Broken Stars, edited by multi award-winning writer Ken Liu, is his second thought-provoking anthology of Chinese short speculative fiction. Some of the included authors are already familiar to readers in the West, and some are publishing in English for the first time. Besides stories firmly entrenched in subgenres familiar to Western SFF readers such as hard SF, cyberpunk, science fantasy, and space opera, the anthology also includes stories that showcase deeper ties to Chinese culture: alternate Chinese history, chuanyue time travel, satire with historical and contemporary allusions that are likely unknown to the average Western reader.
...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.