cover image To Hold Up the Sky

To Hold Up the Sky

Cixin Liu, trans. from the Chinese by various translators. Tor, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-30608-1

These 11 stories, taken from the beginning of Liu’s career in the early 2000s when, per his introduction, “sci-fi was still a very marginal pursuit in China,” offer an innovative and compassionate look at how knowledge shapes and changes humanity. Liu (The Three Body Problem) grounds his tales in contemporary Chinese life and society, using the sci-fi genre to tackle questions about humanity’s place in the universe. “The Village Teacher” (trans. by Adam Lanphier) starts off the collection on a strong humanistic note, as one teacher’s dying lesson to his students saves the galaxy. Other standouts include “Ode to Joy” (trans. by Joel Martinsen), in which a space mirror uses the sun as an instrument to play a symphonic history of the universe; “Contraction” (trans. by John Chu), which brilliantly plays with form to create the effect of time flowing backward; and “The Thinker” (also translated by Chu), which convincingly links neuroscience and astrophysics. Though the science will be too technical for some casual readers, Liu’s gift for juxtaposing long passages of exposition with emotional moments and beautiful imagery makes this a must have for readers of hard science fiction. (Oct.)