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December 2022: Exhalation

Updated: Dec 2, 2022



Order the book through your local bookstore, online, or check your local library for digital and physical loans.


Here are contextual links for the book and author.

Guiding questions:

  • How is scientific and technological progress a force for good in these stories? How is it harmful?

  • Several of the stories in this collection raise questions about free will. How much free will do these characters possess? Can free will be redefined when new technologies challenge the very concept?

  • The longest story in this collection, “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” raises questions about loneliness, connection, and virtual realities/communities. Have you taken part in virtual communities or realities? How did you feel when these technologies became out of date?

  • Some of the stories in the collection explore memory. What does it mean to forget? And what would it mean to never be able to forget? What effect does revisiting memories and interrogating them have on our mental health?

  • Chiang uses a variety of writing styles to tell these stories (“The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” uses the story within a story framework reminiscent of The Arabian Nights; “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny” reads like a brochure ad). How do these variations in style affect your experience of these stories?

  • What are other themes and patterns you observed in this collection? What felt most resonant?

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