Blog Book Tour | #FuellYourSciFi as #JorieReads “The Hidden Girl” (and other stories) by Ken Liu

Posted Tuesday, 3 March, 2020 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

Book Review banner created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I’ve been enjoying hosting blog tours for the UK Indie publisher Head of Zeus as I feel blessed to work with them as a book blogger being that I love celebrating authors from the UK and the stories they are telling through the different genres Head of Zeus is publishing. These blog tours have been encouraging my bookish and readerly wanderings into Crime Dramas, Historical Fiction and Historical Sagas whilst also engaging into my passionate love of Speculative Fiction which encompasses Science Fiction and Fantasy. I am thankful to be hosting tours for the publisher directly and with their publicity team at Midas PR.

I received a complimentary copy of “The Hidden Girl” direct from the publisher Head of Zeus in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I felt blessed to read “The Hidden Girl”:

I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for Speculative Fiction – readers of Jorie Loves A Story might take note of the fact I regularly participate in two annual book blogosphere events: Sci Fi November (@SciFiMonth) & Wyrd And Wonder (@WyrdAndWonder) – the latter of which I helped co-develop and co-host every May with our supplemental fortnight event every October.

I immediately connected with the author’s vision vision of [The Hidden Girl] – not just from the concept behind his creation of Silkpunk but through what he put on his website as a short extract of what we’d find inside. It was a theory of thought I have oft shared myself on my own blog – about how without a reader a story is not yet ready for its debut because it takes a reader to complete a path the writer has placed in front of them. In essence all stories need readers because the writer can only take the story ‘thus far’ before a reader needs to complete it. I love writers who are thought-provoking about their craft inasmuch as they are engaging through their style of story.

Silkpunk is such a new and dynamic concept for me!

I love Susan Spann’s Hiro Hattori novels for rooting me in 16th Century Japan for similar reasons – between the heritage & cultural notations to the aesthetic of how she uses the setting of Japan itself as a narrative guide. I also felt emotionally moved by The Ghost Bride by Yengsze Choo – the visuals and the speculative intersection of the story against the cultural beliefs of where the ghost brides enter into the storyline – simply evocatively beautiful. I love Asian Literature – I try to seek out more whenever I can which is why I still want to finish A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe as I felt so dearly connected to the world she created within the scope of the novel.

This idea of “Silkpunk” is what truly captured my thirst of curiosity to read The Hidden Girl as I love finding new sub-niches of genres I regularly read – they give new credence to how inventive writers are and how wickedly delightful it is to disappear into a story which is going to take us elsewhere from whence we’ve travelled previously. Similar to why I like the ‘other’  punk sub-niches in Speculative Fiction, Silkpunk to me felt like a wicked good ‘next’ fit!

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Blog Book Tour | #FuellYourSciFi as #JorieReads “The Hidden Girl” (and other stories) by Ken LiuThe Hidden Girl
Subtitle: And Other Stories
by Ken Liu
Source: Direct from Publicist

From a Tang Dynasty legend of a young girl trained as an assassin with the ability to skip between dimensions on a secluded mountain sanctuary to a space colony called Nova Pacifica that reflects on a post-apocalyptic world of the American Empire and ‘Moonwalker’ Neil Armstrong, award-winning author Ken Liu’s writings are laced with depictions of silkpunk fantasy, Sci-Fi and old Chinese folklore, wrapped up in a mesmerising genre-bending collection of short stories.

Ken Liu is one of the most lauded short story writers of our time. This much anticipated collection includes a selection of his latest science fi ction and fantasy stories over the last fi ve years – sixteen of his best – plus a new novelette. In addition to these seventeen selections, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories also features an excerpt from book three in the Dandelion Dynasty series, The Veiled Throne.

Genres: Anthology Collection of Short Stories and/or Essays, Science Fiction, Short Story or Novella, Space Opera

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1982134037

Published by Head of Zeus

on 25th February, 2020

Format: Hardcover Edition

Pages: 432

Published By: Head of Zeus (@HoZ_Books)

For those who are new to reading Silkpunk,
I found a lovely article which the author explains the genre
and what constitues a Silkpunk style of narrative as its a genre-bent of Sci Fi & Fantasy.

