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In this article, we will explore a detailed review of one of the most captivating audiobooks of recent times, “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang. This collection of sci-fi short stories is a thought-provoking journey that will take you to a world of ideas and possibilities. In this article, we will dive deeper into the narration, production quality, themes, characters, and writing style of the audiobook, offering you a comprehensive review that will help you decide if it’s worth your time.

About the Author, Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang is a celebrated science fiction writer known for his deep, philosophical explorations of the human condition. Exhalation is his second collection of short stories, following the critically acclaimed Stories of Your Life and Others. Chiang’s unique approach to sci-fi has earned him numerous prestigious awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell awards.

Chiang’s writing is celebrated for its introspective and thought-provoking nature, often delving into complex scientific concepts and exploring the implications they hold for human existence. In addition to his short stories, Chiang has also written essays on topics ranging from artificial intelligence to the nature of language itself.

Outside of his writing, Chiang holds a degree in computer science and has worked as a technical writer for numerous tech companies. His background in science and technology informs his writing, lending his stories a sense of verisimilitude and technical accuracy.

Overview of “Exhalation”

“Exhalation” is a captivating sci-fi audiobook collection of short stories by the talented author Ted Chiang. The audiobook is narrated by a diverse range of actors and follows various characters dealing with existential questions and ethical dilemmas within different worlds and contexts.

The themes explored in “Exhalation” are profound and thought-provoking, touching on subjects such as the nature of consciousness, the limits of science, and the consequences of human inventions. Chiang’s narrative style is beautifully crafted, allowing listeners to immerse themselves in each story and experience their unique worlds and characters.

The audiobook’s structure is non-linear, jumping from one story to another and exploring various time periods and locations. However, this approach contributes to the overall impact of the audiobook, providing diverse perspectives and keeping listeners engaged throughout.

Overall, “Exhalation” is a must-read for fans of speculative fiction who are looking for a intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging audiobook experience.

Story Summaries

Dive into the mesmerizing and eclectic world of “Exhalation” by exploring the individual stories that make up this captivating audiobook. Each story presents a unique perspective on the complexities of life, exploring themes of mortality, time, and identity.

“The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate”

This story follows the journey of Fuwaad ibn Abbas, who discovers a mystical gate leading to the past. He learns valuable life lessons about the consequences of his actions and the inevitable nature of time.


In this story, we follow the journey of a sentient mechanical being who reflects on the inevitability of entropy and the illusions of longevity.

“What’s Expected of Us”

The story imagines a reality where people are expected to push a button every 15 minutes to avoid a catastrophic event. It explores the dangers of blindly following social norms without questioning their true purpose.

“The Lifecycle of Software Objects”

In this story, Ana Alvarado and Derek Brooks create and raise digital pets with unique personalities. The story contemplates the ethics of artificial intelligence and the emotional connections we can form with non-human beings.

“Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny”

This story imagines a world where people can buy a robotic nanny to take care of their children. The story explores the complexities of parenthood and the limitations of technology.

story summaries

Narration and Production Quality

One of the most critical aspects of any audiobook is the narration and the production quality. In the case of “Exhalation,” the producers certainly didn’t disappoint.

The narration performed by Ted Chiang, Tavia Gilbert, and a full cast of actors is exceptional. Each story in the audiobook has its own unique voice and tone, making it easy to differentiate between them. The narrators bring the characters to life, adding depth and emotion to their performances.

The music and sound effects used in the audiobook add to the overall listening experience and help bring the worlds and characters to life. The high production quality of “Exhalation” makes it a truly immersive experience for the listener.

Themes and Ideas Explored

Ted Chiang’s “Exhalation” is a thought-provoking exploration of complex themes and ideas. The audiobook challenges listeners to ponder questions about existence, morality, and the nature of reality.

One of the central themes of the collection is the relationship between technology and humanity. Through his stories, Chiang asks whether technological advancements bring us closer to our true selves or serve to further distance us from our humanity. He also touches on the consequences of scientific progress and the ethical dilemmas that can arise when we delve into uncharted territory.

“Exhalation” also delves into existential questions, such as the meaning of life and the inevitability of death. Chiang’s stories are not afraid to tackle tough subject matter, and he openly questions some of the most fundamental aspects of human existence.

Throughout the audiobook, Chiang also explores the intersection of science and spirituality, inviting listeners to consider the possibility that science and religion may not be mutually exclusive. This theme is particularly evident in the story “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which explores the concept of time travel through a philosophical and spiritual lens.

