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Exhalation cover art

Exhalation

Written by: Ted Chiang
Narrated by: Edoardo Ballerini,Dominic Hoffman,Amy Landon,Ted Chiang
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Publisher's Summary

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR • Nine stunningly original, provocative, and poignant stories—two published for the very first time—all from the mind of the incomparable author of Stories of Your Life and Others

Tackling some of humanity’s oldest questions along with new quandaries only he could imagine, these stories will change the way you think, feel, and see the world. They are Ted Chiang at his best: profound, sympathetic, revelatory.

Ted Chiang tackles some of humanity’s oldest questions along with new quandaries only he could imagine.

In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In “Exhalation,” an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal. In “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom,” the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will.

©2019 Ted Chiang (P)2019 Random House Audio

What the critics say

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: THE NEW YORK TIMES • THE WASHINGTON POST • TIME MAGAZINE • NPR • ESQUIRE • VOX • THE A.V. CLUB • THE GUARDIAN • FINANCIAL TIMES • THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

“Lean, relentless, and incandescent.” —Colson Whitehead

“Illuminating, thrilling. . . . Like such eclectic predecessors as Philip K. Dick, James Tiptree, Jr., Jorge Luis Borges, Ursula K. Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, China Miéville, and Kazuo Ishiguro, Chiang has explored conventional tropes of science fiction in highly unconventional ways. . . . Individual sentences possess the windowpane transparency that George Orwell advocated as a prose ideal. . . . It is both a surprise and a relief to encounter fiction that explores counterfactual worlds like these with . . . ardor and earnestness. . . . Human curiosity, for Chiang, is a nearly divine engine of progress.”—Joyce Carol Oates, The New Yorker

“Delirious and exciting as hell . . . [Chiang’s] stories brim with wonder and horror, spectacle and mundanity, philosophy and religion. Tapping into a range of speculative traditions, from pulp and fantasy to the rigorous scientific accuracy of hard sci-fi and the popcorn thrills of soft sci-fi, his work has a profound richness.” —Stephen Kearse, The Nation

What listeners say about Exhalation

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    5 out of 5 stars

Delightful collection of thought-provoking stories

I really enjoyed listening to this collection of Ted Chiang stories. I have long appreciated Chiang's approach to storytelling, which is both emotionally sensitive and scientifically rigorous.

Some of these stories I have read before, but the appreciated them anew because of the strength of the performances here.

My only complaint about this particular audiobook is that the final story is mislabeled in the Audible player.

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Wow. Great Science Fiction

Ted Chiang is a fantastic writer. Each short story in this compendium is accompanied by a note from the author explaining how he was thinking when he wrote the story. The guy is brilliant. Love how he thinks.
Readers are great. Only a couple of annoying accents while reading. Well worth a listen. 9 stars out of 10.

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wonderful, thought provoking, richly imaginative

I start many more books than I finish. I am also one to read far more non-fiction than fiction. After some research around how to dip my toe into sci-fi, this book was recommended, and I am so thankful I got it! Each story is an incredible works of imagination, Chiang's mind creates vast, rich, compelling visions of the future. After each story I found myself exploring the moral implications and possibilities that were raised. There are several different readers. All but one are excellent. The female reader employs repetitive intonation, and her way of doing male voices was... at times comical and other times annoying. But the stories were enough to keep me going. Well worth the credit and the time!

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Wonderful Listen

The only problem with this collection is that there aren’t more stories! Ted Chiang is brilliant and the readers are easy to listen to. These stories can be listened to over and over and are great conversation starters as well.
Very happy to have this as part of my collection.

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Fantastic!!

In this compilation, you will find clever, interesting stories that are bound to captivate sci-fi lovers.

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Some fantastic ideas. Some stories could be shorter

I found a couple of the stories ran on a bit too long (especially the one about Digians) but there were some fantastic pieces in there as well, and even the overly long stories had interesting premises. Most of the narrators were similarly excellent.

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Super Stories that make you got hmmpf....

Outstanding, easily accessible stories that all many of the big questions of life. Make you think and question all you hold sacred and dear.....

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  • R
  • 2019-05-15

Masterful and singular

TC's stories will resonate and stick with you for years. They're often sophisticated concepts told through a human perspective of experience. Great writing, dialog, narration. As the stories unfold they fill you with wonder, horror and satisfaction alike.

To describe TC's work, I ask you to imagine the best of Twilight Zone and Stephen King, with the sci-fi concepts of Liu Cixin and Hannu Rajaniemi with a dash of China Mieville; Then experienced through the heart-rendering relatableness of Kazuo Ishiguro.

This collection and "Stories of your life..." are among the top 10 most recommended to friends and colleagues.

