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Exhalation

Written by: Ted Chiang
Length: 11 hrs and 22 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (17 ratings)

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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

Average Customer Ratings
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    5 out of 5 stars
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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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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.

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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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  • 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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  • 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.

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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.

1 person 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

1 person 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. . .

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  • Michael Dullaghan
  • 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.

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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.

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  • GW
  • 03-02-20

A philosophical Black Mirror

Engaging well voice acted philosophical scifi - each short story is engaging, witty and generally leaves you with a lot to think about. Authors notes between stories felt a bit unnecessary, but in the end I enjoyed his perspective. Will listen to the rest of his work now.

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  • Magnus Domellvf
  • 19-01-20

Great SF

This is the best science fiction short story collection I have read in many years. Good narrator.

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  • The Vikid Truth
  • 04-01-20

Just Great

I love sci-fi and these short stories are just wonderful thought provoking bites for the busy person. As I am getting older and a bit busier at work, I don't have the time always to get stuck into a long book. This is where the art of the short story can really come to the rescue. Somehow, Ted Chiang seems to pack a punch well above its weight in word count. Each story is meaningful and will get you thinking on a deeper level while keeping you throughly entertained.

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  • Tom D
  • 26-08-19

some good stories

I enjoyed all the stories but some were much better than others. some 5*, some I'd rate 2* if they were stand alone. As a collection overall though, it's okay.

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  • Keith
  • 19-08-19

Thought provoking and well delivered.

I really enjoyed this especially with the author's notes at the end of each story. Such a clever author and a master at work.

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.