Exhalation

Stories
Length: 11 hrs and 22 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (1,991 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

One of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year

A National Best Seller

One of the Best Books of The Year: The Washington Post • Time Magazine • NPR • Esquire • Vox • the A.V. Club • the Guardian • Financial Times • the Dallas Morning News

Exhalation by Ted Chiang is a collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feel more human. The best kind of science fiction.” (Barack Obama, via Facebook) 

"The universe began as an enormous breath being held."

In these nine stunningly original, provocative, and poignant stories, Ted Chiang tackles some of humanity’s oldest questions along with new quandaries only he could imagine. In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate”, a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In “Exhalation”, an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal. In “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom”, the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will. 

Including stories being published for the first time as well as some of his rare and classic uncollected work, Exhalation is Ted Chiang at his best: profound, sympathetic - revelatory. 

©2019 Ted Chiang (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Ted Chiang’s stories are lean, relentless, and incandescent.” (Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad)

“Ted Chiang writes with such a matter-of-fact grace and visionary power that one simply takes on faith that his worlds and his characters exist, whether they are human or robot or parrot; he is the rare author who makes me feel, also, that he believes in his readers, in our integrity and our imagination.” (Karen Russell, author of Orange World

“Ted Chiang has no contemporary peers when it comes to the short story form. His name deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Carver, Poe, Borges, and Kafka. Every story is a universe. Every story is a diamond. You will inhale Exhalation in a single, stunned sitting, because true genius doesn’t come along nearly as often as advertised. This is the real thing.” (Blake Crouch, author of Dark Matter

Editor's Pick

From the Author who brought us Arrival
"Ted Chiang’s stories are incomparable. They are mathematical and uniquely scientific, but not hard to understand, and they never fail to deliver on an emotional level. His most famous work—Stories of Your Life and Others (which contains the story that was the basis for the movie Arrival)—made me cry when I first heard it. That's something I can’t say for the movie, even though Denis Villeneuve is my favorite director of all time. In my mind, Chiang is a modern day Italo Calvino: an empath who can simultaneously tap into the perspectives of totally alien or inanimate entities, and deliver absolutely mind-blowing and borderline-mystical plots and concepts. His reputation and writing certainly deserve a top-notch cast of narrators, and Exhalation uses them to full effect. Offering an experience that feels as ancient as it does futuristic—as if life was one big circle."
Michael D., Audible Editor

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What listeners say about Exhalation

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Masterful and singular

TC's stories will resonate and stick with you for years. They're often sophisticated concepts told through a human perspective of experience. Great writing, dialog, narration. As the stories unfold they fill you with wonder, horror and satisfaction alike.

To describe TC's work, I ask you to imagine the best of Twilight Zone and Stephen King, with the sci-fi concepts of Liu Cixin and Hannu Rajaniemi with a dash of China Mieville; Then experienced through the heart-rendering relatableness of Kazuo Ishiguro.

This collection and "Stories of your life..." are among the top 10 most recommended to friends and colleagues.

13 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Like most short story collections, uneven

A couple gems in this collection and some I felt were stinkers. The really long one about the lives of digital creatures I found to be uninteresting; I can't remember now if I even stuck it out to the end of it. Reader quality also is uneven.

8 people found this helpful

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A surprisingly transcendent listening experience

So this collection of stories, all narrated by a different reader (I think!), we're done expertly and are each followed by an author's note presented by Ted Chiang himself - a nice touch that closes each story well, and gives you a moment to decompress.

I really loved the writing of each of these stories because they are undeniably sci-fi, yet they don't try to wow you with the mystifying tech or ideas presented within, even though there is plenty of that to be had.

Instead, in this case, Ted Chiang uses the genre as a canvas by which these introspective, thought- provoking tales are brought to life before the reader.

It is a rare pleasure to truly be lost in a story, when in the telling, there is not a thought of the author, or the writing, or the narrator, but simply just a wonderful story as it unfolds before you. And in the listening of Exhalation, that is exactly where I found myself.

I am now a huge Ted Chiang fan. 10/10 will read again.

17 people found this helpful

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thought provoking and very entertaining

Ted Chiang is a master of combining relevant technological and philosophical events and ideas with wonderfully realistic fiction

8 people found this helpful

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Not nearly as good as Stories of Our Lives

I did not like nearly as many stories in this as I did Stories of Our Lives and Others. Exhalation and Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom are definitely amazing stories, and the narrator was amazing for Exhalation and the first story about the alchemist. They change the narrator, however, and she does not differentiate her voice for male characters so I have no idea who is talking at some points.

5 people found this helpful

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A Long Wait for a Rare Display.

Chiang pens unique stories with perfect prose. This collection rivals his last. He and Jorge Luis Borges are unmatched. I waited a long time for these stories and I was not disappointed.

10 people found this helpful

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Excellent stories. Mixed reading.

The stories and author comments were wonderful. I found Amy Landon’s reading style hard to listen to, unfortunately. That might just be a personal preference.

4 people found this helpful

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Spectacular! (seriously)

This is a stellar collection of thoughtful, creative SF stories. I know of no other collection I'd more highly recommend.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Excellent collection of short stories

Ted Chiang can write a short story. This is a great collection, and I enjoyed it much more than his prior short story collection. The only complaints I had were I thought one of the stories was too long and the narration of another story bothered me. My take on the stories:

The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate: a deep, layered, time travel story. Just great. 5*

Exhalation: a mechanical being examines itself and its world. Perfect. 5*

What's Expected of Us: free will hijinks. A mind bender with a great ending. 4*

The Lifecycle of Software Objects: what if AI had human emotions, could learn and grow up over the years, and even be transferred in to robotic suits to interact with us? I thought this one was a bit too long. Great concept. 3*

Dacey's Patent Automatic Nanny: what if we had machines to take care of children, and what would happen if they became attached to them? Creepy goodness. 4*

The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling: two stories - one of a young person in a far away land being taught to read by a missionary - we see the ramifications of his new literacy; the other set in a near future where people can view uploaded memories of their lives. The memories in our heads may safer than the real events they are based on. 4*

The Great Silence: my favorite story in the collection. The title refers to our search for intelligent life in the universe. Short but affecting. 10*

Omphalos: life in a world where creationism is true. 4*

Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom: people are able to communicate with other versions of themselves in alternate universes using gadgets called "prisms". Really cool premise. Another long story but worth the investment. The narrator's male voices in this story were a distraction which took away from the story for me. (She also narrated The Lifecycle of Software Objects and Omphalos). 4*

The author also included "author's notes" for each story which he read himself. Chiang is a smart fellow and it was interesting to hear where he got his inspiration for each story.

I'm looking forward to his next collection!

3 people found this helpful

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Mostly great stories and narration

Hoffman and Ballerini are fantastic narrators of great stories, and I was engaged from start to finish of their chapters. However, Amy Landon's stiff and awkward performance detracted from the experience of the other stories, to the point that I had to skip them entirely.

3 people found this helpful