RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksChiang’s ongoing interest in questions of free will and determinism is the motif that emerges most strongly across this collection ... [His] stories are clearly philosophical thought experiments, they are also what we might call parables of the human condition, albeit without the didacticism this term might imply. Chiang’s stories are about choice and regret, about taking responsibility for one’s actions, about love, and about forgiveness, of oneself as much as of others ... brief notes at the end of the volume in which Chiang explains the occasions or ideas that motivated each story. His reflections significantly enhance the collection, providing, as they do, a brief insight into Chiang’s mind at work ... a ready-to-hand comparison that encapsulates his method is to think of his work as a prose version of ideas similar to those explored by the highly popular Black Mirror television series. Yet this comparison also does an injustice to Chiang’s work in that it might incline us to overlook the magnificent subtlety and nuance with which Chiang proceeds, in contrast to the often heavy-handed polemic of the series. This collection is a stunning achievement in speculative fiction, from an author whose star will only continue to rise.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThis Census-Taker is a book about what writing can accomplish, about what is enabled or erased by filtering the complexity of the world into representational forms. It is also a novel about trauma, and to some degree it is traumatizing to read — in a productive, provocative way ... The story’s sentences continuously slip between third- and first-person narrations, capturing a tension between the narrator’s intimate experience of the events in question and his complex (and traumatic) emotional distancing from these same events ... This Census-Taker asks us to transcend hope and hate, to open our eyes to the strange new world lying dormant within the ruins of the world we see around us, and to see what might emerge from beyond the realm of what can be counted.