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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

‘The Hidden Girl And Other Stories’
by Ken Liu
Blog Tour Review

I have to be up front with you and admit that science fiction and fantasy are definitely not my most favourite of genres, so when I was approached by Amber at Midas PR, with the request for a review of this book, I gave great thought as to whether I was going to be the best person for the job. However, due to the rather tight Blog Tour time schedule for a full read and review and given my admission about the book’s storyline, Amber and I agreed a compromise that I might possibly read a small selection of the stories and see how I got on with that.

How surprised and how totally wrong could I have been about what to expect from my albeit reduced reading from the collection. This is a book I shall be dipping in and out of often, until I have read all the stories!

This is a lovely compact Blog Tour, with a couple of stops each day, so plenty of opportunity to visit other sites and check out the stories from a different perspective! Thanks also go out to the teams at Saga Press and NetGalley

THE HIDDEN GIRL AND OTHER STORIES

Cover Image for 'The Hidden Girls' by author Ken LiuFrom award-winning author Ken Liu comes his much anticipated second volume of short stories.

Ken Liu is one of the most lauded short story writers of our time.

This collection includes a selection of his science fiction and fantasy stories from the last five years — sixteen of his best — plus a new novelette.

In addition to these seventeen selections, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories also features an excerpt from book three in the Dandelion Dynasty series, The Veiled Throne.

KEN LIU

Image of author Ken LiuKen Liu is an American author of speculative fiction. He has won the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards, as well as top genre honours in Japan, Spain, and France, among other countries.

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Ken worked as a software engineer, corporate lawyer, and litigation consultant. He frequently speaks at conferences and universities on a variety of topics, including futurism, cryptocurrency, history of technology, bookmaking, the mathematics of origami, and other subjects of his expertise.

Ken has also translated several works of Chinese science fiction and currently lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

Keep up to date with all Ken’s news on his website

Connect with Ken on Facebook

Follow Ken on Twitter

“A good story cannot function like a legal brief, which attempts to persuade and lead the reader down a narrow path suspended above the abyss of unreason. Rather, it must be more like an empty house, an open garden, a deserted beach by the ocean. The reader moves in with their own burdensome baggage and long-cherished possessions, seeds of doubt and shears of understanding, maps of human nature and baskets of sustaining faith. The reader then inhabits the story, explores its nooks and crannies, rearranges the furniture to suit their taste, covers the walls with sketches of their inner life, and thereby makes the story their home.”

Cover Image for 'The Hidden Girls' by author Ken Liu

Short extracts and memorable lines from the four short stories I sampled

Cover Image for 'The Hidden Girls' by author Ken Liu

GHOST DAYS

“What’s the point of studying dead computer languages, anyway?” Ona said ….. “We study classical languages to acquire the habits of mind of the ancients,” Ms. Coron said. “You must know where you came from.” ….. Ona knew she should shut up, but-just like the recursive calls in Ms. Coron’s diagram had to return up the call stack- she couldn’t keep down Loudmouth Ona. “I know where I came from: I was designed on a computer, grown in a vat, and raised in the glass nursery with the air from outside pumped in.”

.

“I’m not my father,” she said. “And you’re not your parents. Family is a story that is told to you, but the story that matters the most you must tell yourself.”

.

“The images she had seen went through her mind again and again. Sometimes understanding comes to you not through thought, but through this throbbing of the heart, this tenderness in the chest that hurts.”

.

“Parents fear to be forgotten, to not be understood by their children.”

.

“She would show them how she now understood that digging into the past was an act of comprehension, an act of making sense of the universe.”

Cover Image for 'The Hidden Girls' by author Ken Liu

Cover Image of the book 'Thoughts and Prayers' by author Ken Liu

THOUGHTS and PRAYERS

“Without you having to do anything, the phone brackets the shot so that you can pretend to time travel, to pick the perfect instant when everyone is smiling.  Skin is smoothed out; pores and small imperfections are erased. What used to take my father a day’s work is now done in the blink of an eye, and far better. Do the people who take these photos believe them to be reality? Or have the digital paintings taken the place of reality in their memory? When they try to remember the captured moment, do they recall what they saw, or what the camera crafted for them?”

.

“Pictures are important,” I’d tell them. “Our brains are so flawed, leaky sieves of time. Without pictures, so many things we want to remember would be forgotten.”

.

“So Abigail went, lifted the sheet, and gazed upon the wreckage of Hayley, of our life. She took pictures, too. “This I also want to remember,” she mumbled. “You don’t turn away from your child in her moment of agony, in the aftermath of your failure.”

.

“I screamed, I sobbed, I sought help. No therapy, no medication worked. Finally, in a numb fury, I deleted all my digital files, shredded my printed albums, broke the frames hanging on walls. The trolls trained me as well as they trained my armor. I no longer have any images of Hayley. I can’t remember what she looked like. I have truly, finally, lost my child. How can I possibly be forgiven for that?”

Cover Image for 'The Hidden Girls' by author Ken Liu

MEMORIES OF MY MOTHER

“I was on a very long trip,” she said. “The ship went so fast that time slowed down inside. It felt like only three months.” Dad had already explained it all to me: this was how she would cheat time, stretch out her two years so that she could watch me grow up….

