The Hidden Girl and Other Stories

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Feb 2020

Member Reviews

I liked that the stories about uploaded human consciousness were woven throughout the volume. I thought that the views about the benefits/drawbacks of technology and digital existence as expressed through conflicting character viewpoints was interesting and refreshing, if not ultimately satisfying (which might not even be possible!). Overall I found myself underwhelmed by some of the technological fairytales. I particularly liked "The Hidden Girl" and "The Message," although you may call the ending of this latter one ahead of time.
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Online at https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3152237372

Exceptional  collection from one of our very best SF authors. At his best, he’s as good as any writer in the business. As always, I liked some stories more than others. Rating based on my favorites, all SF: 4 stars. Most of the fantasies didn’t work for me.
Highlights:
● Seven Birthdays (2016), http://www.tor.com/2016/11/15/reprints-seven-birthdays-ken-liu/ A million or so years in the life of Mia and her Mom. Ken Liu dreams big in this meticulous, breathtaking hard-SF tale of the transition from organic to silicon-based life. 5+ stars, my favorite of his shorts.  More: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32994441-seven-birthdays 
● Ghost Days (2013),  Three stories about the immigrant experience, from Hong Kong in 1905, Connecticut in 1989, and Nova Pacifica, a new colony world, in 2313. First-rate story: 4+ stars. 
● Byzantine Empathy (2018). A young Chinese programmer designs a block-chain cryptocurrency to help refugees. A powerful and thoughtful near-future SF novelette. 4 stars
● Staying Behind (2011),  Will Uploading bring the Singularity? Thoughtful, bittersweet story. 4 stars.
The stories:
● Ghost Days (2013), http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/ghost-days/ Three stories about the immigrant experience, from Hong Kong in 1905, Connecticut in 1989, and Nova Pacifica, a new colony world, in 2313. I liked the SF part best, but this is a first-rate story throughout. 4+ stars. 
● Maxwell’s Demon (2012). A young Nisei woman, a physics grad student before being interned, is sent to Japan as a spy in 1943. It doesn’t work out for her, or for Japan. Grim ending is historically accurate. Science fantasy, 3.5 stars.
● The Reborn (2014), https://www.tor.com/2014/01/29/reborn-ken-liu/  An unpleasant paranoia-piece about an alien invasion. Not for me. 2 stars
● Thoughts and Prayers (2019), https://slate.com/technology/2019/01/thoughts-and-prayers-ken-liu-short-story.html  A college girl was a victim of a mass shooting. Her mother agrees to make her a poster-girl for gun control. Then the trolls arrive…. Memorable story that I pretty much hated. 1.5 stars, for me. Many other readers liked it. 
● Byzantine Empathy (2018). A young Chinese programmer designs “Empathium,” a block-chain cryptocurrency to help refugees. Her American roommate in college, now a board member in a prominent NGO, happens to meet her old friend in a war zone in Burma. A powerful and thoughtful near-future SF novelette. 4 stars
● The Gods Will Not Be Chained (2015, Apocalypse Triptych #1). A brilliant computer engineer, on his deathbed, is forcibly uploaded by his company. First of 3 linked stories — which amount to a novella.
● The Gods Will Not Be Slain (2015, Apocalypse Triptych #2). Uploading becomes common. Unhappy consequences. Widespread warfare.
● The Gods Have Not Died in Vain (2015, Apocalypse Triptych #3). Is Uploading better than Real Life? Maybe so…. 3.5 stars for this interesting, if  implausible(?) medium-future SF story.
● Staying Behind (2011), http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/liu_10_11/ Will Uploading bring the Singularity? Thoughtful, bittersweet story, recommended. 4 stars.
● Real Artists (2011), http://escapepod.org/2013/01/03/ep377-real-artists/ A new way to make movies disappoints an aspiring filmmaker. 3.5 stars.
● Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer (2010). Liu’s first posthuman story.  Klein bottles, whales & the Chrysler Building are featured—but no reindeer. 3+ stars.
● Memories of My Mother (2012), http://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/time-travel/ken-liu/memories-of-my-mother. Good but confusing sort-of sequel to “Reindeer”. 3+ stars.
● Dispatches from the Cradle: The Hermit—Forty-Eight Hours in the Sea of Massachusetts (2016) (reread). Asa organized the terraforming of both Mars and Earth. Then she quit to become a hermit. Strange story, reprinted in Dozois #34. 3.5 stars
● Grey Rabbit, Crimson Mare, Coal Leopard (2020). A brother & sister work a small midden mine in a post-collapse society. The story morphs into a transformation science-fantasy. I didn’t much care for it. First publication here.
● The Hidden Girl (2017),   Fantasy set in the Imperial court of Tang Dynasty China.
● Seven Birthdays (2016),  A million or so years in the life of Mia and her Mom. Ken Liu dreams big in this meticulous, breathtaking hard-SF tale of the transition from organic to silicon-based life. 5+ stars, my favorite of his shorts. 
● The Message (2012). A xenoarchaeologist and his daughter explore alien ruins and make a fateful discovery. Pretty hokey story, I thought. 2.5 stars.
● Cutting (2012), https://galli-books.co.uk/2018/08/06/cutting-by-ken-liu/  An odd religious fantasy that I didn’t much care for. All of 500 words, so try it for yourself.