Genre(s): Science Fiction | Speculative | Silkpunk

Short Story | Space Opera | Folklore | Hard Science Fiction

Converse via: #TheHiddenGirl, #KenLiu with #Silkpunk

as well as #ScienceFiction and #SpeculativeFiction

Available Formats: Hardcover, Audiobook & Ebook

About Ken Liu

Ken Liu

Ken Liu is an American Speculative Fiction writer and the winner of the Nebula, Hugo, Locus, World Fantasy, Sidewise, and Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards. The son of a pharmaceutical chemist and a computer engineer, Ken emigrated to the US with his mother and father at the age of 11. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in English Literature and Computer Science and later attended Harvard Law School.

Prior to becoming a full-time writer, Ken worked as a software engineer, corporate lawyer, and litigation consultant. His debut novel, The Grace of Kings, is the first volume in a Silkpunk Epic Fantasy series, The Dandelion Dynasty, in which engineers play the role of wizards.

His debut collection, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, has been published in more than a dozen language and his short story Good Hunting was adapted for an episode for Netflix’s science fiction web series Love, Death and Robots.

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about the preface:

The eloquent way in which Mr Liu explains the symbiotic relationship between the writer and the reader is one of the best depictions I have come across – as it talks to the heart of how stories are transformed inside our imaginations, we pull our own experiences into our readings and how we  interpret the stories we read is co-dependent on our thoughts, emotions and the murmurs of life we’ve previously lived prior to entering into the landscape of a ‘story’. Thus, for each reader of a story there is a level of ambiguous anonymity for the story itself because each reader will have their own impressional view of what the story reveals to them. No reader will share the exact same experience and that is the beauty of why I have loved reading stories and exploring fictional worlds across genre and literary styling of narrative.

I, also, appreciated how Liu is talking about writing not for market but for oneself as a writer – to carve out the niches of our own literary style rooted in our own enlightened curiosity to tell the stories we are passionately compelled to create vs trying to subject ourselves to guessing what the market might yield viable or what a reader might sensibly choose to read on any given day, month or year. There is such truth in the simplicity of what he’s referencing but its not a simple resolution to embrace (for some) as I know there is always that urgency to write what is on demand rather than to allow yourself the merit of literary exploration fuelled by individual curiosity and inspiration.

As he concluded how he took his path into The Hidden Girl and by extension all his published stories, I held the most respect for his ideals and his beliefs in allowing writers the capacity of choice and the will to create what their own muse inspires their own path to encompass as they write the worlds, the characters and the stories which personally invigorate their own creativity. I saw a piece of a writer’s soul which is equal to my own and it was a welcome breath of fresh air.

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my review of “the hidden girl”:

{ as this is an anthology, I am revealling my thoughts about the individual

stories which I felt most connected to as I read the collection whilst augmenting those

observations with the fuller scope of the anthology itself }

| Ghost Days |

We first entreat into a setting that is not quite altogether unfamiliar for those of us who star travel alongside the crews of the Enterprise and/or Voyager. We find ourselves at a place called Nova Pacifica and rather than finding an adaptive society here in a rather hostile environment for human life – we find the human settlers who are on Nova Pacifica have altered their own descending course of ancestry by redefining how to procreate their children and how those children in turn would be genetically altered to withstand the envions of this setting. It was a cunning premise at the start – where we find ourselves in a classroom but the children are not quite whom they appear to be until you get to spend time with them outside class, away from their teacher and listen to them on their own terms outside. It is there were you feel their resentment and hear their disillusioned disdain for the life that was forced upon them by the adults.

