Fold­ing Tigers, Hid­den Foxes

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews -

re­leased 10 March 450 pages | Hard­back/ ebook

Au­thor Ken Liu

Pub­lisher Head Of Zeus

It’s per­haps un­fair to in­tro­duce a nov­el­ist and short story writer via his work as a trans­la­tor, but thus far many will know the name of Ken Liu via his as­so­ci­a­tion with Hugo- win­ning Chi­nese writer Liu Cixin. How­ever, this is be­gin­ning to change: Liu’s fan­tasy novel The Grace Of Kings was name- checked by, among oth­ers, Hugh Howey.

Now we have this se­lec­tion of 15 short sto­ries se­lected by the writer him­self, and named af­ter a Hugo, Neb­ula and World Fan­tasy Award- win­ning tale of el­dritch origami prac­tice. They’re sto­ries that rep­re­sent, ac­cord­ing to the pref­ace, “a good, rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of in­ter­ests, ob­ses­sions, and cre­ative goals”. At the broad­est level, they fit into two types ( al­though there’s much over­lap): more ex­per­i­men­tal short fic­tion that’s lyri­cal and, if you were be­ing crit­i­cal, tends to­wards whimsy; and more plot- driven and di­rect sto­ries.

The for­mer may some­times test your pa­tience. The first en­try in the col­lec­tion, “The Book­mak­ing Habits Of Se­lect Species”, for ex­am­ple, is a riff on the no­tion that “ev­ery­one makes books” – and by “ev­ery­one”, Liu means dif­fer­ent species. It’s a neat idea, but you may find your­self won­der­ing if Liu has typed up some notes he’d made for an as yet un­writ­ten novel.

Liu’s far bet­ter when he grap­ples with plot and genre. “The Reg­u­lar”, for in­stance, is a cy­ber­punk- tinged noir about a gumshoe de­tec­tive in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mur­der of a sex worker. “Good Hunt­ing”, mean­while, draws on the Chi­nese mythol­ogy around fox spir­its to ex­plore how tech­no­log­i­cal change af­fects so­ci­eties.

In terms of themes, colo­nial­ism, pol­i­tics, the power of the writ­ten word and fam­ily re­cur, while many of the sto­ries ap­pear to draw on cut­ting- edge re­search. De­spite this the­matic con­sis­tency, it’s an un­even col­lec­tion – but when he’s good, Liu is very, very, very good in­deed. Jonathan Wright

Should you fancy a taster of Liu’s work, the awards- hoover­ing tit­u­lar story can be read on­line here: http:// bit. ly/ pa­per­men.

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