Wednesday 26 September 2018

Really Mini-Reviews! - The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen and The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

'Really Mini-Reviews' title image, with title images for The Refugees, and The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, inset. Stacked books icon in bottom-right corner

I have two reviews for stunning collections of short stories by Asian-American writers for you today dear nerdlets!

Check out my reviews of The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen, and The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu:

The Refugees title image

Title: The Refugees

Author: Viet Thanh Nguyen

Genres included in anthology:

Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Ghost Story, Horror, LGBTQ+ (M/M; Gay.)

Amazon: UK - USA

The Verdict:

Argh, this book!

This book is a tapestry of hopes and pain, of memory and forgetting, of love and hate.

Viet Thanh Nguyen writes with confidence and a real understanding of wtf he's talking about.

He uses sparse prose like he was born to write it - that prose where there isn't a single superfluous word, and the spaces between the words, the things left unsaid, speak just as loudly.

This is also #OwnVoices for Vietnamese and refugee rep.

The main subject of most of these stories is the life of Vietnamese refugees and their children in America.

I can't honestly explain the devastating beauty of The Refugees.

You'll have to read it for yourselves, if you can handle some of the darker subject matters.

My only criticism, as such, is the use of slurs like f**g*t and using Indian instead of Native American.

Historically accurate, but not a good thing.

Content Warnings:

This book deals with some deep sh**, so be careful my nerdlets:

- war
- being a refugee
- persecution
- rape (inc. in war)
- racial/cultural identity issues
- dementia
- grief
- murder/war deaths
- homophobia
- racism

dividing line

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories title image

Title: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

Author: Ken Liu

Genres included in anthology:

Science Fiction, Fantasy, Steampunk/Silkpunk, Alternate History, Magic Realism, Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Dystopian

Amazon: UK - USA

The Verdict:

This book is beautifully written.

It's sweet, but also very deep and moving, and highly imaginative, but not in a pretentious kind of way.

It's a fab. anthology - especially if you like sci-fi, fantasy, etc. short stories with roots in Chinese, and Chinese-American, culture.

In case it wasn't clear from the previous sentence, this is #OwnVoices for Chinese and Chinese-American rep.

I am aware though that some Asian and/or Asian-American people found some of these stories (especially the title story) quite stereotypical.

On the flipside of that, some Asian and/or Asian-American reviewers loved this anthology and did not find it stereotypical.

I'll leave it up to the reader, but please be aware of the criticisms of some #OwnVoices reviewers.

I ended up reading this because of a review AJ @ Read All The Things wrote, and it kinda just intrigued me, y'know?

I'm glad I read it - this book is an awesome mix of various types of spec-fic, and really shows off the range of what Ken Liu can do.

It's also, in places, extremely hard-hitting.

I was properly shaken by The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary, the story which brings the real-life Unit 731 (SERIOUS content warning for this link - MAJORLY disturbing real war crimes) to life.

It actually stuck with me for... quite a while. It's chilling.

Content Warnings:

Once again, some of the stuff dealt with here is heavy, so careful my nerdlets!

- domestic violence
- rape (inc. in war)
- poverty
- starvation
- torture
- murder of sex workers
- racism
- oppression
- crimes committed by governments
- suicide
- medical experimentation on humans
- war crimes
- the covering up of war crimes
- biological/germ warfare
- chemical weapons

**SPECIAL warning for the story The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary which deals with the Unit 731 stuff.

It's disturbing and contains details of real war crimes and contains most, if not all, of the things mentioned above**

Have you read either of these? Do you read short stories? What was the last book that stuck with you? Talk to me! 😊💬

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Last updated: 18th Oct 2018


  1. I don’t read many short stories and so when I come across one that is really powerful, it seems to resonate more for me! I’m glad you enjoyed these books, Cee! I wil definitely be checking them out.

  2. Thanks for giving my review a shout out! I’m really happy that you read short stories. Not enough people do. I still need to read The Refugees. It was on a ton of award lists back when it came out. I’m curious about why award committees liked it so much.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. No problem - thanks for bringing The Paper Menagerie to my attention!

      The reason it won awards is because Viet Thanh Nguyen writes with almost supernatural ability. He's *good*. His debut novel, The Sympathizer, is also amazing, and I think won the Pulitzer...? *Googles* Yep, won the Pulitzer Prize. :)

  3. This sounds like a very cool anthology with the mix of SFF and Chinese culture! But wow, that list of warnings, it clearly deals with some serious stuff as well. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    1. Like I said, most of the warnings are for that one story. Wow. But yeah, there's things in some of the others as well - it's an awesome anthology though! :)

  4. The Refugees is on my TBR. I've picked it up a couple of times but wasn't in the mood for it. I've been in the mood for light and fluffy and The Refugees look the opposite of that. But it does sound like it's a good read!

    1. Yeah, I'd say it's the polar opposite of light and fluffy! Lol. It's excellent though! :)


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