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Exhalation cover art

Exhalation

Written by: Ted Chiang
Narrated by: Ted Chiang,Edoardo Ballerini,Amy Landon,Dominic Hoffman
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Publisher's Summary

This much-anticipated second collection of stories is signature Ted Chiang, full of revelatory ideas and deeply sympathetic characters. In ‘The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate’, a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and the temptation of second chances. In the epistolary ‘Exhalation’, an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications not just for his own people but for all of reality. And in ‘The Lifecycle of Software Objects’, a woman cares for an artificial intelligence over 20 years, elevating a faddish digital pet into what might be a true living being. Also included are two brand-new stories: ‘Omphalos’ and ‘Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom’.

In Exhalation, Ted Chiang wrestles with the oldest questions on earth - what is the nature of the universe? What does it mean to be human? - and ones that no one else has even imagined. And, each in its own way, the stories prove that complex and thoughtful science fiction can rise to new heights of beauty, meaning and compassion.

©2019 Ted Chiang (P)2019 Macmillan Digital Audio

What listeners say about Exhalation

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Utterly fascinating!

The book stretches one's imagination in a manner that is utterly fascinating and scarily believable at the same time. The unique lens of imagining the psycho-social impact of technology makes for a gripping read (or listen - I heard this on Audible). And very importantly, the book leaves us with a lot of important questions to consider as we live our tech-enabled lives. A must-read for the times we live in.

2 people found this helpful

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one of the best story tellers in the genre

loved the collection so much!! must for all the sci-fi, speculative sci-fi lovers of all age!

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Classic Stories

The book entails stories which use some sort of sci-fi idea but takes it to new level as most of the stories are about futuristic technology which alter the peoples thinking but as 21st century guy, I would this helps us get some perspective on past and future to some level

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Provoking but let down by narration in places

I would have loved Exhalation even more, if I had read it before listening to it. The narration and voices associated with the characters often sound mocking and take one away from the story. This might be especially pronounced if the voices of the digients stay with you, and then you hear the same intonation/inflection in subsequent stories, like with Kevin in Anxiety.

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Thought provoking

Every chapter felt so brilliantly different from the next. Each story correlated to something relevant in the modern world. And I had a lot of favourite quotes that I've marked to revisit later.

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Phenomenal

Such a fantastic collection of unique thought provoking stories. Ted's writing is simple, beautiful and without fluff. Some of these stories will remain with you forever.

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Very nice start!

Interesting concepts overall, but only a couple of stories really got me hooked. The first one was my favourite.

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  • Magnus M. Hustveit
  • 13-09-19

Anthology thought experiments perfectly executed

Ted Chiang combines excellent writing with interesting scenarios in a way which engages deeply. If you are not thinking after listening to this book, it's on you.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Daniel Smith
  • 11-12-21

Don't narrate the weird story first up

Amy Landon narrated a number of stories. And it just so happened, the next book I tried to listen to.
But she also narrated the retarded digimons in one of the first stories. And try as she might, her voice is very very similar. It was not great experience.
I would place a story like that, at the back of the book.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-04-21

Ted Chiang is great

I really enjoyed this book, the storys are fun to follow and really trigger deeper thoughts, a must read for sure.

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  • Panashe
  • 01-01-21

Simple ideas

The author does a great job of taking simple or rather well known ideas to their not so obvious conclusions- a nice sci-fi collection.

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  • Seamus Fagan
  • 23-09-20

Different

I liked the ideas and the way they are woven into stories. well worth a listen.

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  • Ed Dowding
  • 17-10-19

contains lots of content from previous books

so alas it is not as good value as I'd hoped, but still sufficiently entertaining

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  • Strayficshion
  • 08-03-20

A collection to revisit

It's almost inevitable that a collection will miss a five star rating because some part of it doesn't appeal and that's the case here. These are stories with the nature of parables - and so slightly moralistic at times - but that, wherever they're set, have a science/speculative fiction slant. The title story, Exhalation, is superb and The Lifecycle of Software Objects is a dissection of difference, AI, and what constitutes sentience in virtual world entities. Sentience comes up again in The Great Silence, this time in a tale spanning Arecibo, the Fermi Paradox, and parrots, while Omphalos gently and carefully challenges one person's profound faith in a deity. Humanity with its strengths and failings is the driving force for all of these stories; how we think and feel and relate to others and what happens when technology becomes a part of the picture. It isn't dystopian, it doesn't preach, and nor does it labour its message of who and what we are; but it does make us think.

The stories vary considerably in length (I listened on Audible where they ranged from around six minutes to over three hours) and the style is often an account delivered from a particular and singular perspective. It's one of the books I will return to because there's likely to be much that I've missed.