Thanks to the publisher & NetGalley for the eARC.
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No fluff, here!  Ken Liu comes out swinging ...  using SF, Speculative fiction and Fantasy as a platform to spin yarns brimming with insight, inspiration and thoughtful commentary on society and the universe.  A heady mix of thought provoking narrative and heart rendering sadness. Seventeen hand picked gems ...  the best of the best from multi-award winning Ken Liu.  This collection will certainly rival the acclaim garnered from his first collection, " The Paper Menagerie "  There is no reason to lay out the plot of each story ...  simply stated .... the stories transcend the genre and are steeped in both lyrical and poetic prose.  He tackles such themes and ideals:  the Singularity with dilemmas encountered with the uploading of the human. consciousness ....  Artificial intelligence  ... vagaries of Reality ...  virtual reality ....  environmental activism ...  fear of death and war ...  embracing history of ancestors ....  future path of humanity. .... and the multifaceted emotions of mankind: love, hate, courage and  wisdom .   The individual stories are a mix of 4 and 5 star nuggets ...  all accomplished with amazing world building , characterization ....  demonstrating his ability to be a master storyteller.
    Thanks to NetGalley and Saga Press for providing an electronic Proof in exchange for an honest review.  Ken Liu's releases are always met with great anticipation.     ( at.   readersremains.com )
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Disclaimer: I have no previous knowledge of Ken Liu as an author. I solely requested The Hidden Girl and Other Stories because I kept seeing it pop up all over the internet; Goodreads, Twitter, etc. The cover is also bright and colorful. I knew going in that it was a collection of short stories. I knew that the book was supposed to have a Scifi theme. And yet... for some reason I thought it would be a 'lighter' book. It is actually pretty deep and fantastically written. This author knows their stuff. The stories are well thought out. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for stronger Scifi/Fantasy writing. I will be checking out the author's other works.
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Average Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️.9

After really enjoying Ken Liu’s previous short story anthology a lot, there was no way I was letting this ARC go and I jumped at the opportunity to be able to review it. This is another collection of fascinating stories by the author, most of them sci-fi/dystopian but a couple of them are fantasy as well. There are also multiple stories which are interconnected but told in no particular order, so it was fun trying to find the connections between them. 

One theme that I found very dominant in this collection is that of climate change, how we are at a precipice and have to do something substantial from right now if we want to save our planet; but also that as the situation gets worse, all the problems we currently have with wealth inequality and refugees and developed countries exploiting resources disproportionately will only get more exacerbated. This also means that many of the stories in this collection are tragic and depressing, so I would definitely recommend reading them when you are in the right mood and also maybe not binge read the whole thing at once. I would definitely recommend it though, because the concepts are very interesting and the writing for the most part is excellent. 

Ghost Days 

Spanning multiple planets and timelines, this was a nice story about memories and heritage, and how we all carry the legacy of our previous generations within us and why it’s important to preserve their knowledge.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Maxwell’s Demon 

Told through a POV of a Japanese American young woman who is sent to Japan as a spy during WWII, this one has a bit of supernatural elements but mostly it’s about the futility of war and how it twists everyone’s morality. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Reborn 

I really don’t think I have much to say about this story. It was interesting to read and a bit tragic too, but don’t think I can explain it. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thoughts and Prayers 

CW: mass shooting, online trolling and harassment

As soon as I saw the title of this story, I could guess what it’s about. It’s about the effects of grief on family members of victims, how each person tries to cope in their own ways and how that might drive them apart. There is also some interesting discussion on activism, politicizing grief and the incessant trolling that comes along with it - I’m still not sure if I agree with all the points made but it’s a lot to think about. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Byzantine Empathy 

Against a backdrop of a technologically advanced (but current) world with heavy emphasis on VR and cryptocurrencies, this story is all about empathy vs rationality, how do we decide who needs help, and how even being immersed in the pain of others might invoke cynicism in people instead of empathy because we have lost our trust in geopolitics. I can’t really explain the elaborate discussions that happen in this story but it’s very thought provoking and I think everyone should give it a read. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Gods Will Not Be Chained 