.

“I got to see less of you than most mothers, but also more.”

Cover Image for 'The Hidden Girls' by author Ken Liu

THE HIDDEN GIRLS

“We’re all thieves in this world of suffering,” the nun says. “Honor and faith are not virtues, only excuses for stealing more.”

“I want to hone my talent so that it shines brightly, terrorizing the unjust and lighting the way for those who would make the world better. I will protect the innocent and guard the timid. I do not know if I will always do what is right, but I am the Hidden Girl, and my loyalty is to the tranquillity yearned by all.”

Cover Image for 'The Hidden Girls' by author Ken Liu

MY REVIEW

“I am the Hidden Girl, and my loyalty is to the tranquillity yearned by all.”

I decided that the opening story of the book Ghost Days, would be an automatic choice, as would The Hidden Girls, from which the book takes its title. The other two stories were picked totally at random, and if I am being completely honest, based solely on the fact that neither had titles which sounded too obviously science fiction or fantasy oriented.

Each of the stories I feature, were strong and totally engaging; intriguing and very thought provoking. I don’t know if it was a sheer coincidence, but all my choices had strong women as their central characters, although all the storylines were well rounded and written with an even hand.

Each story had a stand out theme and moral, relevant to modern day life, although all took me to dark places, which were chilling and ominous in their reality and their implications for the future of humanity itself.

Spanning multiple timelines, the stories touched on the legacy of our inherited memories and heritage and how we should strive and fight to retain them and their imparted knowledge, for as long as we possibly can, with the warning that humanity’s belief in itself as a transformational species, is flawed beyond repair.

All the stories were tinged with a melancholy air and for me personally, the epithet that nobody walks the earth, or any other sphere, totally trouble free. Hence none had a particularly happy ending and with unwritten prophecies, which were chilling in their implications.

As short stories, each one of my selection, with their diverse and complex themes, felt remarkably and satisfyingly complete, written as they were, by an author supremely confident enough in his ability and self-imposed high standards, to cross the genre divide at will and who does so with such consummate ease, that I didn’t even notice it had happened.

As only a very occasional short story reader, I was hooked by Ken Liu’s natural range of storytelling abilities and his often provocative characters, who I found myself both sympathising and empathising with, almost from the first time they spoke, such were the powerful connections made by Ken with his characters and his characters with one another. His thought provoking narrative and dialogue, played on many of my emotions and his lapidary prose and use of language, were a joy to immerse myself in.

I shall definitely be revisiting the book, as and when my schedule permits, to finish reading the other stories in the collection, confident that my experience with the science fiction and fantasy elements of Ken’s writing, won’t reinforce my previous reluctance to embrace them as part of my future regular reading journey.

“What makes reading so wonderful, is that every reader takes a different journey!”

Image of author Ken Liu

Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract 4 out of 5 stars.

Image of the Blog Tour banner for the book 'The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, by author Ken Liu

 

 

 

 

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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6 comments
  • You make this sound very appealing, Yvonne, as does the description early on about what a story should be (empty house, open garden, etc.). I do enjoy science fiction and also like short stories. However, my last outing in that direction ended up being a big disappointment. I think I shall have to check this out more closely. It has a lovely cover!

    • Hi Kelly,

      From someone who isn’t a fan of either science fiction, fantasy, or short stories, I have to say that I really enjoyed this collection (I have read one more story since I wrote my review).

      I do think it is very much down to the author in this particular case though, as he is a real wordsmith and knows just how to capture the readers attention.

      Well worth checking out 🙂

  • Not easy to read outside your natural genre so all power to your elbow for giving it a go, Yvonne. I hope you enjoy the rest of the stories as you make your way through them.

    • Hi Cath,

      Reading and engaging with this book was much easier than I had anticipated, but I am guessing that was all because of Ken Liu’s excellent characterisations, storylines and style of writing.

      I am definitely never going to become a convert to the genres, as science-fiction is often too difficult for me to engage with, whilst fantasy is too abstract, making both of them quite hard to enjoy fully!

      Thanks for taking the time to check the post out though, I do still thoroughly recommend this book 🙂

  • I think its good to step out of our comfort zone every now and then. However I’m with you on the dilemma faced when asked to share your thoughts on a book that’s of a genre you don’t typically read so I like the compromise you came to.

    Not a fan of short stories nor, generally speaking, sci-fi/fantasy but that said, never say never, there are several aspects of these stories (a strong female protagonist as the central character, that each of the stories had a moral, etc) that really appeal to me.

    • Hi Felicity,

      I really connected with the fact that each of the stories had a strong human moral to it, which wasn’t so obscure that I couldn’t easily recognise it for what it was and engage with it!

      Short stories never really resonate with me and I don’t generally find them particularly satisfying to read. I would have quite liked Ken to expand on some of the themes he tackled, but on the whole I found that he managed to say everything needed in the few pages he had allocated for each story.

      Having said all that, I am never likely to become a convert to reading science fiction, fantasy, or short stories on a regular basis. In fact I have only today, had to politely refuse the same PR company, who offered me the opportunity to review one of their new full-length sci-fi novels!

      Thanks for visiting today and I hope that you have some great reading planned for March 🙂

Written by Yvonne
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