Cover Image: Sinopticon 2021

Sinopticon 2021

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Member Reviews

During my time progressing through the stories, the ideas discussed in the introduction permeated my mind. Was Chinese science fiction common knowledge? My first introduction to such a genre, as a second generation Chinese myself, was the concept of this very novel, just months back. I asked many of my friends and family - many of them avid readers - but not one of them knew or even believed such a thing existed.

I felt no disconnect due to the translation done. In fact, throughout the stories, Xueting Christine Ni's choice to keep many of the Chinese words in pinyin helped preserve the original cultural flavour. Each short story was immersive and their ideas refreshingly original. Reading through, the stories made me wish to read on and on, further from this book to explore the revealed world of Chinese fiction.
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Xueting has introduced an impressively succinct collection of Chinese fiction that have each earned their place in this novel. Each story is a demonstration of intrinsic Chinese culture that discuss events, identity and customs. 

These stories are varied but vastly entertaining. There are humorous space adventures and comedic apocalyptic tales. We go through cosmic exploration of the dead to time travelling choices. There are so many great authors here to devour and learn from. This is a stunning collection that has a story for every reader. This is a great introduction to a different perspective.
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A rarely done anthology! The stories were intriguing, all of them had a wonderful atmosphere; some may be more emotional and hard-hitting than others but they were still good plot-wise. My favorite was Rendezvous: 1937, that dash of historical fiction really got to me.  For some stories, the dialogue felt quite stiff, although I think that is a problem that comes with translated works.  

 I didn't expect this book to be heavy on myths, superstition, and philosophical themes (not only sci0fi); it was something I appreciated. A lot of these writers were also new to me and I am now very interested in their other works. This anthology truly explores how creative the human mind can be.

Full review to be posted on Goodreads and my blog closer to pub date.
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Thank you to Rebellion/Solaris and NetGalley for providing this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Actual rating 3.5⭐️.

I’m not very familiar with Chinese science fiction so this was a great starting place for me. It was very interesting to read fresh new takes on familiar concepts like time travel and technologically-enhanced humans, among many others, and in my opinion it proves that there are always new ways to interpret even the most supposedly ‘overdone’ concepts. I also enjoyed that this collection included stories from a wide range of time, rather than just the most recent ones.

There were two things that detracted from my enjoyment of these stories. Firstly, some of the writing was a bit clunky at times. Not having read these stories in the original language of course means that I am unsure if this was how they were originally written or if it was an issue with translation, but this sometimes made it difficult to stay engaged in the stories. 

Secondly, and this was the main one for me, almost every single story had either strong or subtle elements of misogyny. It would NOT be accurate or fair, and would actually be pretty racist, to put this down to a cultural difference, because I have read many recently published books by Western authors that contained the same or even greater levels of misogyny. I expect this when I’m going into stories written a few decades ago, but it was disappointing to read it in the more recent stories too. 

Overall though I found this to be an interesting collection of stories that raised a lot of intriguing thoughts and possibilities. I am especially glad to see more non-Western SFF being translated into English, and I very much hope that this continues!
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Sinopticon 2021 is a collection of 13 Chinese science fiction stories, exploring some of the most familiar and interesting aspects of the genre. Zombies, space travel, AI, and the traveller out of time are just a few of the topics covered in this collection. 

As with any collection of short stories from different authors, some I hated, some I loved. I disliked the strong emphasis on the importance of sex in 'The Return of Adam', and found 'Rendezvous: 1931' quite confusing. 'Cat’s Chance in Hell', however, was a wonderful, action-packed exploration of a soldier’s desperation to get home, and 'Flowers of the Other Side' was a beautiful and emotional interpretation of that old favourite, the zombie with a heart. I loved the introspection it offered and the duality it explored of compulsion and hope. That one will stay with me, in the best way, for some time.

Most of what I disliked about this collection, actually, were some of the more stereotypical depictions of women: the nagging wife, the buxom sure-thing. But the more creative exploratory aspects of some of these stories balanced this out. Overall, I enjoyed it, and would definitely seek out other stories by some of these authors, and other books edited by Xueting C. Ni. 

Rating:  ★★★★ ✰ 
Genre: Science Fiction
Would I recommend this? Yes
Would I read a sequel? Yes
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"Sinopticon 2021" is subtitled "A Celebration of Chinese Science Fiction" - and what a celebration it is! This a collection of 13 incredible stories that have been translated into English for the first time - and what a treat they are! Brilliant writing, great characters, fantastic plots - and imaginations to spark your own. Give us more Chinese sci-fi, please...

