Exhalation by Ted Chiang

A Hugo-award nominated story from the anthology Eclipse Two.

“And now for something quite extraordinary. If you’re looking for a single reason to purchase Eclipse Two then you may be out of luck, because Ted Chiang’s “Exhalation” is at least three of them. It is without a doubt one of the finest and freshest breaths of story I’ve ever come across. It is immediately compelling, a superlative example of a story that pulls on a seemingly mundane observational thread, and reasonably proceeds from it to unwrap the entire fabric of existence. Though time will be the ultimate judge, I have no reservation in calling it a masterpiece. The story is narrated in the first person by a character who appears to make a crucial discovery about air. What he is able to deduce from his initial and further experiments comprises the narrative’s unforgettable journey into expanding consciousness. The story’s execution, on the whole minimalist in approach, is flawless. It unfolds in gradual revelation, and every component fits as perfectly as those described in the character’s empirical forays into literal self-reflexivity. Of course, it also functions superbly on a metaphorical level and pays tribute to classic SF stories dealing with entropy and thermodynamics. The intellectual thrill of reading it might be compared to directly experiencing William Blake’s “world in a grain of sand” and “eternity in an hour,” except in this case contained in a few molecules of air.”

-Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, discussion excerpted from: http://vectoreditors.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/bsfahugo-nominee-exhalation/

Available from: http://www.nightshadebooks.com/downloads

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