Book Review: The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

Rating:  ★★★★

My only experience with Ken Liu thus far has been in his translation of Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem and Death’s End.  But I know he has a few beloved books already published out there, so I jumped at the chance to read this.

I generally try to read the introduction whenever one is included, and I definitely recommend reading the intro to The Hidden Girl and Other Stories.  Liu talks a little about his writing process and how he went about selecting stories for this book.  He says that stories are co-told by an author’s words and a reader’s interpretation; that writing a story is like building a house in which the reader moves in, arranges the furniture and decor to suit their tastes, and settles down.

He also goes on to say that it would be impossible for him to construct a home in which everyone was comfortable, so he selected the stories that he himself felt most comfortable in, and asks that the reader “find a story..to make [their] home.”  I adored the metaphor and knew with that short but sweet introduction I was in for a treat.

That being said, I really am terrible at reviewing collections.  So terrible in fact, that I’ve put this off for two months because I read it in December.  It took me a week because these were stories that often required some processing afterward, so I know it’s worthy of a fantastic review and I’ve no idea how to convey that to you.

So bare with me friends, I’m doing my best.

The first two stories “Ghost Days” and “Maxwell’s Demon” absolutely blew me out of the water.  They were both eye opening, haunting.  They were stories I think it would benefit everyone to read at least once.  While “Ghost Days” is about the importance of history and immigrant experience in America, “Maxwell’s Demon” is about the experience of a woman of Japanese descent in America during WWII.

For me, the stories that follow didn’t quite live up to the enormous standard by those first two stories.  What they do instead, is follow, as Liu himself put it, a “meta-narrative”.  Trailing different and yet similar themes (AI, digital immortality, virtual reality, shared experiences, parent-child relationships, etc.) weaving together an inventive tapestry of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

I will say this book ventures to some dark places.  Sometimes I’d read a story and have to put the book down for a bit because it was that dark.  Many stories don’t have a happy ending.

I do think the book finished strong, despite being a little bogged down in the middle.  Other highlights include the miniseries starting with “The Gods Will Not Be Chained” and “The Hidden Girl”.

In the end, I liked The Hidden Girl and Other Stories enough that I will certainly be checking out Liu’s other work.  This collection is well worth picking up for fans and newcomers alike.

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories releases on February 25, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher for sending an ARC for review.

27 thoughts on “Book Review: The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

    • I definitely do! Try those and maybe the others I mentioned if you like them: The Gods Will Not Be Chained (followed by The Gods Will Not Be Slain and one other whose title I can’t think of) and The Hidden Girl which I really enjoyed.

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  1. So far I’ve only read short stories by Ken Liu, and found them all to be amazing reads, so I will certainly add this one to my “wanted” list: despite the darkness you mention, I’m certain I will find the same exceptional writing I’ve encountered so far.
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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  2. Short story collections are always uneven, so a lot of people focus on that in their review, as if it were possible for every story to be equally interesting to the reader, and we should call out the stories that don’t. I like it better when reviewers pick out themes and describe how well the author worked with those themes, like you did.

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    • Hey thanks for the tip!! I didn’t want to review each story individually- I feel like giving a sentence or two about each story isn’t really that helpful. And you’re right- there’s no way for all the stories to hit all the right notes for each reader.

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      • That thing where people review every story with one or two sentences is really common on Goodreads, and I don’t like it because the purpose is unclear. Are they suggesting I get the fiction collection and skip the ones they didn’t like?

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      • Haha! Good point! I think it might have more to do with giving an overall impression of the book- how many stories they liked how many they didn’t. I have reviewed collections like that in the past- but it’s very tedious. I think I prefer to do it this way, and it seems to have gotten a decent response so far.

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  3. I used to struggle reviewing collections. Now I just tend to do a paragraph mini-review for each story, give it a rating and then use the average score to get my main, overall rating.

    That being said, collections are just tricky in general.

    I have actually never heard of this author. Although I have heard of the Three Body Problem :/

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