My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.
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3.5 stars

Sinopticon 2021 is a collection of short Chinese sci-fi stories. I was immediately intrigued with the premise, as I rarely get to read Chinese sci-fi (outside of the Three Body Problem trilogy), let alone shorter pieces. The stories take concepts of time (and perception of time), space travel, and AI and add a unique twist to them. As with all collections of short stories, there will be hits and misses, but in general, I enjoyed the ride. 

That said, it is difficult to rate an anthology, because not all stories will hit you the same way. 

I will say, however, that one thing that didn't work for me was the lack of character variation: the protagonists are mostly male, and women are often portrayed as either two-dimensional or oddly absent. There were some stories I didn't finish for these reasons, but as this is a collection of short stories, I could just skip to the next.

Here's a quick summary of the stories I finished:

"The Last Save" (最终档案): takes place in a world in which people can hit "save" on their lives and correct mistakes by simply deleting their files and continuing from the last save point. People who do this simply disappear from this existence. It throws into question the meaning of choices, consequences, and most of all, accountability. (5 stars)

"Tombs of the Universe" (宇宙墓碑): space travel is commonplace, and in a world where people no longer speak of the past, the main character is fascinated with graveyards—an outdated, ancient tradition. The writing was a bit too academic/philosophical for me, especially for a short story that does not have much room for blocks of info, but it may appeal to other readers for that reason. (3.5 stars)

"Qiankun and Alex" (乾坤和亚力): Qiankun is the global AI, and Alex is the child who grows up with it. In essence,  they learn from each other. It was a bit sad, a bit sweet, and in my opinion, too short. (5 stars)

"Cat's Chance in Hell" (九死一生): Joe is tasked with retrieving bright, blue liquid fuel from a military base, knowing full well his chances of surviving the mission are slim. The ideas were interesting—especially the role of humans in future armed combat—but some of the writing/translations were a bit confusing. Still pretty enjoyable, though. (4 stars)

"The Return of Adam" (亚当回归): a space shuttle returns after 202 years, and only one (brain) has survived. It started off strong, suffered a bit with info overload, but ultimately presented a "caveman-in-modern-times" scenario. I didn't quite connect to all of the story, but I liked the Chinese references. I'm glad there were footnotes at the end, lol (3.5 stars)

"Rendezvous 1937" (相聚在一九三七): an author writes a cat-and-mouse story involving time travel, where one character travels back to the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, and the other—disgusted by the implications of this type of touristic time travel—goes back to stop her. Through these fictional characters, the story sheds light on the horrors of the massacre and its ripples throughout time. (4.5 stars)

"The Heart of the Museum" (博物馆之心): this story is told from an alien POV who has come to Earth, passes off as human, and is tasked with taking care of a child. The alien experiences time differently—instead of sequential, past, present, and future happen all at once (think "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang). There's a delightful sense of disconnect as the alien watches the child play but sees the future he will create. (4 stars)

"Flower of the Other Shore" (彼岸花): I wasn't expecting a zombie apocalypse story in this collection, but this is about a "Stiff" who slowly regains memories of his past life. The main character tries to hold on to his humanity while his brain continues to rot. I do like how despite heavy themes, the zombies still had a sense of humor. Old Jim, bless his soul. (5 stars)

"The Absolution Experiment" (特赦实验): a deal is offered to a convict with a life sentence—an experiment with a 30% death rate. I won't lie, for one of the shorter stories in the collection, this one made me think for a while. (5 stars)

"The Tide of Moon City" (月见潮): correspondence between two students on different planets orbiting each other, one from Bizhe, the other from He'lin. It's leans a bit heavy on the "not like other girls" trope, which in my opinion was not handled well (for more details, check out my Goodreads review). The story outside of that was interesting, but I couldn't really connect to the characters. (2 stars)

Thank you to NetGalley and Rebellion Publishing for giving me a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Check out my Insta @k.e.rosero for more book spotlights and reviews!
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My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Rebellion for an advanced copy of this new science fiction anthology.

Science fiction as a genre is always looking at things in a new way. Steampunk, Hard Science, Space Opera, First Contact, Dystopian, everything can be changed, made new, made different or better, or ruined. Some stories are hopeful, some are doubtful, some are just straight reportage. However even dealing with the future or the different, a writer tends to call on their own background, education, culture, even race that defines to them what the future might or should be. That's why this collection Sinopticon edited and translated by Xueting Christine Ni is so well speculative and excellent. These stories, written by Chinese authors, offer ways of looking at the future with a new mindset and cultural understanding. 

The stories would have been lost to western readers which would be a shame as many are very good. The stories range in styles and ways they are presented, offering a broad selection of story types, classic sci-fi, to modern day kind of stories. Each story is followed by a essay detailing various explanations on translation and social nuances, and other things that might be lost on readers unfamiliar with China. 