Hovering over their shoulders like a shrouded cloud is the memories of a prior life by their teachers – of a world they cannot know and can never (or at least it is implied) visit which doesn’t help their morale. They are in the process of honouring the legacies of heroes from a different age including Neil Armstrong but because of how far removed they are from that ‘existence’ of others – their motivation to participate or feel a sense of pride in the project itself is waning at best. In some ways, this is what I felt the title was inferring – how it doesn’t take much to occupy hours in the company of ghosts – for these children, people like Armstrong are definitively a ‘ghost’ in their life because they do not have a tangible connection to him, his life or any of his achievements. In essence it was almost as if the relevancy of what he did was lost on their generation because it didn’t have a connective purpose to their own struggles in the here and now.

They were the byproducts of a colony ship which could not let go of their past ties to a forgotten Earth whilst they were currently occupying the grounds of an alien society long since removed. You could understand their point – why dredge up the past if it was no longer an anchour to a life being lived now? So many light years removed would encourage a new start, to begin anew, to seek out a way to re-adapt into a life worth living ‘here’ rather than contemplating what was lost ‘there’ to never be re-found or re-seen.

We slip backwards into 1989 – slipping into the shoes of an immigrant from China who wants to give the artifact Oona hasn’t appreciated receiving as her project piece on Nova Pacifica to his girlfriend. His family had escaped Beijing during a turbulent time in their history but more to the point Liu was highlighting the difficulties of re-adjusting to a new cultural society, how fitting in is far more difficult than expected and the curious reasons why people are shocked if you can speak their language as well as your own. It felt right to trace the origins of the artifact(s) – to let time dictate their truer origins and to give small kernels of insight into how their place in other people’s lives affected the transitions of how they moved from one hand to the next and interlocked memories of experience along the route.

We slip a second time into 1905 – directly to Hong Kong where the topic of artifacts, historic origins of antiques and the continuity of maintaining integrity about the past and present is being explored through the tension of a father and son relationship. It is here where the story continues to build into the complex theory about what is important about origin and the originating histories of people, how they put empathsis on traditions, celebrations and the artifacts of their lives and why all of this is both relevant and important even if generationally removed from the initial experiences where things were first revealled.

As we shifted back into Oona’s timescape, we see a girl emerging into a keener awareness – about herself, about her world of Nova Pacifica and about the earnest hope of those who lived before her to leave a portion of themselves behind. This was a story about remembrance past death and of the immortality of etching out a piece of ourselves through the legacies we leave in our wake. These can be the memories instilled in our children or the tangible objects which were important to us whilst we lived – something which can tuck away our essence and a piece of what we learnt whilst alive are the objects which mean the most in the end to re-construct a portion of a human life. There is a beauty of revelation in this story – of how a girl outgrows her own animosity for history and starts to see everything through new eyes as she hugs closer to the truths which eventually are universally revealled to us all.

| Thoughts and Prayers |

Liu gives you such much emotional depth in such a short expanse of time it is hard to adjust your own responses to what has happened to Hayley in this story. First told through the eyes of her sister, who quite envious of how Hayley is off to college, wanton free and exploring life – she doesn’t put much weight on the message she was sent. Not until it was too late to respond and not before her family received the kind of news no family should. It has the merits of being told in a generation of gun violence and of the kind of newscasts that all of us don’t wish to become numbed by but slowly are due to how high the frequency is for these circumstances to effect all of our lives.

It is here he peers into how this family deals with their sorrow and how their grief is shaping how they remember their daughter, their sister and the elapse of hours where memory plays a strong role on reshaping the impressions of how they lived their lives. Yet it was the thesis of photographic memory which I was most intrigued by the most. The kind which lives in the photographs we take in the moments we feel are most important to capture to hold responsible in the future when our own memories might falter and fail to recollect those moments previously captured on film. Though nothing in this story is as benign as it seems – because what about the elements of how photographs can be manipulated and how their images can become a false truth than what they were intended at the point of capture? Where is the line drawn between art and the artful exploration of creating a portion of reality which is not entirely true of its image?

Each of Hayley’s loved ones are transitioning through their grief in different ways – her mother is refusing to do anything but record the harder moments between life and death; in a bit of a morbid civil way of dealing with how death erodes away the ability to find peace when your soul is crushed by sorrow. Her father cannot reconcile his own anguish in how he was not protective enough of his daughter – how his mind recanted and recalled his choices in how he raised her and why those choices now would continue to plague his mind. You felt for him – how there was no easy path away from his grief and how his grief would re-consume him each time he felt he was a failure as a father.