With the concept of digital immortality, this story tries to explore what would happen if corporations tried to digitize the brains of their dead genius employees for profit and these highly technological brains decided to takeover. A very terrifying tale but definitely thought provoking.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Staying Behind 

This is almost like a continuation of the previous one, but years later when the technically dead/digitally conscious have taken over (an event called Singularity) and the rest of the living world is just scraping for survival. This was way too depressing and scary to read.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Real Artists 

Another tale of high technological advancement, this time in the making of movies. I really don’t want to spoil this one at all because I thought the concept was amazing, thought provoking and almost felt like it’s a possible future for us and wouldn’t that be too sad. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Gods Will Not Be Slain 

This is a direct continuation of the story “The gods will not be chained” and it’s such a scary and plausible story, what can happen if digital sentiences decide that they want to burn down humanity and plunge it into war, how fragile geopolitics is and how everyone is literally on the brink of war while sitting on a mass pile of nuclear weapons. Really brings some of what’s happening in our current world into perspective. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer 

Years after Singularity where only digital beings seem to be existent on our planet, this is the story of how relationships develop even among them, and also how different a three dimensional earth might seem like to a digital being who has never been a human before. Fascinating story. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Gods Have Not Died in Vain 

This story a sequel of “The gods will not be slain” is more about how the idea of singularity came to be, how the incessant wars and scarcity of resources may have led people to decide that giving up the body to live digitally might be the only way to survive. There are a lot of interesting points made in the story that leave us with more questions about life. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Memories of My Mother 

This was a very very short story about a mother’s love for her child and to what lengths she will go to get the little time to spend with her daughter. It could have been more emotional but I wasn’t feeling it. 

⭐️⭐️.5

Dispatches from the Cradle: The Hermit—Forty-Eight Hours in the Sea of Massachusetts 

In a world centuries after climate change has destroyed most of it, where successful countries have managed to migrate to other planets but the poorer people try to survive in ever harsh environments on the ravaged earth - this story is almost like a scary mirror of what our future might be if we don’t start taking decisive action from now on. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Grey Rabbit, Crimson Mare, Coal Leopard 

Set in a dystopian fantasy world, this was a tale about how power and greed corrupts, leading to the protectors becoming predators themselves - which in turn means that those who are poor or considered prey must rise up in arms and protect themselves. This was a fascinating read and one that I felt could make a bigger story. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Chase Beyond the Storms - An excerpt from The Veiled Throne, The Dandelion Dynasty, book three 

Not reviewing this excerpt because I haven’t read this series yet. 

The Hidden Girl 

Set in a fantasy world inspired by 8th century China, this is a story of a young female assassin who’s been trained to kill but starts questioning if her loyalty to her Teacher must supersede her own morality. A lovely read but what made it special were the action sequences which reminded me a lot of the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Seven Birthdays 

Another story interconnected to the previous ones related to Singularity, this is about one woman’s mission to find a solution to humanity’s problems, but ultimately just be able to spend more time with her mother. I can’t say I understood much of the story in the second half. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Message 

A story about legacy, how even dead civilizations leave messages for anyone who might come eons later; also a tale of a father finally getting to know his daughter - this story was beautiful and emotional but also tragic. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Cutting 

I’m not sure I can explain exactly what this story was about - but it was something about looking through the unnecessary stuff and finding the truth underneath. 

⭐️⭐️.5
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Thought provoking, and often chilling, collection of soft sci-fi, with many stories examining the unintended and even unimaginable ramifications of technological advancements spun out of control. A number of stories revolve around the concept of uploaded human consciousness, AKA the "Singularity", whereby human minds are fully digitized, no longer requiring physical bodies. The three linked "The Gods.." stories in particular are fascinating looks at this, with the absolutely riveting story "Staying Behind" as a kind of CODA to these. Together these seemingly make up the heart of this collection and were certainly among my favorites.

While not completely dark, the messages here are clearly ominous to some extent - humanity's belief that we can keep transformational, and potentially devastating, technologies bottled up is almost certainly a fallacy.

Thoughts on some of the individual stories -

The Reborn (4.5) - Chilling story of alien invaders who constantly shed their memories and remake themselves, and can "rebirth" humans by radically manipulating their memories, which they do to eliminate resistance to their presence. Liu uses the story to examine the connection between memory and identity, as well as to the perception of self and reality. If you've read Octavia E. Butler's classic Xenogenesis series, the symbiotic yet parasitic alien-human relationships depicted here will feel familiar.