Overall, “Exhalation” is a fascinating journey into intellectual exploration, offering listeners a myriad of fascinating themes and ideas to contemplate.

Character Development

Exhalation boasts a stunning array of characters that Ted Chiang has meticulously crafted. Each character is unique and memorable, with clear motivations and personalities that make them feel like real individuals.

Throughout the audiobook, Chiang uses various techniques for characterization, including character actions, thoughts, and dialogue. He skillfully weaves these elements into the overarching themes to create a deep and meaningful narrative.

character development

Examples of Character Development:

Character Description
Ethan Ethan is a robot who has conflicting thoughts about his own existence and the morality of his actions.
Dr. Christine Blum Dr. Blum is a scientist who grapples with the ethical implications of her work and its impact on the world.
Miriam Miriam is a woman who discovers the truth about her father’s past and confronts her own feelings of isolation and loss.

Chiang’s attention to detail and nuance in character development is a standout feature of the audiobook. He masterfully uses the characters to explore complex themes and ideas, elevating the overall impact of the audiobook.

Writing Style and Language

Ted Chiang’s writing style and language in “Exhalation” are nothing short of exceptional. His use of prose is deliberate and crafted with precision, allowing the reader to effortlessly immerse themselves in the narratives. Chiang’s storytelling techniques are masterful, and he expertly weaves philosophical themes throughout his stories.

One of the standout features of Chiang’s writing is his ability to convey complex ideas with simplicity and clarity. His use of metaphors and analogies effortlessly guides the reader through abstract concepts, leaving them with a clear understanding of the themes explored in each story. His language is clear and concise, without sacrificing depth or intricacy.

The Importance of Language

Language plays a crucial role in “Exhalation.” In many of the stories, Chiang uses language as a tool to explore the impact of communication on human relationships and society as a whole. For example, in the story “The Great Silence,” he imagines a world where communication with extraterrestrial life is possible but has dangerous consequences.

Story Title Themes Explored
The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate Time travel, free will, fate
Exhalation Existentialism, mortality
The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling Memory, storytelling, technology

Chiang’s use of language is also integral to the construction of the worlds he imagines. Whether it’s a steampunk-inspired Victorian era or a post-apocalyptic future, his use of language and word choice seamlessly transports the reader into each distinct setting.

In conclusion, Ted Chiang’s writing style and language in “Exhalation” are exceptional, and they play an integral role in the impact of the audiobook. His use of prose and storytelling techniques effectively convey complex themes, and his language seamlessly transports the reader into his imaginative worlds.

Critical Reception and Awards

“Exhalation” has received high praise from both critics and readers alike. It was a New York Times Bestseller and was the winner of the Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

The audiobook has garnered several other prestigious accolades and nominations, including:

Award Category Result
Hugo Award Best Novelette Nominated
Nebula Award Best Novelette Winner
Locus Award Best Collection Winner
British Science Fiction Association Award Best Short Story Winner

With its thought-provoking stories and exceptional writing, “Exhalation” has truly made an impact in the world of speculative fiction.

Comparison to Other Works by Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang has gained recognition for his unique approach to storytelling, combining science fiction with philosophical ideas. “Exhalation,” his latest audiobook, is no exception. While capturing the essence of his previous works, “Exhalation” also explores new themes and ideas.


Works Similarities
“Stories of Your Life and Others” Both audiobooks explore the philosophical implications of augmented realities.
“The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” Both audiobooks use time travel as a means to explore the human condition and its consequences.


  • “Exhalation” is a collection of short stories, while previous works were primarily novellas.
  • The focus of “Exhalation” on the impact of technology on human life is more pronounced than in previous works.
  • The exploration of the ethical and moral implications of technology in “Exhalation” separates it from previous works, which tackled more philosophical and metaphysical questions.

Overall, “Exhalation” maintains Ted Chiang’s reputation for producing thought-provoking, intellectually stimulating audiobooks, while introducing new themes and ideas to his body of work. It stands out from previous works by emphasizing the impact of technology on the human experience.

Impact and Influence

Since its release, “Exhalation” has made a significant impact on the sci-fi genre and influenced many writers and readers alike. The audiobook’s intricate storytelling, well-fleshed-out characters, and thought-provoking themes have left a lasting mark on the genre.

The impact of “Exhalation” can be seen in the numerous critical reviews and awards it has garnered. The audiobook was a New York Times Bestseller and won the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 2020 for its title story “Exhalation.” Additionally, it was nominated for the Locus Award and the World Fantasy Award, showcasing its influence on the literary world.