In the background of their process of grief is the insurgency of technological manipulation of what is public and shared on social networks. How the images of one person can be taken without permission and used in ways that inflict more harm on the family left behind to deal with the world after the traumatic loss of their loved one(s). It shows how with more high tech in our lives, the more we are vulnerable to what happens when our content is taken by those who diversely seek to do harm and do not have remorse for what they inflict. It is a discourse on technology and the blurred lines between one family’s loss and the politicisation of fuelling a narrative for change which never seems to launch.

This story is nuanced with the spiralling grief of one family whose personal loss was toiled through the trolling army of the online world wherein perception can be easily manipulated and where lies can sometimes be taken for absolute truth. They are out of their depth with how to control what is happening to them and yet they cannot stop it either. A hauntingly realistic narrative that is all too familiar in a world who remains connected more than they disconnect from the online space which fills our conscience with too much data to ever properly digest. Told from alternating points-of-view the story overtakes your heart because of how dire it was written to become a living truth of a composite experience stripped out of our own headlines.

| The Hidden Girl |

This is the story which involves SilkpunkI was a bit surprised that more of the stories in the collection were Contemporary, Futuristic and Historical in setting or scope rather than having more alternating between Silkpunk and Speculative Science Fiction. At the heart of the stories there are elemental science fiction concepts – where there is a high presence of technology and innovative sciences permeating through the stories themselves but I was looking forward to more glimpses of this new niche of genre known as Silkpunk.

For a girl who grew up climbing trees, I could readily identify with the young girl in this story. She has a free spirit about her and she isn’t afraid to do the impossible. The nun who is imploring her with a task that many might consider too complex for a girl of ten isn’t even phasing the girl herself because she knows how to use her body to accomplish it. It is as if she were a natural bourne acrobat and the tree is merely the tool of her performance.

She is an ordinary girl trying to live an ordinary life despite the station of her father in her society and the fact she has lost her mother at a young age. It is something about how she helped the nun that day she was in the tree which set her apart from others her age. It led to her escape from the life she knew into a new life she couldn’t have dreamt if she tried. It was this hidden world where women were trained in a high level of martial arts and where gravity wasn’t a defining mark of what could limit your actions. It was here where she drew her courage and resolve; she wanted to learn whatever she could from this place and use it as fortitude to escape on her own terms.

One of the more inventive stories I’ve read about dimensional space and the hidden connections between the reality we know and the realities we cannot yet see as they are past the veil of what is known. This is where the girl lives and where she roams; she was taught and trained to be someone which went against her own soul. The beauty of the story is how Liu grants this girl the moxie to stand up for herself despite the odds he’s placed against her and do something quite defiantly courageous.

As my first entry of Silkpunk, I could see why I would enjoy reading more stories set in these kinds of worlds because they are an echo of immersion I have with 16th Century Japan. They are a different cultural heritage and have a different aesthetic but they also share a few similarities which make them a wicked good read! You feel compelled to be pulled into the textural elements which create the backdrop for how this kind of story is told. I loved how Liu created this hidden portal and also used Chinese cultural heritage as a way to insert us into feeling a compassionate connection to the girl and the road she had to walk in order to gain her own freedom.

| Seven Birthdays |

This one hit a bit closer to home for me emotionally – specifically because it is rooted in dementia and the heartache for loved ones to find ways to communicate when memory has been erased. I’ve had grandfathers who had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s whilst my father is a stroke survivor. The way we enter into this sombering story is a mother who is more focused on her career than the life of her daughter – she tries to pencil in time for Mia but she is always rushing off to the next meeting, the next project or the next ‘whichever’ task that is going to take her further afield and re-enlarge the gulf moving between herself and her daughter.

