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Book Review

Book Cover

Broken Stars (Hardback)


Authors: Various
Edited and Translated by: Ken Liu
Publisher: Head of Zeus
RRP: £18.99
ISBN: 978 1 78854 810 6
Publication Date: 07 February 2019

Chinese science fiction is seeing a real surge in its popularity, from films like The Wandering Earth, based on a book by Liu Cixin, with production values which are a direct challenge to Hollywood’s prominent position, to the many translated stories which are hitting the shelves.

Broken Stars (2019. 479 pages) is an anthology of sixteen short stories, edited and translated by Ken Liu. Liu is a Chinese/American writer who won the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award for his short story, 'The Paper Menagerie', he has gone on to be a multi award winner and respected translator and anthologist.

I had intended to write a few paragraphs about the history of Chinese science fiction, but this endeavour is moot as the anthology already contains three excellent essays. 'A Brief History of Chinese Science Fiction' by Regina Kanyu Wang, 'A New Continent for Chinese Scholars: Chinese Science Fiction Studies', by Mingwei Song and 'Science Fiction: Embarrassing No More', by Fei Dao. Between the three of them they pretty much cover all the background information you might be looking for.

Liu, in his introduction, admits that he has chosen stories which either interested him or resonated long after they had been read. This is a viable way of choosing stories, often used in the construction of anthologies. That is not to say that it is not also representative of some of the best writers around today. Of the three most prominent writers today, both Han Song and Liu Cixin are represented, but there is no Wang Jiankang.

The interesting thing is what can be said to be characterised, by this anthology, as a reflection of Chinese science fiction. This is not the right question. Neither American nor European or Russian science fiction can be reduced to a cultural normative.

There are some tropes which have transcended borders like space/time travel and robots, but while such tropes will connect more easier with a western audience, there is also an interesting dynamic from the younger writers, who finds themselves looking both back into their cultural legacy while looking out towards a new world view modernity. The dialectic is likely to produce some interesting literature.


Charles Packer

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