Furthermore, the themes and ideas explored in “Exhalation” have inspired and ignited conversations among readers and writers alike. The audiobook’s profound exploration of existentialism, morality, and the complexities of the human condition has contributed to the larger conversation of speculative fiction.

Inspiring New Voices

“Exhalation” has also inspired many young writers to explore and experiment with the sci-fi genre. The audiobook’s unique approach to narrative structure and its intricate world-building have served as a model for many new voices in the field.


The impact and influence of “Exhalation” are sure to leave a lasting legacy on the sci-fi genre. Its profound exploration of the human condition and its complex narrative style will undoubtedly inspire future generations of readers and writers to explore new ideas and push the boundaries of speculative fiction.

Recommended Audience

With its compelling themes, intricate plotlines, and philosophical questions, “Exhalation” is best suited for science fiction enthusiasts who appreciate thought-provoking narratives. Readers who enjoy exploring themes such as the nature of consciousness, the evolution of human nature, or the impact of technology on society will find the audiobook particularly engaging.

While the stories in “Exhalation” are accessible to a wide audience, the intricate and often abstract concepts discussed may be more challenging for casual readers. It is recommended for individuals who enjoy works by authors who tackle big questions and push the boundaries of the genre.

Recommended for: Science fiction enthusiasts, readers interested in philosophical questions and thought-provoking narratives.

Personal Opinion and Final Thoughts

After listening to “Exhalation,” we were thoroughly impressed by Ted Chiang’s imaginative storytelling and mind-bending concepts. The audiobook is a brilliant collection of sci-fi short stories that challenge the listener to contemplate deep existential questions and ethical quandaries. Each story was thoughtfully crafted, and we found ourselves fully immersed in the diverse worlds presented.

The narration by various talented voice actors was exceptional, adding a great deal to our overall enjoyment of the audiobook. The production quality was also top-notch, ensuring a seamless listening experience throughout.

One minor drawback we found was that some of the stories were more complex and difficult to follow than others. However, we believe that this is simply a testament to Chiang’s ambition and creativity, as he takes risks and pushes boundaries in his writing.

In conclusion, we highly recommend “Exhalation” to fans of speculative fiction looking for an intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking audiobook. It is a must-read for anyone who loves exploring profound themes, complex characters, and engaging storytelling. We’re eager to see what Ted Chiang has in store for us next.


“Exhalation” by Ted Chiang is a must-read for any fans of speculative fiction. With its captivating themes and well-developed characters, this audiobook takes listeners on a thought-provoking journey through a series of intriguing sci-fi short stories. Chiang’s exceptional writing style and language, combined with the high-quality production and narration, make for an unforgettable audio experience.

The audiobook has received critical acclaim and numerous awards and nominations, cementing its place as a standout work within the sci-fi genre. While audiences who enjoy complex ideas and narratives will appreciate the depth of “Exhalation,” it may not be accessible to those who prefer lighter, more straightforward stories. Overall, we highly recommend “Exhalation” to anyone who is looking for an intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging audiobook.


Is “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang available as an audiobook?

Yes, “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang is available as an audiobook. It can be found on popular audiobook platforms and retailers.

How many stories are included in “Exhalation”?

“Exhalation” consists of nine short stories, each exploring unique concepts and ideas within the realm of speculative fiction.

What are some of the themes explored in “Exhalation”?

“Exhalation” delves into a range of thought-provoking themes, including consciousness, time travel, artificial intelligence, and the nature of reality.

Who narrates the audiobook version of “Exhalation”?

The audiobook version of “Exhalation” is expertly narrated by various talented voice actors, providing a captivating listening experience.

Can I listen to a sample of the “Exhalation” audiobook before purchasing?

Yes, most audiobook platforms offer the option to listen to a sample of “Exhalation” before making a purchase, allowing you to get a taste of the narration and production quality.

Is “Exhalation” suitable for fans of science fiction?

Absolutely! “Exhalation” caters to science fiction enthusiasts, offering engaging and thought-provoking stories that delve into various subgenres within the genre.

How long is the audiobook version of “Exhalation”?

The duration of the “Exhalation” audiobook varies depending on the platform and the narrator’s pacing, but it typically ranges from around 10 to 12 hours.

Are there any recommended prerequisites for reading “Exhalation”?

There are no set prerequisites for reading “Exhalation.” However, having an interest in speculative fiction and an open mind to explore complex themes will enhance your enjoyment of the audiobook.

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