The two collections, published seventeen years apart, both demonstrate Chiang’s ability to subtly weave very human stories using the mechanics of traditional science-fiction tropes. Yes, there are aliens and teleportation devices, time machines and androids, and artificial intelligence but these are just tools used to tell something of the human experience.
Dr. Dorothea Morrell’s world is one in which the existence of god is an accepted fact with which all branches of science agree. Biology, physics, chemistry and archaeology all point to the fact that the world was created little more than eight millennia ago.
But when Nathan McCullough, the director of the Museum of Natural Philosophy, reveals a scientific paper that could shatter faith of mankind and the religious foundation of the scientific method, Dr. Morrell is at first sceptical but ultimately has her faith shaken to destruction.
I don’t remember how I came to buy Exhalation by Ted Chiang. It was likely the result of a late night, gin fuelled dive through the depths of some obscure subreddit which led me to pre-order a novel I’d never heard of by an author about whom I knew nothing. However it happened, last week a copy of Ted Chiang’s latest novel dropped onto my door mat and I managed, with relative success, to convience my wife that in fact Ted Chiang is one of my favourite writers. I had no clue who he was.