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If you’re a fan of science fiction, you won’t want to miss Ted Chiang’s ‘Exhalation: Stories’ on audiobook. This collection of nine imaginative tales explores a wide range of complex themes, from artificial intelligence to interdimensional travel. It’s no wonder that the collection won the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 2019.

Narrated by award-winning voice actor, Michael Goldstrom, ‘Exhalation’ is a truly captivating listening experience that is sure to engage your mind and take you on an unforgettable journey through the universe and beyond.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ted Chiang’s ‘Exhalation: Stories’ is an imaginative and thought-provoking collection of nine tales.
  • The audiobook is narrated by Michael Goldstrom and is a truly captivating listening experience.
  • The collection won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 2019.
  • ‘Exhalation’ explores a wide range of complex themes, including artificial intelligence and interdimensional travel.
  • It’s a must-read for science fiction fans.

About Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang is a celebrated science fiction writer known for his thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating works. Born in Port Jefferson, New York, in 1967, Chiang developed an early interest in science fiction and regularly visited his local library to read through its extensive collection.

After graduating from Brown University with a degree in Computer Science, Chiang worked in the software industry for several years before devoting himself full-time to writing. He published his first short story, “Tower of Babylon,” in 1990, which earned him widespread recognition and critical acclaim.

Since then, Chiang has gone on to write several highly regarded science fiction works, including “Story of Your Life,” which served as the basis for the hit film “Arrival.” He has won numerous awards for his writing, including four Nebula Awards, four Hugo Awards, a John W. Campbell Award, and more.

Chiang’s unique writing style blends scientific theories and philosophical concepts, exploring complex themes that challenge readers and provoke deep thought. His works have been praised for their intellectual depth, stunning imagery, and masterful prose.

Overview of ‘Exhalation: Stories’

‘Exhalation: Stories’ by Ted Chiang is a collection of nine science fiction stories that explore thought-provoking themes of time, consciousness, free will, and the human condition. Chiang’s writing style is characterized by a unique blend of scientific rigor and philosophical depth, making each story a fascinating journey into the unknown.

The collection includes stories of varying genres, from hard science fiction to fantasy and steampunk. However, what ties them all together is Chiang’s talent for creating intricate worlds and characters that feel both familiar and alien at the same time. Chiang employs a range of narrative approaches, including first-person, third-person, and even second-person points of view, allowing readers to experience the stories from different angles.

The table below outlines the stories featured in ‘Exhalation: Stories’ and their respective themes:

Story Themes
The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate Time travel, regret, and determinism
Exhalation Consciousness, mortality, and artificial intelligence
What’s Expected of Us Free will, determinism, and causality
The Lifecycle of Software Objects Artificial intelligence, companionship, and parenthood
Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny Parenthood, technology, and ethics
The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling Memory, technology, and subjective truth
The Great Silence Communication, extraterrestrial intelligence, and loneliness
Omphalos Religion, creationism, and scientific inquiry
Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom Multiverse theory, identity, and regret

‘Exhalation: Stories’ is a profound and captivating audiobook collection that will leave listeners contemplating the mysteries of the universe.

A Closer Look at the Stories

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang is a collection of nine unique and thought-provoking stories that explore a range of philosophical topics. Each story is distinct in its plot and characters, delivering a powerful message that lingers long after the audiobook has ended. In this section, we will delve deeper into the individual stories present in this audiobook, providing a comprehensive analysis of each.

1. The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate

The first story in the collection follows the journey of a merchant named Fuwaad ibn Abbas who discovers a gate that allows him to travel back in time. As the story unfolds, the reader is presented with a unique take on the time-travel genre, exploring the philosophical implications of changing one’s past.

2. Exhalation

The title story of the collection takes place in a world where mechanical beings are powered by the act of exhaling. The story provides a fascinating perspective on the nature of consciousness, exploring the relationship between life and the universe.

3. What’s Expected of Us

The third story questions the concept of free will and presents a thought experiment that challenges the reader to consider their own beliefs about determinism. The story also explores the human inability to accept the inevitability of death.

4. The Lifecycle of Software Objects

This story follows the development of artificial intelligence and the moral implications of creating beings with the potential to achieve self-awareness. The story provides a unique perspective on the relationship between humans and machines, offering insight into the ethical challenges that come with advancing technology.

Story Plot Main Themes
The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate A merchant discovers a device that allows him to travel back in time. Time-travel, free will, moral implications of changing the past
Exhalation Mechanical beings powered by the act of exhaling contemplate their existence. Consciousness, life and the universe, nature of being
What’s Expected of Us Participants in a thought experiment must follow instructions or face punishment. Free will and determinism, death, moral responsibility
The Lifecycle of Software Objects Artificial intelligence achieve self-awareness and develop relationships with their human programmers. Relationship between humans and machines, ethical considerations

5. Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny

The fifth story explores the concept of parenthood through the lens of an automatic nanny. The story is a commentary on the fragile nature of human relationships, especially those between parents and their children.

