Review – The Paper Menagerie

Posted 8 March, 2016 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of The Paper Menagerie by Ken LiuThe Paper Menagerie, Ken Liu

Received to review via Netgalley

The Paper Menagerie is a collection of stories by Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award winner Ken Liu. Some of the stories deal with issues of Chinese-American heritage, and one in particular goes into a lot of detail, in a very interesting documentary format, about events in China during Japanese occupation, issues of experimentation, and then through the lens of spec-fic, history and who owns it, who controls it, how we can interact with it. Some of the stories are quite long, and come with footnotes about how they originated or further sources if you’re interested in the story.

There was nothing I specifically didn’t like about the stories, in general; one or two were weaker, others stronger. I was surprised that I felt ‘The Paper Menagerie’ to be a little… trite, given the awards and praise it has received, but it does evoke the feelings well. There are some moments where that comes out very strongly in Liu’s stories: there’s one story which uses a lot of descriptions of Chinese food and culture, and I could almost taste the dumplings, the rice, the vegetables, when reading that one. For the most part, though, I felt like Liu’s voice was very even in tone; I didn’t feel passionately one way or the other about quite a few of these stories. I felt like there were a few obviously great stories, and others that were entertaining enough but definitely not as strong.

I’m interested to read The Grace of Kings, Liu’s novel, and his translation of Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem; I’d like to see how Liu’s voice comes across there and how it flavours a work in translation. I’m not put off Liu’s work, just not quite enthused about it.

Rating: 3/5

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4 Responses to “Review – The Paper Menagerie”

  1. I just got this one, so I’m looking forward to reading. Collections are tricky, so I’m not expecting every story to be a winner, but I have some pretty high hopes since I loved his Grace of Kings.

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