Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Seventy-Two Letters,by Ted Chiang

I took a time out from reading award nominated stories to read one I found somewhat by accident, linked off Ted Chiang's Wikipedia pageSeventy-two letters is a more "normal" SF story than the others I've read by Chiang, which figures because it's from 2001. But really no less inventive.

In this story Chiang invents a place where golems are real, and the science of "nomenclature" is a prominent one--the study of how to create True Names for things, which then can animate them.  He describes a discipline emerging from craft and magic into an empirical, engineering type of application.  Wrapped in with it is a completely different principle on how reproduction occurs--animal species contain all their future generations in the male line, and each generation is the amplification of some chosen set from the infinitesimal.  At the time of the story, we are discovered to have only five generations left.

The action plays out well, but the best SF is about the ideas, and this is a classically written one.  Definitely can recommend it.  3 stars.

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