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Invisible Planets. Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation. Edited by Ken Liu. Book Review

November 4, 2016

invisible-planets-head-of-zeus

No matter how other worldly a story may be it always reflects something of the society of the writer. These stories are no exception and provide, at times, an intense and viscerally terrifying insight into a culture of psychological oppression, and the strength of will of individuals to rebel against it or subvert it, or find the spaces between where they can be themselves. But there is also a sense of what great things can be achieved for the benefit of individuals when communities pull together as well as the power of love. This anthology is as much about the individual and their inner worlds as the larger landscapes of these fantastical stories.

Many begin in an unassuming way and gradually lead you into enthralling imaginings. Some jump straight in to the unusual, while others often bleed in content and style into fantasy writing through the use of Chinese mythology.

Short stories are known for being unforgiving with regards to unnecessary padding. This anthology gives an impression of careful deliberation in the crafting of each narrative. That these stories are so effortless to read and create such a resonance with the reader is due to the eloquence of the writers and the efforts of the tireless Ken Liu, translating from literature written in characters, not a Romanised alphabet. It could be said that we might therefore miss the elegance of expression which can come from groups of pictograms, each of which carries its own narrative and meanings that might be lost in translation. So it is a huge ask to provide a smooth read which extracts every nuance from the original. But Liu always rises to the challenge, despite the volume of his own projects.

The essays at the end on Chinese science fiction are equally as interesting and a welcome addition to the book.

But you are left with the sense of only having scratched the surface of the work written by authors in this genre, leaving you hungry for more.

Invisible Planets was courtesy of Head of Zeus and also Macmillan-Tor/Forge via NetGalley.

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