6. The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling

This story provides a unique perspective on the issue of memory and how it is impacted by technology. The story presents two parallel narratives that explore the impact of recording and reliving memories.

7. The Great Silence

The seventh story is a science-fiction tale about an alien race that confronts the possibility of its own extinction. The story presents an insightful and often bleak commentary on the potential fate of the universe.

8. Omphalos

Omphalos is a story about a scientist who discovers evidence that the world was created recently, but with the appearance of great age. The story explores the idea of divine deception and the relationship between science and religion.

9. Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom

The final story in the collection explores the moral implications of a technology that allows individuals to communicate with their alternate selves in parallel universes. The story presents thought-provoking questions about the relationship between identity, choice, and responsibility.

Overall, ‘Exhalation: Stories’ presents a diverse and unique collection of stories that offer insightful commentary on a range of philosophical topics. It is truly a must-read for fans of the science-fiction genre and will leave a lasting impact on anyone who experiences it.

Narration and Audiobook Production

The audiobook production for ‘Exhalation: Stories’ is a masterful artistic accomplishment that is likely to leave listeners spellbound. The narration is crisp, clear, and engaging, with the voice actors breathing life into every character. The sound design is also impressive, creating a rich and atmospheric soundscape that perfectly complements the stories. The audiobook production is a true testament to the technical proficiency and creative vision of the sound engineers and narrator.

The overall listening experience for ‘Exhalation: Stories’ is exceptional, with the audiobook creating an immersive and captivating environment that keeps the listener engaged from start to finish. Each story is thoughtfully narrated, with the talent of the voice actors shining through in every scene. The sound design is also worth noting, as it adds a layer of depth and realism that makes the stories even more compelling. Overall, the audiobook production for ‘Exhalation: Stories’ is a true masterpiece that is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who listens to it.

Themes and Philosophical Explorations

Exhalation: Stories

Ted Chiang’s ‘Exhalation: Stories’ collection features a myriad of thought-provoking themes and philosophical concepts that explore the human condition and the mysteries of the universe. From the ethical implications of technology to the nature of free will, Chiang’s writing asks fundamental questions about our existence and challenges readers to contemplate the complexities of the world around us.

One example of such a theme is the exploration of time and its impact on our lives. In the story ‘The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,’ Chiang explores the intricacies of time travel and how altering the past can shape the present and future. Through this narrative, Chiang challenges readers to consider the ethical implications of changing history and the far-reaching consequences that can arise from such actions.

In addition, ‘Exhalation: Stories’ tackles themes of identity, consciousness, and mortality, prompting readers to contemplate the nature of the self and what it means to be alive. In the story ‘The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling,’ Chiang juxtaposes two narratives set centuries apart, exploring the impact of technology on memory and how it shapes our perception of reality and our sense of self.

Overall, ‘Exhalation: Stories’ is a thought-provoking collection that offers readers a rich tapestry of philosophical explorations that are certain to stimulate the mind and encourage introspection.

Reader Reception and Critical Acclaim

Since its release, Exhalation: Stories has received widespread critical acclaim and enthusiastic reader reception. The collection has been praised for its thought-provoking storytelling, imaginative concepts, and masterful prose.

The New York Times Book Review called it “one of the most anticipated books of the year,” while NPR named it one of the best books of 2019. The audiobook version has also been well-received, with Audible users rating it an average of 4.5 stars out of 5.

Chiang’s ability to blend science and philosophy has earned him comparisons to literary heavyweights like Borges and Calvino. His stories have been described as “mind-bending,” “elegant,” and “intensely moving.”

In terms of awards, Exhalation: Stories has been honored with the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. It was also named a finalist for the 2019 Kirkus Prize for Fiction.

Overall, the reception and critical acclaim of Exhalation: Stories demonstrate the lasting impact and significance of Ted Chiang’s work in the science fiction genre.

Comparison to Chiang’s Previous Works

Ted Chiang is a prolific author known for his ability to blend science fiction and philosophy seamlessly. In ‘Exhalation: Stories,’ he tackles complex themes such as determinism, metaphysics, and transhumanism in a remarkable manner that sets it apart from his previous works.

The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate, one of Chiang’s earlier works, explores similar themes of time travel and determinism but in a more subdued manner than in ‘Exhalation.’ The former is a delightful exploration of the implications of changing past actions, while the latter presents a more comprehensive analysis of determinism, offering an in-depth consideration of its underlying assumptions.

