Well, we have plenty of time to read books, at least most of us do right now. I had a big backlog of magazines when I got back from vacation, but I finally got around to finishing this month’s book club book, Stories of Your Life, and Others, by Ted Chiang. I am told by the book cover that “Story of Your Life,” was the basis of the movie Arrival. I have not seen it, but now that I realize it’s about linguistics, I probably should!
It was a nice change of pace, because it’s a collection of science fiction stories rather than a novel or work of nonfiction. We were only supposed to read a couple of the stories, but since they turned out to be right up my alley, I read the whole book.
Chiang is a very scientific science fiction writer, which I enjoy a lot. I also like that he just changes one or two things about “normal” life in many of the stories, which makes it very easy to immerse yourself into them and think about what your own life would be like in that version of Earth.
For example, there’s a story in which angels, Heaven and Hell are all real, called “Hell Is the Absence of God.” Angles are always showing up and messing with people. I decided very quickly how I’d lead my life in THAT world. I’d probably have gotten myself to Hell as fast as possible. It seemed nice. But what an interesting world it was!
The title story is all about a linguist figuring out an alien language. The results were predictable if you know how language and the brain works, but it was still fun to read.
In another story, “Seventy-two Letters,” science was more like alchemy combined with the kabbalah or magic, where names could bring things to life. The way human reproduction worked there was very different, but logically consistent. That would also be a fun world to live in for a linguist.
My favorite of all the stories in the book wasn’t about linguistics, really, but about the science behind the “Tower of Babel,” as if the world was like in the Old Testament, and you really could build a tower to Heaven. The ending was GREAT, and I just loved all the people in this world.
I guess I’ll be reading his next book, even though I’m told it isn’t quite as outstanding as this one. Any of you who’d like to go immerse yourselves in another world, though, should run out and get this paperback, or get it in Kindle. All the stories are fun and get your mind thinking about possibilities of how things just might have been on another timeline.