Ted Chiang is an incredible author, and the depth of his imagination is astounding. Throughout his career, Chiang’s books have won four Nebula Awards, four Hugo Awards, etc. All of his stories in Exhalation are science fiction, and they are all super thought provoking and interesting. After recently reading the Three Body Problem series, I have high expectations for science fiction novels; Exhalation definitely met these expectations, and I am really glad I read this book.
My favorite stories from this book were “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom” and “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”. The first story goes into detail about a world with parallel universes, and there are devices that show people their other selves in these universes. While they cannot give their other selves money or resources, they have the capability to talk and communicate; also, many people enjoy watching how they turned out in an alternate universe. It is an incredibly interesting concept, and I would love to see how this would play out if such technologically existed in real life. This is the last story in Exhalation, but it was probably my personal favorite.
“The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” takes place in a world where people have the ability to record their entire lives in video. Once these videos are taken, a software called Remem (similar to Google) processes these videos and sifts through your memories at your convenience. This means that everyone in the world has a photographic memory, and there can never be any debate about what actually occurred. The danger in having this technology is that memory becomes just a concept. Chiang talks about how in the real world, people can distort memories to their liking after a certain period of time; however, with Remem available, people will be able to remember everything in perfect detail, good or bad. This opens up a lot of questions, and it is an incredibly interesting topic to explore.
Overall, I would highly recommend that everyone reads Exhalation, and it was a fantastic book. If you are a science fiction fan, this book should be at the top of your reading list!
Exhalation Recommendation Rating: 3
1: Something worth checking out if you have time
2: Something that is a hit for some people, but not a must for everyone
3: Something worth prioritizing if interested
4: Something worth making time to check out
5: An absolute home run, worth going out of your way for