Review – Invisible Planets Edited by Ken Liu

Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Fiction in Translation
By: (Editor/Translator) Ken Liu
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Tor Books

I had been meaning to read this book since its release last years, and I actually picked it up at one point. Unfortunately, life happened, and I was forced to focus my efforts on other things. But now, almost six month’s later I’ve finally read the book in its entirety, and couldn’t be happier. Invisible Planets, edited by Ken Liu, is a fantastic collection of science fiction by Chinese authors translated into English, and is a must read for fans of the genre.

Invisible Planets is edited and translated by Ken Liu author of the Dandelion Dynasty books (among other works), and translator of The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin. The book is divided by author. Every author has a one to two page summary discussing their writing careers and, when applicable, the stories included within the book. I liked how these were located before each short story and not afterwards. I feel these sections were important, especially considering the lack of translated SFF, and the possible lack of familiarity with these authors. The subgenres represented within the book are rather diverse. There is near future science fiction, biological science fiction, science fiction with a more fantasy or mystical bend.

One of the things I like the most about anthologies is that readers can ususally find at least one story they can say they enjoyed. On the other hand, this can also be an anthologies downfall. Having a good number of stories with differing themes and writing styles can sometimes feel disjointed. Invisible Planets is a very good anthology. There was not a single story within these pages that I didn’t enjoy or that felt weak.

As much as I enjoy anthologies, often seeking them out, I can’t help but feel this is a bit rare. I can normally point to one or two stories that I didn’t enjoy as much as the others without too much trouble. This time, I couldn’t. Even so, there were a few stories that stood. I particularly enjoyed the short stories by Chen Qiufan as well as “The City of Silence” by Ma Boyong. The last one especially stood out for me. Fans of Liu Cixin’s works will also be happy to learn that two of his short stories wrap up the anthology.

At the end of the anthology was a small, separate section with essays on the state of science fiction in China. These were mainly written by the authors whose short stories were included in the book. I found this section a fascinating read, and a decent way to wrap up the anthology. Even if you don’t normally read essays I’d suggest giving these a try. They’re all very short – only a few pages at their longest – and were quite interesting.

I whole heartedly encourage any fan of science fiction to pick up Invisible Planets. Likewise, if you make it a point to seek out translated fiction, this is not a title to miss. I truly enjoyed this anthology and will be making a point to find more of these authors works in translation. Hopefully there is more out there. And, hopefully, more translated work will be brought to us in the future.

About author

Kathleen Townsend

Kate writes things, reads things, and writes about things she reads. She’s had a few short stories published, and works as a freelance editor. Favorite genres include epic & high fantasy, science fiction, time travel stories, video game related tales, light novels, and manga.

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