Written by: Ted Chiang
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
Other than, perhaps, J.D. Salinger and Susanna Clarke, no author has made such literary waves with such meager output as Mr. Chiang. Every sentence, every word, the titles themselves, even the cover art, all these add significance to his work. Nothing about a Ted Chiang collection is superfluous, yet they remain as varied and colorful as any epic.
I’ll begin by stating my only critique of Mr. Chiang’s work: there just isn’t enough of it.
Now then, where to start with the good? At the beginning: as with Stories of Your Life and Others, the best story, the true masterwork (though there might be two or even three individual masterpieces in this collection) is the opener. How he can pile layers upon layers with such character development and plot in a mere 30 pages is staggering. I probably read the story three times just by rereading paragraphs to examine how he’d so fluidly gone from point A to B in so little yet exciting a time.
And then in Surface Objects, his nearest approximation to date to what other writers would call a novel, he fits the emotion and questions of a trilogy into 100 pages. By the time most books are wrapping up their expositions, he’s already taken you on all the rides.
It’s truly wondrous what he’s done with this collection, as even without these two beautiful tales it is still a great book. Somehow he surpassed Stories and I hope we don’t again have to wait so long for something new. Maybe he’ll surprise us with a novel; but even if he doesn’t, he remains one of the most impressive writers of any genre practicing today, or in any time.