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  • ruddyadam
  • 2019-05-14

A surprisingly transcendent listening experience

So this collection of stories, all narrated by a different reader (I think!), we're done expertly and are each followed by an author's note presented by Ted Chiang himself - a nice touch that closes each story well, and gives you a moment to decompress.

I really loved the writing of each of these stories because they are undeniably sci-fi, yet they don't try to wow you with the mystifying tech or ideas presented within, even though there is plenty of that to be had.

Instead, in this case, Ted Chiang uses the genre as a canvas by which these introspective, thought- provoking tales are brought to life before the reader.

It is a rare pleasure to truly be lost in a story, when in the telling, there is not a thought of the author, or the writing, or the narrator, but simply just a wonderful story as it unfolds before you. And in the listening of Exhalation, that is exactly where I found myself.

I am now a huge Ted Chiang fan. 10/10 will read again.

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  • Jeff Koeppen
  • 2019-09-05

Excellent collection of short stories

Ted Chiang can write a short story. This is a great collection, and I enjoyed it much more than his prior short story collection. The only complaints I had were I thought one of the stories was too long and the narration of another story bothered me. My take on the stories:

The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate: a deep, layered, time travel story. Just great. 5*

Exhalation: a mechanical being examines itself and its world. Perfect. 5*

What's Expected of Us: free will hijinks. A mind bender with a great ending. 4*

The Lifecycle of Software Objects: what if AI had human emotions, could learn and grow up over the years, and even be transferred in to robotic suits to interact with us? I thought this one was a bit too long. Great concept. 3*

Dacey's Patent Automatic Nanny: what if we had machines to take care of children, and what would happen if they became attached to them? Creepy goodness. 4*

The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling: two stories - one of a young person in a far away land being taught to read by a missionary - we see the ramifications of his new literacy; the other set in a near future where people can view uploaded memories of their lives. The memories in our heads may safer than the real events they are based on. 4*

The Great Silence: my favorite story in the collection. The title refers to our search for intelligent life in the universe. Short but affecting. 10*

Omphalos: life in a world where creationism is true. 4*

Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom: people are able to communicate with other versions of themselves in alternate universes using gadgets called "prisms". Really cool premise. Another long story but worth the investment. The narrator's male voices in this story were a distraction which took away from the story for me. (She also narrated The Lifecycle of Software Objects and Omphalos). 4*

The author also included "author's notes" for each story which he read himself. Chiang is a smart fellow and it was interesting to hear where he got his inspiration for each story.

I'm looking forward to his next collection!

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  • Ocean State Prime
  • 2019-09-18

Like most short story collections, uneven

A couple gems in this collection and some I felt were stinkers. The really long one about the lives of digital creatures I found to be uninteresting; I can't remember now if I even stuck it out to the end of it. Reader quality also is uneven.

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  • H. Lindsley
  • 2019-08-05

Not nearly as good as Stories of Our Lives

I did not like nearly as many stories in this as I did Stories of Our Lives and Others. Exhalation and Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom are definitely amazing stories, and the narrator was amazing for Exhalation and the first story about the alchemist. They change the narrator, however, and she does not differentiate her voice for male characters so I have no idea who is talking at some points.

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  • diego
  • 2019-05-12

thought provoking and very entertaining

Ted Chiang is a master of combining relevant technological and philosophical events and ideas with wonderfully realistic fiction

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  • Jonathan Jordan
  • 2019-05-08

A Long Wait for a Rare Display.

Chiang pens unique stories with perfect prose. This collection rivals his last. He and Jorge Luis Borges are unmatched. I waited a long time for these stories and I was not disappointed.

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  • D. Simons
  • 2019-08-06

Excellent stories. Mixed reading.

The stories and author comments were wonderful. I found Amy Landon’s reading style hard to listen to, unfortunately. That might just be a personal preference.

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  • Eric
  • 2019-08-06

Mostly great stories and narration

Hoffman and Ballerini are fantastic narrators of great stories, and I was engaged from start to finish of their chapters. However, Amy Landon's stiff and awkward performance detracted from the experience of the other stories, to the point that I had to skip them entirely.

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  • Joe G.
  • 2019-05-10

Spectacular! (seriously)

This is a stellar collection of thoughtful, creative SF stories. I know of no other collection I'd more highly recommend.

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  • Jean M.
  • 2022-10-20

Smartest author

I really loved the book and the reader. The stories are so smart. It’s shedding a new light on science fiction by focusing on the psychological effects and characters instead of on the science of the story.

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  • Shinymonday
  • 2022-03-24

Really good

Listened to the stories while driving. I didn't feel the time pass, and it sparked nice conversations with my friends afterwards.
The choice of voices is really good. Definitely recommend.

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