Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Review: Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu

Title: Hold Up The Sky
Author: Cixin Liu
Pages: 407
ISBN: 9781838937621
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Published: 1 October 2020
Genre: Science Fiction / Short Stories
Source: Review copy from publisher

In Hold Up the Sky, Cixin Liu takes us across time and space, from a rural mountain community where elementary students must use physics to prevent an alien invasion; to coal mines in northern China where new technology will either save lives or unleash a fire that will burn for centuries; to a time very much like our own, when superstring computers predict our every move; to 10,000 years in the future, when humanity is finally able to begin anew; to the very collapse of the universe itself.

Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu is a fascinating short story collection featuring 11 science fiction tales translated from the original Chinese. For longtime science fiction fans most of the stories will seem familiar, but Liu brings a uniquely different cultural perspective to the genre. Some stories might seem deceptively simple at first, only to reveal the true immensity of their scope as you reach the end. Throughout his work Liu deals with the interconnectedness between humanity and the universe and how the future and transformation of both are inextricably intertwined.

Stories included in the collection are:

  • The Village Teacher
  • The Time Migration
  • 2018-04-01
  • Fire in the Earth
  • Contraction
  • Mirror
  • Ode to Joy
  • Full-Spectrum Barrage Jamming
  • Sea of Dreams
  • Cloud of Poems
  • The Thinker

Overall I enjoyed most of the stories, but like with any short story collection there were a few that didn’t quite hit the mark. In one instance I think this might be a case where the true impact of the story might have been actually lost in translation as it deals with poetry where the form and function can’t be translated easily and might have diminished the impact of the story.

There were three stories that really stood out to me, each of which shows the vast scope of Liu’s imagination. Mirror: What would the world be like if every moment could be known? A fascinating premise where a digital model can mirror reality exactly with far reaching consequences. Full Spectrum Barrage Jamming: Electronic warfare is taken to the extreme. Captures the visceral impact of war and the sacrifices necessary for victory. And finally there’s The Thinker: A chance encounter leads to a discovery with vast implications.

Hold Up the Sky is a really enjoyable story collection with some truly fantastic and imaginative ideas. If you are looking for science fiction outside the Western norms then this is a great start. Recommended!

The Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

Thanks to Charlene from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

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