The Gods Will Not Be Chained (4.0) - Examines the "pursuit of digital immortality, the fusion of man and machine, the Singularity" and the futility of trying to keep the genie of uploaded consciousnesses in a bottle.

Staying Behind (5.0) - A kind of final chapter in the "The Gods.." series of stories. A riveting look at the post apocalyptic world left to the few scraps of humanity who holdout from uploading to the Singularity. In my opinion, this should be read after the three "The Gods.." stories, rather than in the order presented.

Real Artists (4.0) - A kind of chilling look at the transformation of art into engineering and what that means for the role of the "artist". Creativity and artistic inspiration supplanted by big data and algorithms.

The Gods Will Not Be Slain (4.0) - A sequel to The Gods Will Not Be Chained , examining the conflicts and disastrous consequences on the world of the unleashing of the uploaded digital consciousnesses.

The Gods Have Not Died in Vain (4.0) - A sequel to The Gods Will Not Be Slain where we see a post apocalyptic society trying to pick up the pieces in the wake of devastation and chaos.

Dispatches from the Cradle: The Hermit - Forty-Eight Hours in the Sea of Massachusetts (3.5) - Hundreds of years in the future, after the climate changed induced flooding of the Earth and man's settling of other parts of the solar system, a philosopher of sorts visits the flooded ancient ruins of Boston and ponders the wisdom of destroying Earth's new habitats while attempting to rollback the changes wrought by humanity.
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Although I'm quite familiar with Ken Liu's name, this book was my first time reading a collection of his short fiction. Two things stuck out to me as I read: the incredibly imaginative worlds and concepts each story explores and Mr. Liu's amazing ability to grab the reader's attention and pull them in within a sentence or two. I felt more attached to some of these characters within a paragraph than I've felt with protagonists in a few novels even after several chapters. The opening of "Byzantine Empathy" stood out in particular with its use of second person. I've read plenty of short fiction in second person before, but it rarely clicks with me or lets me get fully immersed. Often it has the effect of making some part of my brain stand up in defiance and say, "No, I am not the person you are describing. No, I'm not in that situation. No, that is the complete opposite what I would do even if the last two things were true." But in this case, there's a sense of disorientation that allows for the reader to step into the character being described, as if the narrative is saying, "I know this isn't you. But how would you feel if it suddenly were?"

Speculative fiction is so open in its possibilities of what characters could be or how they could live, and these stories explore that to its fullest. From a race of nearly immortal aliens that habitually forgets their own past to a fascinating take of combining the supernatural with the historical events of World War II, so many of the unique ideas and settings in this collection would feel right at home serving as backdrops for a full-length novel. I certainly wouldn't complain if they were some day.

The only caveat I would add with this book is that there are scenes of extreme violence involving very young children--to the extent that I had to mentally yank myself away from the story's world, put the book down, and take a break from reading for a while. It is not to say that these scenes were unearned or gratuitous or a cheap attempt to get a quick emotional reaction from the audience. The fact that they were grounded in worlds that felt so real is what made me have to step away at times. (And for whatever it is worth, I had to step away after select scenes in George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" for similar reasons, even though I would also count that series as very well written.) The extent to which any one person is able to tolerate this is of course a personal thing, but it seems worth noting nonetheless.

Overall, this collection is well worth a read.
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I was a huge fan of Ken Liu’s first collection of short stories, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, giving it a five out of five and placing on my “best of” list that year.  His newest collection, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories unfortunately didn’t hit the high notes as consistently as the first, though there are still several gems in the group.

Many of the stories are set in a time leading up to or following the singularity, where humans upload their consciousness to the cloud and become disembodied.  Three are a direct mini-series following the same characters in linear fashion and the others change characters and shift in time (sometimes moving way forward). While the stories themselves varied in quality, and there was some repetitiveness,  I quite liked the way Liu kept coming back to the premise; all together they form something like a novella of linked stories.  

Thoughts on the specific stories:
“Ghost Days” A lovely story about colonists stranded  on a planet across the galaxy and how their children (particularly the main character, a young girl named Ona) engineered to adapt to the planet, struggle with why they have to learn all the history of the human race, which they no longer belong to. As Ona says of the older colonists early in the story, “They cling to their past like rotten glue-lichen.” Thanks to events in the story, Ona finds herself in the multi-generational memories of a Chinese family. One memory is set in the late 80s after Fred Ho’s family had immigrated to America, the other in 1905 Hong Kong involves Fred’s grandfather and great-grandfather. In both, Fred and his grandfather have to deal with arrogant, bigoted white men.  From these two memories Ona shifts into a scene set on her home planet where she observes the planet’s long-vanished inhabitants.  Her experiences give her new insight into both the older colonists and the value of history.

