To give me some inspiration for my short fiction assessment for uni (obviously I wrote SF) I decided to read an SF collection and decided to read Invisible Planets. Invisible Planets is a collection of short fiction from Chinese SF writers, collected, translated, and edited by Ken Liu. I had been looking forward to reading this for a while, so here comes the review.
This collection was a bit all over the place for me, in all honesty I didn’t like most of the stories chosen for this collection. But I think that’s a good thing, this collection isn’t pandering to what we already know, it’s a taste test of Chinese SF and now I know what writers I like and what sort of stuff to seek out in the future, so really it’s worth a read just for that.
The first author I found in the collection that really spoke to me was Xia Jia, whose pieces in the collection were ‘Tongtong’s Summer’ and ‘Night Journey of the Dragon-Horse’. Both stories are about robots, so obviously they appealed to me there, but Xia’s style was what really made them stand out. They were beautifully written stories and I came out of them feeling fulfilled and happy. I read a lot of very depressing SF so feeling happy after reading these stories was something entirely new and I loved it.
The second author, Hao Jingfang, wrote ‘Folding Beijing’ another beautiful story that really tugged at my heartstrings. This story follows a man smuggling love letters through the various levels of Beijing that fold over one another and take turns getting daylight with the working classes in the third level and the rich in the first. This was massively character driven, there’s no answers, no revolution, no solution to this disturbing world, but the characters are just wonderful and so real.
The collection ends with three short essays on Chinese SF that explore the influence of China’s culture and history on SF and where it fits in the canon. Honestly, it was amazing just to get a taste of something different. Every SF fan should read this book, you might find a couple new writers you love that you’d have never found otherwise.