The stories range from ok to brilliant. Tombs of the Universe and Flower of the Other Shore are both standouts, at least to me. I've been reading science fiction for quite a long time, and almost every anthology including the "Best Ofs" always have stories I would just pass over in a few pages of looking. In this collection if did not skip any. A truly excellent collection of stories.
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I havent read much sci fi from Chinese authors and so I was really excited to read this collection and i really enjoyed it. The stories were gripping, engaging and different from other sci fi that I have read. A great collection
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A good collection if you enjoy hard sci-fi with a classic vibe. While this wasn’t an enjoyable read for me personally, I fully recognize the literary and cultural value of a collection like this, and I would still recommend this unique anthology to avid sci-fi enthusiasts. The editor’s notes at the end of each story were a nice addition and often added valuable context to each story.
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Sinopticon is a collection of short science fiction stories written by Chinese writers. I honestly found them to be average and not extremely interesting. I would call myself a sci-fi fan and perhaps it is due to my lack of knowledge of Chinese history that the stories didn’t resonate with me.

I am going to try to give then another chance at a later time.
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Wow, I really really liked the short stories I was not able to finish my free digital download of this book, not because of the stories but just timing issue.  From the beautiful cover to the 1st 3 stories I read I knew this was a physical book I would be reading.  5 start on the stories I did read.  Loved getting to read sci-fiction from a different lense.  Can't wait to read the rest of the stories.
Thank you once again Netgalley for another fantastic book I might not have had a chance to read.  If you enjoy speculative fiction grab a copy.
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Wow, what a great sci-fi collection! I have read very little Chinese Sci-fi, but I thoroughly enjoyed every story. There were a lot of classic sci-fi themes, AI, zombies, memory wipes, zombies and time travel - but the Chinese flavour meant that what are often played out tropes all had something fresh and intriguing about them. I also liked the translator's notes and the footnotes explaining cultural idioms that might not be understood or translate well. Having read a lot of classic American and British sci-fi, it was really interesting to see the slightly different take on what are well-worn themes. I will be re-reading.
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An intriguing collection of 13 short stories which showcase modern Chinese science fiction. I liked how the chosen stories had retained elements of Chinese culture and how the editor used footnotes to explain terms which don't have direct English equivalents. The introduction and the notes for each piece were interesting and enthusiastic. I liked most of the stories and thought them well worth reading. One story, the final piece in the collection, really stood out for me and I'll always remember it.

'The Last Save' by Gu Shi is an ultimately uplifting story about dealing with consequences instead of obsessively reliving the same events.

'Tombs of the Universe' by Han Song is a mysterious story which engages with rites and traditions but was a little too academic for me at times.

'Qiankun and Alex' by Hao Jingfang is an optimistic exploration of how super-intelligent AI can improve by learning from children.

'Cat's Chance in Hell' in Nian Yu is an action-packed yet emotional thriller engaging with the ethics of clones used for military purposes.

'The Return of Adam' by Wang Jinkang is a hard SF story with ethics, evolution and romance.

'Rendezvous: 1937' by Zhao Haihong is an important and brutal time-travel story of the Nanjing Massacre.

'The Heart of the Museum' by Tang Fei is a philosophical story with an elegiac tone in the tradition of classic SF.

'The Great Migration' by Ma Boyong is set on Mars, a weary tale of bureaucracy and trying to beat the system.

'Meisje met de Parel' by Anna Wu is a beautifully-written unpredictable piece about art and AI.

'Flowers of the Other Shore' by A Que is a zombie pandemic story, not my kind of read so I had to skip.

'The Absolution Experiment' by Bao Shu is a short absurd piece about exploitation and criminal justice.

'The Tide of Moon City' by Regina Kanyu Wang is an emotional story of healing friendships but I wasn't keen on the academic theme.

'Starship: Library' by Jiang Bo is a fantastic epic journey of a fleet of library starships, which affirms the power of knowledge and demonstrates that we'll always need libraries.

Thank you to the publisher Rebellion for the advance copy via NetGalley.

[Note: This review will be on my blog, 3rd November 2021]
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A must have for any Sci-Fi reader. This collection of short stories promises till the beginning diversity and stays true to that promise. The authors belong to younger and older generations, they are male and female, new and established. The stories also vary from hard science fiction  to mild, from libraries that' travel beyond the milky way to. zombie apocalypse. They have in common a sence of optimism, even if everything seems doomed.
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Xueting brings to readers an impressive collection of short stories representing Chinese speculative fiction from the late 20th Century onwards. Each story has earned its place in the anthology and demonstrates the range of themes found in Kehuan (the Chinese term for science fiction).

An introductory essay places Chinese science fiction in a general context. Xueting explains that Chinese SF has been influenced by Western science fiction, but also contains elements intrinsic to Chinese identity, culture, and history. For each piece, there are notes about the author and the particular story. The notes discuss everything from translation considerations to events or cultural customs that might be unfamiliar to Western readers.

