th century and we see racism and segregation being rampant. Charlie suffers from PTSD from his time underground and struggles to live on the surface. Therefore, he lives at Midpoint City where he meets Betty.

The Litigation Master and the Monkey King:★★★★✰
“Those men and women of Yangzhou died a hundred years ago, Tian Haoli, and nothing can be done to change that. But the past lives on in the form of memories, and those in power are always going to want to erase and silence the past, to bury the ghosts. Now that you know about that past, you’re no longer an innocent bystander. If you do not act, you’re complicit with the Emperor and his Blood Drops in this new act of violence, this deed of erasure. Like Wang Xiuchu, you’re now a witness. Like him, you must choose what to do. You must decide if, on the day you die, you will regret your choice.”

Tian Haoli, a litigation master, is the one people turn to when in trouble from the unjust law. He’s assisted by the Monkey King, who basically lives in his head. Tian was hilarious, I loved him as a protagonist. Characters who make anything sound like an insult, are my favourite. Despite the lovable character, this story deals with heavy topics of colonialism and genocide, as it retelling dedicated to those who died in Yangzhou during the Manchu Conquest.

The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary:★★★★✰
“Independence” is declared, and suddenly the past is forgotten; a “revolution” occurs, and suddenly memories and blood debts are wiped clean; a treaty is signed, and suddenly the past is buried and gone. Real life does not work like that.

Dr. Evan Wei and Dr. Akemi Kirino have discovered a way to watch history as it happened. This story addresses the horrors of Unit 731, the Japanese WWII unit that used human subjects for biological warfare testing. It was a dark and heavy read.


My reaction when finishing this book was “So this is what having functioning brain cells and actually using them looks like.” Ken Liu is a talented author and I can’t wait to start the Dandelion Dynasty.

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

We live for such miracles.
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