…A button is invented that blinks precisely one second before its pressed. Nothing and no one can cheat the way it works, which proves that the universe is fundamentally deterministic. The human society collapses.
…A robot driven by pure curiosity starts picking himself apart in search of what makes him a person. If it’s not the pistons in his arms, nor the exchangeable lungs, nor the air from those lungs, nor the labyrinth of air tubules under his skull, and not the arrangement of a myriad golden leaves existing in a state of constant flux, then what?
…In a universe created by God some 5 thousand years ago—a scientific fact proven by primordial fossils from the period: ancient trees with no wood rings, mummies of people without a navel—a scientist experiences a crisis of faith when she finds out that Earth is not the center of this 5-thousand-year-old cosmos.
I don’t read short-form fiction often. But this collection of stories by Ted Chiang is something else entirely. Are they great short stories? Absolutely. But the collection adds up to more than the sum of its parts. It’s a foray into the land of brilliant and fascinating what-ifs; high-calorie food for thought; high-octane fuel for the imagination; a book you can’t help but recommend to everyone.
Seriously. Give it a read.
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