Book review: Stories of Your Life And Others

Stories of Your Life And Others by Ted Chiang - book cover

Normally, I like to read a book before watching the movie adaptation of it. Why? I’ve seen one too many movie adaptations that either weren’t true to the book, tainted my memory of a good read, or were just poorly done.

I had quite a few close friends, whose recommendations I trust, tell me that I needed to watch the movie Arrival. Yes, they used the word ‘needed’. I knew it was based on the short story Stories of Your Life by Ted Chiang, which was on my reading list. I tried to hold out until I read the story, but when Arrival appeared as a selection on Amazon Prime, I was hit with a dilemma. Movies come and go on Prime. If I waited, I might miss my opportunity to see it as part of Prime. If I watched, I might ruin the book that I wanted to read. What was I to do?

I decided to sift through the Amazon reviews for the book and the movie to see if there were any pearls of wisdom tucked away among the noise. Reviews are another thing I can be very skeptical about, but that’s a topic for a whole other set of posts. Lo and behold, I did find what I thought was a somewhat credible review. I’m going to paraphrase, but the review basically said watch the movie first, then read the book. The movie adds context to the events in the book so that it makes more sense.

I’m not going to turn this into a review for the movie, but it was awesome – a real mind blower. I rarely ever say this, but I’m really glad I watched the movie first. Had I read the story, it would have spoiled the suspense and the plot twist of the movie. And watching the movie first did bring clarity to pieces of the short story.

So back to the book. Yes, it’s a collection of stories of which Stories of Your Life is one of them. I found it to be the best of the bunch, but without seeing the movie first, I’m not sure it would have been as powerful. Likewise, I found the other stories all well written and interesting, but not over the top. Bottom line, the collection of stories was OK, but not great.

I’m going to leave it at that. If you haven’t watched Arrival yet, do it – now. When you’re done, you may want to consider reading Stories of Your Life. It will complete the story. While you’re there, you can flip through the rest of the stories. I found them all to be deep, very deep, and that could be what happened. It’s possible that I wasn’t able to wrap my brain around them well enough to fully enjoy them.