“Maxwell’s Demon”
A sometimes brutal story set in WWII that follows Takako, an Okinawan woman who is removed from her internment camp by the US government and forced into spying for them on a secret project the Japanese are working on. Takako ends up having to face a choice of evils, leading to a dark ending that will linger for some time in the reader’s mind.

“The Reborn”
Another grim tale, this one set on Earth after it has been conquered by the Tawnin, an alien species who take the idea of “compartmentalization” to extremes. As one alien explains it: “The unified individual is a fallacy of traditional human philosophy . . . A criminal, for example, is but one person inhabiting a shared body with many others . .  a good father, husband, brother, son.”  The Tawnin are nearly eternal and so as not to be overwhelmed by memories, they  keep some and “shed” the others, including their memory of how aggressive they were in conquering humanity. The “cast off those aggressive layers of their mind . . . and became the gentlest rulers imaginable.”  Given that, the Tawnin view the human legal system with horror, as humans condemn an entire person for the action of a “part” of them. Instead, the Tawnin “excise” that part, removing the memories, say, of those resistance fighters they capture.  The story centers on a human who is in a relationship with a Tawnin and who is also trying to track down the human perpetrators of a terrorist act of resistance. There’s a bit too much explanation at the end, but the close is a bit of chillingly beautiful writing.

“Thoughts and Prayers”
Liu uses multiple points of view to show the aftermath of a mass shooting on a single family, especially after the mother agrees to allow her slain daughter’s images/movies/life be used to try and push forward political change. What follows is a horrifying tale of trolling (Liu includes a POV from one of the trolls) and attack/counter-attack.

“Byzantine Empathy”
Two competing ways of trying to effect change through donations conflict.  One is the traditional method of big not-for-profits directing their collected funds toward goals and methods they deem “worthy.” The other is an upstart program started by Tang Jianwen that decentralizes/democratizes giving via cryptocurrency and the power of VR. An interesting concept that got bogged down in the details and some speechifying.

“The Gods Will Not Be Chained”
The first of the singularity trilogy involving a young girl named Maddie and her father, uploaded consciousnesses, and the looming risk of hostile AIs.  Liu plays around with the use of emoticons throughout, and the intimacy of the father-daughter relationship is a nice touch, but I can’t say there was a lot fresh here to a well-worn topic. 

“Staying Behind”
Perhaps my favorite story in the collection. I loved it from its opening lines:  “After the Singularity, most people chose to die. The dead pity us and call us the left behind . . . And so year after year, relentlessly, the dead try to steal our children.”  The first-personal narrator shifts in time between his memories of his parents’ conflict about uploading and his present-day fears that his own child will choose to go down the path of disembodiment despite all his efforts. A poignant, painful, haunting story.

“Real Artists”
A slight, old style sort of near-future story centered on the depressing impact of AI (or near-AI) on the creative arts. This one was a bit too much “telling” for me and felt more than a little predicable. 

“The Gods Will Not Be Slain”
Continues on with the Maddie/AI storyline. A solid enough story but didn’t do much for me.

“Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer”
Set after the Singularity, it’s told by a first-person narrator whose mother is “An Ancient, from before the Singularity . . . [who] lived in the flesh for twenty-six years before uploading.”  The two try to bridge the gap between them, with the child trying to understand her mother’s attachment to the tangible world as well as her desire to travel to a nearby star to explore — a one-way trip. There are some beautiful descriptive passages in this story and a rewarding close. 

“The Gods Have Not Died in Vain”
The third AI story, after the AI wars that killed millions. Somewhat similarly to the prior story, this one deals with the gulf of understanding between an embodied (Maddie of the earlier stories) and a disembodied (her “sister” Mist, created in the cloud by their father). In its exploration of how the first uploaded  consciousnesses had trouble due to nostalgia for “the real world,” while their “children” lack that weakness, it also hearkens back to the first story where one generation hopes the ensuing one will do better via adaptation to a different world/way of life.  I found this strongest of the three “Gods” stories thanks to the description of Earth, the changing relationship between Maddie and Mist, and the thoughtful exploration of AI linked to intimate characterization.

“Memories of My Mother”
A brief vignette-series story about a mother whose diagnosis of a terminal disease sees her using relativity to slow her experienced time and allow herself to visit her daughter at ages ten, seventeen, thirty-eight, and eighty.  A neat premise, but the brevity of the story and its tone/formatting left it surprisingly emotionally distant.

“Dispatches from the Cradle: The Hermit — Forty-Eight Hours in the Sea of Massachusetts”
A “drowned world” story post climate change whose plot and characterization were wanting, but still provided some beautiful descriptive passages.

