Arc Review: To Hold Up The Sky or a really thoughts inducing anthology

Hello everyone! I hope you all are safe and happy! Today I am finally here with a review that it takes me a long time to write! This was not an easy book to read, and it was not easy to review either, but I have done it! Yay!

Thanks to NetGalley and to the Editor. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Title: To Hold Up The Sky
Author: Cixin Liu
Publication Date: October 20th, 2020
Page Count: 336

From Cixin Liu, the New York Times bestselling author of The Three-Body Problem, To Hold Up the Sky is a breathtaking collection of imaginative science fiction.
Stories included are:
The Village Teacher
The Time Migration
Fire In The Earth
Ode To Joy
Full Spectrum Barrage Jamming
Sea of Dreams
Cloud of Poems
The Thinker

Writing this review is hard because this book is a whole universe, and even if we don’t really have spaceships and interstellar travels in there (or to be precise, we have them too but they are not the biggest part, or the most important part of this book) it is like every single short story is a planet that you visit for a while, and then you would go on, hopping on another one and another one (in a metaphorical way!).

There is so much between these pages, and the author manages to make all his stories really different from one another, even if all of them are, in some ways, really profound and thoughts inducing. I loved the first half of the book, I was captivated by these stories and I was fascinated by all the things you can find in them. But my interest simply turned off by itself around the midway point. And I don’t know why. Really. I was fascinated and interested and then… I was not. I don’t really know what happened and it was the strangest of things! But even if I found myself at a loss, and even if I wasn’t enjoying myself so much anymore, I appreciated the stories he told. Yes, it took me more time to read the second half because I was not so eager anymore to immerse myself in the reading, and yes the sense of wonder faded away, but all the stories of this book, both the ones of the first half and the ones of the second half, made me think. All of them were original and interesting.

I appreciated a lot the introduction because the author said a thing that I was discounting as obvious, but that it seems it was obvious to me because I live constantly immersed in a fantasy world (and between fantasy and sci-fi some borders are quite fleeting) and fantasy and sci-fi are quite global as literary genres, not in the meaning that they are read everywhere around the globe, but meaning that they are not quite settled in a single place, culture or tradition.
Yes, the authors put their culture and tradition and view of the world and etcetera in their work, because their identity affects their work, and their nationality is a big part of their identity, obviously, but the story they narrated, the world they create and the characters they put in action aren’t firmly linked to a real nationality. And this is one of the best things about sci-fi and fantasy, at least for me. I swear that this concept that I tangled and muddled in here, Liu Cixin explains in the introduction in a clearer way. Much much clearer!

Another peculiar thing about this book is that it is a sci-fi collection, but the sci-fi element is, for the majority of the stories, quite subtle. Yes, we have wonders, and aliens and planets and science, but it has a subdued quality to it all. And it is true that we have some stories in which the sci-fi is pervasive (we get dinosaurs in space, and yep, you read that right! For example, and alien artists too) but they are just a part of the book and not the whole. The first story, The Village Teacher, is the perfect example of what I am saying here.
I really appreciated this story, and even if it starts out plain enough it kept me wondering and it really surprised me. On one hand, we have a sad and really human story about a man who loves his work, he is dedicated and even if he is quite alone in his efforts, he won’t be moved. He is a communal teacher for a really poor village. The people in this village are ignorant and the village suffers from it. But this is nothing new, sadly. And the teacher tries his best with the boys that the families send him. He has passion and love for them and for culture and knowledge. I was quite intrigued by it because by example this poor character made you want to be a better person.
And it really shows us the importance of culture and knowledge. And of the importance to be able to not only think about the present moment. But all this was not sci-fi at all. And so I kept wondering why this story was in this collection, until… Until the twist. And it was unexpected! And just so perfect! And this was not the only story of this kind.

Sure, all the stories in there are quite different from each other, so you won’t meet this structure again, but we get a lot of stories in there in which the sci-fi element is not so evident in the beginning. But let’s continue! I have another really interesting thing to note. And it is the importance of the art in there.
We have some stories in which science and art go side by side. We have a musician from the space, for example. And the way in which the music is described in there was so interesting. I loved this concept, and it made me think of Asimov who, in Foundation and Empire, introduce a completely different kind of music. It is not that these two are really similar, but both of them try to create a new sensorial experience, and the pair of art and science is a brilliant one, at least for me.
And this is not the only new kind of art representation that the author gifts us with. We have poetry and sculptures too.

And every story is there to tell us something different. It can take us outside the anthropocentrism, for example, or it can make us think about the uniqueness of the artistic experience. But those are just a couple of thoughts, and the author gives us so much food for our thoughts. It was pretty amazing. I think that this was the best thing about this book. The fact that the author gives us so much to munch about. All the stories are different, you can feel that they are all from the same author but it is subtle because you have the impression that this all can have been written by different hands. And every single of them is unique in its own ways. It is not an easy and lighthearted book, and it is not a really fast one either. But it is a book that would stay with you, at least for a time. 

and half!

And what about you? Have you read this book? Or another one by the same author? Let me know!

Happy reading!

7 thoughts on “Arc Review: To Hold Up The Sky or a really thoughts inducing anthology

    • Susy's Cozy World says:

      I was too! But I was also curious and when I found this title on NetGalley I knew I had to try it. I was hoping to use this collection to see if the books by this author would be the right ones for me, but… I don’t know. I think they would be quite demanding but… I cannot say that I resolved all my doubts!


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