I'll just add that the Author's notes, which pop up at the end of each story and are delivered by the author and give a little bit of the background theoretical context, are slightly jarring in audio but will be much less so in text. I will re-visit these too.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Scallywag
  • 03-10-19

Entrancing

I've read some negative reviews of this collection, but I loved it. Each story is carefully developed, beautifully written and completely absorbing. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” is one of the best things I've read in ages. I even loved the parrot story, which people say is the weakest in the book. From the first, beautifully crafted Arabian Nights-style tale about time, and redemption, I was engaged. Every page of this collection is suffused with optimism. It's clever, kind, thoughtful and thought provoking and I highly recommend it. Yes, even the parrots.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-06-20

Fascinating ideas, plodding storytelling.

A fascinating exploration of ideas, just don't expect gripping storylines or intresting characters. . .

6 people found this helpful

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  • Michael D.
  • 24-05-20

Short stories from Ted Chiang's bottom drawer.

Performance lacked lustre. Notes from the author were used to pad out a collection of works that failed to live up to Ted Chiang's reputation. Unsatisfactory conclusions and no effort to develop characters other than that of the narrator. A disappointment.

3 people found this helpful

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  • darren
  • 10-08-19

good but slow

I do realise that Ted's stories can be slow over a novel, but I hoped these may have been less of a plod. several chapters were given to one arc about AI which seemed a real waste of potential, whereas others lost the plot as they meandered along.

this isn't punchy short sci-fi, but worth listening to if you're a fan

3 people found this helpful

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  • Elliot Burns
  • 17-12-20

Thought provoking

Incredibly refreshing perspectives and imaginative concepts all tied to very human stories that are important in today's world

2 people found this helpful

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  • Reviewer Tales
  • 26-04-21

Absolutely fantastic

This was a really good! I'd had so many people recommend this book to me, and now I understand why.

Stories were very engaging. Themes were extremely clever. And the mechanism of using fiction as a way to explore the philosophical aspects of AI, parallel universes, pre-destination, etc. was flawless.

Highly recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dylan fan
  • 01-12-20

Mind expanding stories for philosophical

The ideas here are complex and some of the stories required more than one listen.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Dannehdanman
  • 07-10-20

Fantastic stories

I really enjoyed this anthology. Amy Landon's reading was overly robotic for me however.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Viktoria Spittler
  • 31-01-23

Magical story telling and really cool sci-fi concepts

Loved the stories in this book, each had their own style and fantastically satisfying endings. I really appreciated the short authors note at the end of each chapter where Ted Chiang explains which scientific theory has layed the foundation for each story.

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  • Heli Lahteela-Tabone
  • 18-02-20

Really interesting scifi short stories

All the stories explore the idea of a fictional technology or idea or premise and how it would affect an everyday life. It's honestly my favourite kind of scifi. Suggesting a likely or unlikely-but-interesting change in society and following the implications on a small scale is very cool. They're also generally fairly optimistic stories, which is very pleasant. Not every story caught me, but lots of them stayed with me for days and weeks after reading. Possibly they'll stay forever.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Tiffany
  • 16-08-19

Enjoyed the book but hated the female narrator

The stories and author's notes were interesting but the female narrator was terrible. She was robotic and lacked nuance. Other narrators were good.

2 people found this helpful

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  • pootlebaby
  • 22-11-19

Wonderous

A series of extraordinary short stories, that are intelligent and glistening with questions and ideas.
Highly recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • michael strong
  • 14-10-19

Outstanding!

Fantastic performance added an extra dimension to a collection of extraordinary tales. Highly, highly recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Julie E Morris
  • 08-10-22

I've never read/listened to anything like it

the performance is great, short stories are unmatched.
a truly thought provoking book. Must read

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Dario
  • 02-01-22

a mix quality bag of stories

Time travel and multiverse stories were good, with some new perspectives and we'll written, the rest mediocre. The social media story was long, boring and poorly written.
Some of the narrator's characters voices were distracting and didn't add anything.

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  • Cassandra
  • 09-12-21

I really quite liked that

Surprisingly interesting compilation of short science fiction stories with a twist. It's unlike the standard science fiction of space ships and battles. This book is more concerned about exploring philosophical questions in a scientific context.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jordie
  • 03-10-21

mixed feelings

love the ideas in these stories, but some are a little too long for being 'short' story. the voices of the digiands were not credible and neither was their pronunciation. other stories were wonderful.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Zhuo Jia Dai
  • 04-12-19

Only the first story is really good. The rest, meh

The first story about the Merchant was pretty good. Then the stories explored intriguing themes but were not as interesting to listen to