“Grey Rabbit, Crimson Mare, Coal Leopard”
A mix of cute and grim, this tale is set in a world where some people can change shape into drakes, leopards, or, much to her shame for the main characters, a small grey rabbit.  It turns out though that a rabbit can have heart and be both brave and fierce. It’s an interesting story that was a bit blunt in its points and went on longer than I thought it needed to.

“A Chase Beyond the Storms”
Not really a story but an excerpt from Liu’s upcoming novel, The Veiled Throne. I’m not sure it works in a collection.

“The Hidden Girl”
The title story follows a young girl plucked from her life and trained to be a supernatural assassin whose first assignment goes in an unexpected direction. The story moves along smoothly enough but the plotting was pretty basic and the storyline predicable.

“Seven Birthdays”
A mix of themes from prior stories:  climate change, parent-child relationships, and uploaded consciousness. The future paths humanity takes in Liu’s vision is fascinating and filled with the poetry of science.

“The Message”
A daughter whose mother just died is taken in by her archaeologist father who has been absent from her entire life (her mother had never told him about her pregnancy) and is forced to tag along as he explores the ruins of a dead planet. It was hard to buy into the relationship between the two (more precisely the change in the relationship) and so lacked the emotional punch the story seemed to be straining to achieve.

“Cutting”
A brief story-poem that nicely closes out the collection in evocative fashion

If I’m honest, I have to say this collection was disappointing, but that’s mostly due to how much I loved Liu’s first anthology of stories.  A few of these felt slight or flat, or felt to be making their points a bit too overtly, but most were certainly solid enough.  The standouts for me were “Ghost Days” and “Staying Behind” thanks to their aching levels of poignancy/emotionality.
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Having read and loved Ken Liu's first short story collection, The Paper Managerie and Other Stories, several years ago, I was eager to see where he is stories went in this new collection. I was not disappointed; his writing and imagination remain as active as ever. 

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories did take a slightly new direction, however: many of the stories in this book build on one another, without most being dependant on previous stories, so most can be read on their own. This is particularly evident in the "The Gods Will Not Be…" stories which traces the evolution and consequences of uploading individual consciousnesses to the web. Many stories assume this up.lading as a given, so the book feels of a piece - rather than 27 all- new from scratch worlds, Liu presents a more coherent human universe exploring the ramifications of that idea, and individual responses to it. What happens if your wife wants to be uploaded, but you don't? Does your opinion change if your quality of life changes? Should sick or dying people be uploaded? What kind of world will silicon citizens build when they're freed from the material constraints of the physical world? 

Although set in a completely different context, the title story, "The Hidden Girl," was one of my favorites, centering on the space-bending talents of a young martial artist. Wonderfully done. 

Because I don't read read fantasy, one story I wasn't really looking forward to Reading was "A Chase Beyond the Storms," which is an excerpt from the third book of Liu's The Dandelion Dynasty, The Veiled Throne. I surprised myself by actually enjoying it and wishing more of the story was included. 
Overall, a great book of SciFi short stories. Recommended, particularly for those who enjoy pondering what It is, Exactly, that makes us human.

Review posted on LibraryThing, GR, and links on Litsy
https://www.librarything.com/work/23564712/details/177155187
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I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher Saga Press for allowing me to receive this E-ARC in exchange for an honest review! 

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories
by Ken Liu

This is like most short stories collections in the way that I really loved some and others were just good or ok, I think it is nearly impossible to find a collection that is 100% stories you absolutely love and connect with.

That being said I need thoroughly enjoy a lot of the stories that this included, I thought there were great world-building and characters, with thought put into the messages that each story conveys, it was highly enjoyable and the writing.

The highlight of The Hidden Girl and Other Stories was without a doubt the originality and the depths of the worlds and ideas that Liu created on the page.

4 Stars / A-
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Ken Liu is one of my top five favorite short story writers working today. And he is really the only one of the bunch being prolific. I believe he has published over 80 stories in most reputable speculative fiction magazines over the past 10 years. He attained the remarkable feat of gaining popularity in the supersaturated medium of speculative fiction magazines. The reason he was able to rise above the rest, I believe, was his storytelling ability, which often combines traditional Chinese storytelling tropes with razor-edged scientific knowledge. Along with Ted Chiang, I think it is safe to assume that Liu's intelligence is much higher than the average purveyor of science fiction these days. Borderline, if not certified, genius.