The result is varied and entertaining; slice-of-life stories mingle with whimsical galactic adventures and post-apocalyptic black comedy. Han Song's "Tombs of the Universe," for example, shows how humanity treats the remains of the dead in the age of cosmic exploration. In "The Last Save," by Gu Shi, technology gives people the option for rebooting their life, and unlimited memory allows them to correct any mistake by going back in time and making different choices.

There are many great stories here, but A Que's "Flowers of the Other Shore" is probably my favorite. Imagine a story about the zombie apocalypse told from the perspective of a zombie who, despite his urge to hurt people, has no desire to do so. It is excellent in every way. The writing style, the idea, the execution, the ending. I absolutely loved it. 

Another story I want to mention, Starship: Library by Jjang Bo, tackles the themes of artificial intelligence, the purpose of life and death, and the importance of learning. It somehow spoke to me on a deeply personal level. 

In its entirety, Sinopticon is a stunning collection. With such a wide variety of themes and tones, everyone should find something for themselves. Sinopticon is a must-read for readers who want to discover what science fiction looks like from an Asian perspective. Heck, it'll be a treat for any fan of sci-fi short stories! Highly, highly recommended.
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I enjoyed a few of these stories, but overall felt this was more classic Sci-Fi (which is more Futurism) and less of the Sci-Fi I really enjoy. I wish I had fallen in love with this, but I don't think it was my style. 

The translation in this was really good and I liked the notes and information given by the editor. 

I would definitely recommend this if you're a fan of Sci-Fi like Brave New World and also books in translation.
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• The Last Save by Gu Shi: 4/5
• Tombs of the Universe by Han Song: 3,5/5
• Qiankun and Alex by Hao Jingfang: 5/5 💖
• Cat’s Chance in Hell by Nian Yu: 4/5
• The Return of Adam by Wang Jinkang: 2,5/5
• Rendezvous: 1937 by Zhao Haihong: 4,5/5
• The Heart of the Museum by Tang  Fei: 4/5
• The Great Migration by Ma Boyong: 3.5/5
• Meisje met de Parel by Anna Wu: 4/5
• Flower of the Other Shore by A Que: 3,5/5
• The Absolution Experiment by Bao Shu: 3/5
• The Tide of Moon City by Regina Kanyu Wang: 4/5
• Starship: Library by Jiang Bo: 5/5 💖

I was so grateful for being able to read this before the release. I love science fiction and over the last couple of years, I’ve made my own project to read sci-fi stories beyond the American scope. One of my favorites so far has been Asian writers, but in special, Chinese science fiction. I’ve read some short stories and even novels from Chinese sci-fi writer’s before, so it’s a pleasure to read another collection. Xueting Christine Ni did a wonderful job selecting, translating and organizing this one. 

One thing I love about this collection it’s how original each story is. I don’t even think there’s a repeated theme in these stories. Sure, it’s science fiction, so some are in space, in the future or the past, some on Earth and other in Mars, but the essence in each story is quite unique, and portrait very well the signature of each writer. You can find the rating for each short story above (as well and the title and writer), but I won’t be speaking about each at large. Some stories, thought, just weren’t really my cup of tea. I’m insanely happy to be able to read more of Chinese sci-fi, which is still a growing genre in the motherland (as well as globally), and hopefully, there’s still a long way for them to go. My only criticism is towards the way some stories portrayed their female characters, and the fact that most of the stories didn’t even had one to begin with (I counted only four stories with female characters as the MC). I acknowledge my privilege as someone born and raised in the West, and I also understand that feminism over the East isn’t the same as ours. But I do hope that these writers can grow to write better, not only men, but also women.

If you like short stories collections, and it’s willing to give Chinese science fiction a go, I say go for this one. You’re probably gonna be surprised by it, and will definitely learn a thing or two about how Chinese people see their place in society right now, but also looking forward to the future.
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intriguing, bite-sized stories with a very classic sci-fi feel (Goodreads review link below) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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I really enjoyed this anthology. It was good, first, to get an idea of contemporary authors from China. I didn't love every story. I'm sure that's not even possible, but I did enjoy many of them. I found them to be as rich and full of plot as anything I've read from the west in Asimov's, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Analog, and Clarkesworld. 

A few of the stories that really stuck out to me were "Qiankun and Alex," which was the fun little story of friendship between an AI and a boy. It also teaches a lot about humanity in this story. I also enjoyed "Starship: Library" a great deal. It was a bit simplistic in terms of plot, but it was also rich in meaning. Finally, I enjoyed "The Last Save." It was a little mind-bendy in the best way.

These three are probably the ones I enjoyed the most, but I liked others as well. Overall...worth it!

Get a hold of this anthology. You'll enjoy it.
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