I am a new short fiction reader but I think that The Paper Menagerie is the best short story collection I’ve read so far. I remember reading Mono No Aware about 2-3 years ago and just loving the story so much. I tried a few of his other stories over time and I knew that he was an author that just connected with my reading style and interests. I believe that Ken connects the reader to his characters in a way that few writers can. His stories rarely focus on the fantastical or the science-fictional aspect that the stories involve but instead focuses on the emotions of his characters. This makes his stories become incredibly moving to read. This is the most I’ve shed tears while reading a book.
One thing that I really like about Ken’s stories is the mixing of historical fact within the fantastical. While reading these amazing stories, you are learning about real world history because so many of his stories connect to events in the past. Ken focuses on Chinese and Japanese history in his stories and for most Western readers this creates a very refreshing narrative because not only do we want to learn more about the story but we also want to learn more about Eastern history and culture. The first story wasn’t one that I cared for, so don’t put this aside because of the first story. This collection is a great starting place to create or rekindle a love for short fiction.
The following stories were the stories that I gave a 5-star rating to:
1. “The Perfect Match” – An internet A.I. and service pushes you to make decisions that it suggests. This really made me think about what are really my own thoughts and which are influenced by the things I interact with on the internet.
2. “The Regular” – A novella or possibly novellete set in the future where it is commonplace for people to have robotics that are integrated with their brain. The story is a detective story of a private investigator tracking down a killer. If you like the show “The Fall” you would love this.
3. “The Paper Menagerie” – A boy grows up with a mother that is a “mail order bride” from China that does special origami that comes to life.
4. “Mono No Aware” – Earth is about to be destroyed and we send out spaceships to the far corners of the galaxy to survive. On board, a man attempts to keep his Japanese culture from dying.
5. “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” – We have gained the ability to see what really happened in past historical events but creates international tension when we know the truth.
4-Star rating stories:
1. “Simulacrum” – How do you deal with infidelity with simulations and not real people?
2. “State Change” – Life is difficult when your soul is attached to an object that must always be with you. Are you tethered to objects?
3. “Good Hunting” – Chinese magic gets destroyed as industrialization happens but is replaced by steampunk.
4.”The Literomancer” – A young girl befriends a political refugee that shows her the magic of Chinese characters.
5. “The Waves” – The evolution of a starfaring group.
3-Star rating stories:
1. “All the Flavors” – The god of war from China comes to the United States to work on the railroad and find gold. He befriends a young girl and her father.
2. “A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel” – The story of the workers working under the ocean to connect Asia and North America
3. ” The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” – A smooth-talking lawyer finds that there is much more to life than tricking the police when he protects a secret history book.
1. “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species”
2. “An Advanced Reader’s Picture Book of Comparative Cognition”