The variance in the themes explored is not the only distinction between ‘Exhalation’ and Chiang’s previous works. The form and structure of the stories in ‘Exhalation’ demonstrate artistic progression and innovation in his writing style. His strong character development skills are augmented by an increasingly ambitious narrative structure that captivates the reader.

For example, Story of Your Life and Others, Chiang’s first short story collection, features distinct and independent plots within each story, while ‘Exhalation’ features interconnected stories with recurring characters and themes throughout the book. These characteristics demonstrate Chiang’s literary progression in storytelling and world-building.

In conclusion, ‘Exhalation: Stories’ is an impressive work of fiction that showcases the artistic growth of an already remarkable author. By incorporating more expansive themes, innovative narrative structures, and exceptional character development, Chiang creates a collection of stories that pushes the boundaries of science fiction and literature.

Exploring the Author’s Writing Style

One of the most intriguing aspects of Ted Chiang’s writing is his unique style, which employs a blend of clear prose, abstract concepts, and philosophical insights. His stories often feature complex characters and intricate plots, which are used to explore philosophical questions and profound ideas.

Chiang’s writing also showcases his mastery of language, with his use of precise vocabulary and imagery helping to create vivid and engaging worlds that feel both real and otherworldly. He is a master at using subtle nuances in his writing to convey emotions and sensations, adding depth and complexity to his characters and stories.

Another notable feature of Chiang’s writing is his ability to engage readers on various levels, making his stories accessible to both casual readers and hardcore sci-fi fans alike. His narratives often employ non-linear structures and unconventional plot devices, which add an additional layer of intrigue and excitement to his stories.

Overall, Chiang’s writing style is a true feat of storytelling, offering readers a glimpse into his rich imagination and artistic vision. Whether you’re new to his work or a long-time fan, his unique style is sure to captivate and entertain.

Impact and Significance of ‘Exhalation: Stories’

As a collection of thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating stories, ‘Exhalation: Stories’ by Ted Chiang has left a lasting impression on the science fiction genre and contemporary literature.

Chiang’s ability to seamlessly blend scientific concepts with philosophical explorations is a testament to his masterful storytelling skills. The stories in ‘Exhalation’ showcase his unique perspectives on humanity, morality, and the nature of existence.

Since its release, ‘Exhalation: Stories’ has garnered critical acclaim and a dedicated following. It has been featured in numerous “best of” lists, including The New York Times Best Seller list. This recognition is a testament to Chiang’s skill and the enduring resonance of his stories.

Moreover, ‘Exhalation: Stories’ has inspired readers to think deeply about the implications of technology, the mysteries of the universe, and the complexities of the human condition. It continues to influence contemporary literature and remains a touchstone for readers looking for smart, engaging science fiction.

The Impact of ‘Exhalation: Stories’ on the Sci-Fi Genre

The stories in ‘Exhalation’ demonstrate Chiang’s unique ability to elevate the science fiction genre to new heights. His work is a testament to the power of science fiction to explore complex themes and ideas, pushing the boundaries of what is possible and encouraging readers to think beyond their horizons.

In particular, Chiang’s stories have influenced the way science fiction explores the implications of technology and the nature of consciousness, creating a lasting legacy that has informed subsequent works in the genre.

The Relevance of ‘Exhalation: Stories’ in Contemporary Literature

The themes explored in ‘Exhalation: Stories’ remain just as relevant today as they were at the time of the collection’s release. Chiang’s ideas and perspectives on the role of technology, the nature of humanity, and the mysteries of the universe continue to resonate with contemporary readers.

Moreover, Chiang’s work has inspired a new generation of science fiction writers, influencing the future of the genre and encouraging further exploration of complex, philosophical themes.

In conclusion, ‘Exhalation: Stories’ is more than just a collection of science fiction stories. It is a work of intellectual depth, inspiring new ways of thinking about the world and our place in it. Its impact on the science fiction genre and contemporary literature is significant, and its relevance remains undiminished.


After listening to ‘Exhalation: Stories’ by Ted Chiang, it’s clear that this audiobook collection is a must-listen for any fan of science fiction. Chiang’s unique writing style and philosophical explorations captivate listeners, providing thought-provoking insights into the human condition and the nature of reality.

The audiobook production quality is top-notch, with skilled narration and immersive sound design that enhances the listening experience. ‘Exhalation’ has received critical acclaim and numerous awards, further cementing its reputation as a remarkable work of literature.

Overall, our audiobook review finds that ‘Exhalation: Stories’ is a masterpiece collection that demonstrates the boundless potential of the science fiction genre. Whether you’re a longtime fan of Ted Chiang or new to his works, this audiobook is an absolute must-listen that will leave you contemplating its themes and ideas long after the final story concludes.

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