...a collection that’s just as surprising, exciting, and engrossing as the first ... Liu is almost supernaturally great at sharing stories that are, if nothing else, memorable—and, in most cases, that are also clever and strange, lyrical and addictive ... Broken Stars takes a significantly broader look at Chinese science fiction than its predecessor did, with over a dozen authors represented. Not every story will click with every reader, but a few standouts will captivate all but the crankiest of readers ... As was the case with Invisible Planets, Broken Stars seems geared to those English-readers who have only recently glimpsed all that Chinese science fiction can offer. And—also like its predecessor—Broken Stars has already made me want to read more work from its authors, and cross my fingers that Liu has another Chinese science fiction anthology in the works.
... even readers who have encountered some of these stories before will be excited to see them once again, this time shoulder-to-shoulder with newly translated and brilliant stories ... The lovely and richly imagined 'Under a Dangling Sky' and 'The Robot Who Liked to Tell Tall Tales' (Fei Dao) brilliantly mix magical realism and science fiction to create a new kind of evocative subgenre. And then there’s Chen Qiufan’s superbly written and intense story 'A History of Future Illnesses,' which chronicles imaginary future ailments caused by excessive use of technology ... Qiufan’s story deftly jumps from one disease to another like a doctor writing clinical narratives of patients with whom he’s quite familiar. Qiufan’s bold, elastic narrative style is endlessly engaging. Without Ken Liu’s translations, let’s remember, us anglophone readers wouldn’t have these stories in the first place. Broken Stars, like Invisible Planets before it, is indeed a praiseworthy accomplishment and a gift for all readers.
It took a lot longer...for American SF anthologists to reach the kind of gender parity that Liu’s selections here represent ... the contributors here may not show much interest in outer space or other traditional SF tropes, but they seem fascinated with questions of time and consciousness ... Some of the other stories reflect the blurring of genre and mainstream boundaries that has been increasingly common in much short fiction worldwide ... Liu’s translation skills, in a couple of instances in collaboration with Carmen Yiling Yan, manage to effectively convey a myriad of distinctive voices without ever ironing over the differences or compromising the readability of the whole. There are no doubt things that readers like myself will be missing in terms of cultural allusions and Chinese imaginative tradition...but the seams barely show, and the result is a very stimulating selection that isn’t quite like any other SF anthology, and that, in the best ways, isn’t quite not, either.
The volume gives voice to an eclectic group, serving as a who’s who of SF authors, critics, and other anchors in China’s burgeoning SF culture industry brought to Anglophone audiences by Ken Liu’s deft translation. The eclecticism of these works provides testament to the breadth, allure, and challenges of Chinese-language SF as a genre that miraculously thrives even in the repressive atmosphere of the Xi Jinping era ... The best stories in the collection, aside from evoking the marvelous future of worlds far from us, also evoke the most vexing aspects of our shared present. The Chinese have a word for this: chaohuan, or hyperrealism — the notion that reality in contemporary China is so bafflingly jarring as to exceed the limits of literary realism. To my mind, this phenomenon is not limited to the People’s Republic of China, and the best stories in the collection take aim at a globally familiar strain of technocratic state capitalism and its ability to worm into people’s conscious and subconscious ... If forced to rate it, I’d give it 4.5 broken stars. I am also wary of analogies proclaiming any of these authors to be China’s Arthur C. Clarke, William Gibson, Philip K. Dick, or Franz Kafka, as this reduces them to Chinese knockoffs of the real thing, but readers of the collection will surely see these resonances. These authors all deserve to be read on their own terms, and while the best of them will surely remind readers of many of the above giants, all of these stories strike me as evidence of a shifting geopolitical landscape and an evolving SF selective tradition, transforming the genre in their own unique ways.
...wonderful ... here is a good mix of well-established authors and new voices. The former comes in the form of Cixin, whose 'Moonlight' is wry and sardonic. In it, the central character is visited by future versions of himself, asking him to intervene and change Earth’s catastrophic energy policies. Each intervention makes things worse, however, in a tightly plotted and darkly humorous tale. Another experienced writer is Han Song, whose two stories demonstrate his range wonderfully ... Among the newer voices, 'Under a Dangling Sky' by Cheng Jingbo is a standout story, a seductive piece of futuristic fantasy that blends eastern and western myths and legends into something compelling and new.
While the styles on show are disparate, one thread that links many stories is the way they engage intelligently with Chinese myths and history. Similarly, many tackle the current political and cultural situations in their home country through the lens of speculative fiction, and overall this book gives a wonderful insight into the worldview and imagination of its smart and thoughtful writers.
In this rewarding anthology, Liu continues the objective he pursued in Invisible Planets...introducing readers to 16 contemporary science fiction stories translated from the Chinese, seven for the first time. Selections range in tone from the whimsicality of Chen Qiufan’s 'Coming of the Light,' about an advertising firm whose campaign to merge technology with religion goes awry, to the poignant drama of Xia Jia’s 'Goodnight, Melancholy,' a meditation on what it means to be human that’s inspired by AI research and the computation experiments of Alan Turing. The book’s most provocative stories offer variations on the time travel theme ... Three essays on Chinese science fiction’s history and development further enlighten Western readers, who will be very excited by these outstanding works.