Updated: Feb 3, 2022
"This celebration of Chinese Science Fiction — thirteen stories, all translated for the first time into English — represents a unique exploration of the nation’s speculative fiction from the late 20th Century onwards, curated and translated by critically acclaimed writer and essayist Xueting Christine Ni."
Sinopticon 2021: A Celebration of Chinese Science Fiction is a sci-fi anthology compiled and translated by Xueting Christine Ni.
First and foremost, I would like to thank NetGalley and Solaris for sending me a copy for review. Please note that this in no way affects my opinions. Also, note that what I received was an ARC, and things may be subject to change for the final copy.
Anthologies are always a bit complicated to read and review because more often than not you get a mixed bag of stories. Some stories you like while others you don't really care for. That is the case for this book as well. About half of the stories I glossed over because they just didn't pique my interest, but there were some that I found to be rather interesting.
Overall, if you want to diversify your sci-fi reading by reading stories by Chinese authors you might not have heard of then I would suggest that you give this a try. As someone who is not of Asian descent, I did feel a bit lost while reading this because I was not clued in on the cultural and historical aspects of the stories.
As this is also translated into English, some words can't be translated and while there are endnotes explaining the meaning because it was at the end and not a footnote, I had to go through the entire story without knowing what it meant. It is kind of unavoidable that you miss out on something when reading a translated novel. What I did appreciate though was that in the endnotes, the author talks about the author of the story and the meaning of it and her own impression of it.
As this is a collection of stories, in order to talk about each individual story I am going to have to go into spoilers. If you don't want to know what each story is about and my impression of them, you can stop reading here.
WARNING - THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS - PROCEED WITH CAUTION
The Last Save by Gu Shi
This gave me very strong Black Mirror and Altered Carbon vibes except this one had a happy ending. It gave me those vibes because in the period of time this takes place in, people can save the moments they experience and go back in time to previous saves. A personal time machine more or less. I thought this was okay but I wasn't particularly excited about it because I felt like I had read it before.
Tombs of the Universe by Han Song
While the story fell a bit flat for me, this hits a sweet spot with me because it involves archaeology. I minored in archaeology and took a class on ancient burials so I enjoyed it to an extent because of that alone. It is interesting to think of how burial practices will change in the future. It does bring up an awkward area of archaeology because of the fact that archaeologists more or less dig up people who were laid to rest...
Qiankun and Alex by Hao Jingfang
This was a very short story that follows a boy and a robot who teaches kids about anything and everything. The story was about nurturing a child's psychology and creativity according to the author's endnotes, but because this was so short, I wasn't able to take anything away from this.
Cat's Chance In Hell by Nian Yu
This story explores the exploitation of human love to create destruction. This one I liked because war and robots always seem to work for me. It is something that would fit perfectly in Love, Death and Robots or is for fans of Murderbot.
The Return of Adam by Wang Jinkang
I am going to be honest here, this story went in one ear and right out the other. It didn't have an impact on me and I barely remember it already at the time I am writing this review.
Rendevous: 1937 by Zhai Haihong
I didn't make the connection while reading the story that this was about the Massacre of Nanjing. I did know about that event but in the moment it didn't click which may have impacted my reading experience. I do think that this is a valuable read because it focuses on actual historical events that were egregious. I may not be able to connect to the story because I am not part of the culture that experienced this, but you can still feel the pain and distraught this event caused in this.
The Heart of the Museum by Tang Fei
Seeing museum in the title got my hopes up, but this was too short to give me any substance really.
The Great Migration by Ma Boyong
A simple concept of people trying to leave Mars to get to Earth in massive waves, but it was a concept that was executed well. It is interesting to see how it has parallels to China as people do this every year to go home for big cultural events.
Meisje Met De Parel by Anna Wu
This is about the beauty of art but I was kind of confused about this because of the sci-fi element so my enjoyment level of this wasn't very high.
Flower of the Other Shore by A Que
This gave me strong Warm Bodies vibes as this isn't your traditional zombie story. The ending threw me off a bit, but it was a solid story. It is also a reminder that even in a zombie story, humans are always the real monsters.
The Absolution Experiment by Bao Shu
There are broad overarching themes in this story, but what I got from this was that it was an interesting take on a revenge story. Orson goes to great lengths to get revenge against the man who killed 85 people including who I assume was his lover, Lisa. He creates a contract that would grant the killer immortality and would thus keep him imprisoned forever.
The Tide of Moon City by Regina Kanyu Wang
An interesting take on romance, but I couldn't connect with the motivations of the characters and their story. This is also a re-interpretation of a legend, which made me feel disconnected from the story because I didn't know the legend.
Starship: Library by Jiang Bo
This is an interesting take on knowledge in a growing technological age. I love books but the convenience of having knowledge at your fingertips is great when you love learning. I also rely on ebooks and audiobooks since physical books strain my eyes...