Ken Liu – The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories.


I’m a latecomer to the wonderful world of Ken Liu. I first heard about him last year when Booktuber David Yoon (aka The Poptimist) reviewed Liu’s collection of short stories, The Paper Menagerie. A few weeks later I came across the aforementioned book at my local bookstore, bought it, placed it in the TBR pile and picked the title out of the jar two weeks ago.

When I read a short story collection, I found out that it is better if I focus on one story a day as I feel that I have a day to think about them. Call it silly but it works for me. The Paper Menagerie got the same treatment.

Ken Liu is the type of writer who can easily make other authors jealous. The guy is creative. Each of these stories explode with new ideas. Not only that but Liu then manages to fuse Chinese history into his short stories so you become smarter after reading his stories.

As an example take The Literomancer, which concerns a girl moving from the States to China. She meets an old man who can predict the feelings of a person by isolating the characters in Chinese language. In the meantime we get a glimpse of the old man’s past under pre cold war China and a snapshot of the girl’s present, in where her father works in a department that specialise in torturing spies. It’s effortless.

The title story is another example: A half Chinese/American boy keeps the origami toys that his Chinese mother makes for him, but as he grows older he becomes ashamed of his heritage and tries to adopt American habits until he realises the significance of those origami animals. In a mere 50 pages the reader learns about cultural differences through the metaphor of a famous oriental hobby. Genius!

There are more astounding stories: The Black Mirroresque Perfect Match and Simulacrum. There’s the evolutionary tale The Waves, which will tug at those tear ducts. The modern fairy tale, Good Hunting and Liu manages to wriggle in a sci fi detective story (The Regular)

I also found out that Ken Liu has written the first two volumes of a trilogy. I guess that I should read them. Right?