The Paper Managerie and Other Stories, Ken Liu's rock-solid debut collection, was a masterpiece. The finest collection of short stories to come out of the speculative genre in recent decades. It can hold its own against The Martian Chronicles, Endangered Species, and other must-reads in my opinion. It is not likely to be equaled or surpassed anytime soon. It is very likely to be reread, by me, and very soon. It is an emotionally charged, politically relevant, and breathtaking summation of his career thus far. His silk-punk novel series is still unknown to me. I know I will have to set aside a significant amount of time to read it. I have dabbled in the first volume, but I know I will come back to it when I'm ready. I cannot help but think that that project will be overshadowed by Liu's short story collections to come. It may be wishful thinking, but he was born to write short stories imho. Maybe he will be regarded as another Bradbury one day.

This second collection, despite the glowing accolades it has already garnered, is not as perfect as his previous effort. It could still be called a masterpiece, perhaps, but I had several gripes with it. Several stories were a slight chore to get through, it pains me to say. Luckily, the collection is well-rounded and the best stories toward the end of the collection, leaving me with a satiated aftertaste.

Taken together the stories become less than the sum of their parts in one distinct way, by virtue of repetition - first of the distracting inclusions of dozens of emojis and the reused character tropes exploring father-daughter and daughter-mother relationships. The family ties in all of Ken Liu's short fiction are critical to the functioning of plot. Here, they are bittersweet and forced. The patterns grated on me, almost as if he recast the same characters in the same roles with slightly differing world building constraints.

Taken separately the stories are all pretty strong and engaging. Many themes stand out in this volume including: post human scenarios, virtual reality, AI, mega corporate corruption, environmental activism, post apocalyptic landscapes, uninhabitable earths, atemporal existence, multi dimensional family dynamics, ethics, the troubles of old age, infirmity, and fear of death, war and slavery, extra-terrestrial archaeology, and much more. That sentence right there should give you enough reason to read the collection.

"The Hidden Girl" was a nice, representative story, an impressive piece of storytelling, combining his trademark Chinese cultural references with his trademark brilliant s-f ideas.

Ken Liu remains an incredible writer. His talent is undeniable. He should also be commended for bringing us several volumes of Chinese science fiction in translation. It is hard to know which contribution is more valuable. We are sitting on a veritable treasure trove of untranslated literature, and heroes like Ken Liu are brave enough, and generous enough, to set aside their fame and risk exposing new talent to the masses. I appreciate what you do, Sir.
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Each story in this volume plumbs the depths of human depravity and our worst instincts. Yet, somehow, hope remains at the end of each tale. I hope Grey Rabbit is turned into a full-length novel. I would love to spend time with the characters in that story again.  Liu has a gift for world building and narrative economy that are beautifully married throughout this collection. I will put this in the hands of hardcore sci fi lovers and people who are new to the genre. This is a great entry point for a newbie, but people who only read this genre will also be satisfied.
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You know how you can read something and recognize that it's perfectly good and know exactly which other people will like it a lot and simultaneously not like it at all? That's how I feel about the scifi stories in this collection. (I did actually quite like the handful of fantasy stories!) They're very interested in the ethical quandaries caused by scientific advances -- "what if we figured out how to upload human consciousness to a computer" is the jumping-off point for a lot of them, there's one that's about how guilt/punishment would work in a society with the capability of erasing all knowledge of a crime from the perpetrator's memory, and probably my favorite of the lot, a faux longform article about a climate change activist who is campaigning against trying to revert the earth back to a previous temperature because it will destroy the organisms and societies that have adapted to the new status quo. I'm just not terribly interested in ethical debates, I guess. But it's definitely a matter of personal taste! The stories are good even if they're not up my alley.
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The Hidden Girl and Other Short Stories by Ken Lui, 432 pages. SHORT STORIES, LGBTQIA+
Saga Press, 2020. $26.
Language: R (17 swears, 2 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13
BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL
AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE
The future is uncertain. Will we end up destroying our planet? Will we continue to progress and evolve until we no longer recognize where we came from? How involved will technology be? In these 19 short stories, Lui explores avenues of a future that might be and highlights problems that we will face if we aren’t careful with our present.
These scifi and fantasy stories filled my mind with food for thought, and the element of tragedy that permeates most of them only made them feel more realistic and relatable. I found that I could not sit down to read several of the stories in one sitting because of the thought I wanted to give them, and I enjoyed reading most of the stories. Stories later in the book became more exciting to read as I started to notice connecting threads and wanted to know what came first in these imagined futures. The mature content rating is for nudity, mentions of pornography and rape, and implied sex; the violence rating is for war, suicide, and murder.
Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen
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If you haven't heard of Ken Liu yet, I promise that you'll hear his name everywhere soon.

This collection is breathtaking. I read (and enjoyed) Liu's first collection, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. It's excellent, but this assembly of stories enthralled me. I cried on an airplane, in a coffee shop, on the beach. Hope, for the future, for humanity, for the possibility that we can be better people is the throughline through all these stories. I simply can't say enough positive things about this book and I'm sure I'll annoy everyone I know by singing its praises. 

If you are in the mood for some hopeful, soul-searching sci-fi this is the collection for you. Even if his Dandelion Dynasty series didn't appeal to you, give this a shot. 


For fans of Ted Chiang, Becky Chambers, This review is based on the Netgalley ARC.
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A very strong set of stories from a very talented and increasingly well-known author. It has a good variety of stories and characters and settings. You don't have to be a sci-fi fan to enjoy. Recommended.

I really appreciate the advanced copy for review!!
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This is, I think, THE best book I've read in years -- which is saying a lot, since I read many books!  Each of these stories is a stand-alone gem, and they intertwine in a way I haven't seen before in short story collections.  

These short stories are so realistically crafted (even if set in the future) that I'd love to ask the author where he met all these interesting people and how he convinced them to tell him their tales...except, of course, the people are all characters inside his head.  I highly recommend this book!
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Book Review: The Hidden Girl and Other Stories
Author: Ken Liu
Publisher: Saga/Gallery Press
Publication Date: February 25, 2020
Review Date: November 14, 2019

From the blurb:
“From award-winning author Ken Liu comes his much anticipated second volume of short stories. 

Ken Liu is one of the most lauded short story writers of our time. This collection includes a selection of his science fiction and fantasy stories from the last five years—sixteen of his best—plus a new novelette.”

The blurb in no way describes how outstanding this book of short stories is. His stories are beyond sci fi. They are incredible original speculative fiction. Way outside the box. To be honest, I barely understood what some of the stories were about, at least in a left-brain way. The ways are about the near future, the far future, about worlds I can’t begin to imagine. But many of today’s issues are included. Social media. Trolls. War. Things we experience today, but just a little beyond our current experience. And some way outside our experience. 

I highly, highly recommend this book. I am in awe of what the author conceives. The worlds, the ways of life. The dystopia. Life after the Singularity when people no longer live in bodies, but live for eternity as digital minds. This is one book you cannot miss this year, if you like sci fi or speculative fiction. 

Thank you to the publisher for allowing me early access to this book. Good luck to the author with his career. 

This review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon. 

#netgalley #sagagallerypress #thehiddengirl #kenliu
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I had no idea what to expect going into Ken Liu’s book The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, but I had no need to be worried: I enjoyed this book.

Most of the stories in this collection are Science Fiction, though a few verge on fantasy, and personally I really liked the spot this collection found on that spectrum. Each story was ambiguous and strange while also being interesting and compelling. So many of Liu’s stories make us ask ourselves essential questions about the future: as humans, with technology, about even the galaxy. There are big questions and even bigger ideas in this book and I really enjoyed being able to mull over them through the lenses of each novella.

The structure of the book itself was also a nice touch. The “main story” The Hidden Girl is scattered throughout in chapters, broken up by the other stories, and for me this gave it a sense of longer continuity and unity. They all seemed to be somehow striving for the same goal at the end of the book.

I’m not usually a short story huge fan, though I enjoy them sometimes, and this was certainly one of those times.

Thanks so much to Netgalley for my advanced copy of this ebook, I enjoyed it immensely.
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I was first introduced to Ken Liu through his translations of Chinese SciFi short stories when we were preparing potential classes on comparative universes as one of our teaching units, so I was very interested to read The Hidden Girl and Other Stories and gain a better understanding of his own original work. Ken Liu fits in that section of SciFi that I really prefer to classify in the speculative fiction range since a lot of his developments are based on real (or at least in the research phase!) movements, inventions, and concepts. 

Through his stories, Liu explores the ideas behind what the future for the human race holds, the role of digital technology in our lives and in the potential to save our world, manipulate our galaxy, explore the universe, including the question of whether we should. 

The book itself is wonderfully structured with a novella divided up into chapters scattered throughout. Returning to this story was an absolute delight each time. The title story, The Hidden Girl, is perhaps the most 'odd one out', and borderlines on fantasy. Despite the difference it provides, or perhaps also because of it, it is a delightful tale. I have read/heard that is has been optioned for film/series, so make sure you read the original first! While there does seem to be a distinct genre difference between The Hidden Girl and much of the rest of the short stories, there is one commonality between all of them - the exploration of our humanity and what it means to be human. Since I finished the stories, they have stayed with me (despite reading other books in between!) and I have made so many links to many of the stories in conversations. This book is a must-read.
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