The story shifts hard into the future – where the mind of the mother is unable to readjust itself to understand the passages of time – similar to how the earthquake of a stroke can reassemble the memory of a mind in a way that doesn’t take a lineal route but rather a haphazard one which puts together the pieces of a the memory puzzle back together in a way that only the stroke survivor can understand. So, to does Mia’s mother in her condition now at an assisted living or nursing home (as it wasn’t disclosed) finds herself speaking about what interests her in the field of her career but without the grounding realisation to know anything about the passage of time.

It is hard-hitting emotionally to see Mia struggling as an adult to best choose what is right to share and what is best to forego explaining. She knows the living truths of her lived life but why dredge up lost memories to a mother who cannot hold onto them once they are spoken and or shared? She instead does what most children and family carers do for their loved ones who are lost between the and the present – she humours her Mum by listening to her rants and circling outside looking for a child who now lives as an adult.

This is only the beginning of this story but the part which left the most impact on me. For similar reasons why I find watching #ZoeysPlaylist to be an uplift of joy right now, I found solace in how Mia approached honouring her mother’s love and finding the tender balance of understanding how important the moments are with our loved ones irregardless of what they understand or remember in the long term. Reflectively Liu also built a larger scope of narrative out from this mother-daughter narrative and I loved how his mind thinks and works out his plots because of how they reach into snippets of philosophical interludes.

on the silkpunk & speculative writing style of ken liu:

Liu has a very engaging prose about his narrative – he’s a wordsmith who encourages his readers to expand their imaginations as they read. He wants you to hug closer to the story and peel away its layers – to see more critically about what is being discussed and not to bypass a revelation for curiosity about a particular setting or character. There is a rhythm of insight flowing through his stories and it is this keen awareness of imparting knowledge that fuells the collection.

This anthological collection of stories murmurs its way through Contemporary, Historical and Speculative landscapes whilst exploring the human condition in all its forms. The stories seek to ask direct questions about morality and ethics, about what a person believes to be true of themselves as much as what they believe true of others; of their world and their purpose in life. Each of the stories are anchoured through different cultural earmarks of time – you move from one setting to another seeking the truth out of the journey each character undertook whilst moving closer to the heart of the message Liu has embedded into the collection as each of the stories act as one portion of the whole.

The only time I struggled a bit with one of the stories was when I read The Gods Will Not Be Chained – mostly because I have trouble with emoji speech – meaning, if you string together emojis in lieu of words I am the most confused person! I never knew if my misunderstanding to follow the logical patterns of those symbols was linked to being dyslexic or not, but for whichever reason when you use those symbols to replace words and speech to create a word or phrase through the images themselves I find myself confounded to understand anything. However, on a positive note – emoji coded messages aside – what I did appreciate about this story was how it was again looking at technological advances and how there is a continuing blurred line between striving for something to embetter our lives and the cautionary line of concern where we start to erase our humanity.

Some of the stories have continuations – such as The Gods Will Not Be Chained – this sequence had three interlocking stories. I am going to be re-reading those passages again, as I had to wait til my cold released the grip it had on me to read this collection. It pushed me hard into my deadline to feature my review and I regret some of the stories like this sequence were a bit harder to conceptionalise on the deadline itself. I appreciated that since this was one of the serialised stories they were all included in the collection, as it gives the reader a beautiful note of continuity.

The interesting bit is how much you can intuit out of the stories – how you feel guided through time and through the lives herein as if there was a stamped itinerary you’re meant to follow. There is a directive and purpose to these stories – to get the reader to *think harder!* about the outside world and our presence involved in the activities we encourage in our everyday hours. It is at first responsive to what has happened in the past whilst an animated discourse on our future – about how cautious we all should be becoming about technology and how we should live our lives with the balance of understanding how technology in of itself can effect more than what is first perceived. It isn’t to step away from technology but rather to look harder at how technology is used and how to best purport a balance between obsessive immersion and regulating our time spent using it with a healthier outlook and respect of what it can provide.

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This Book Review is courtesy

of #TheHiddenGirl blog tour

Follow the journey by visiting with these bloggers:

The Hidden Girl blog tour banner was provided by Midas PR and is used with permission.

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Visit the book blogger who preceded me on the tour:

Review @ Jane Hunt Writer

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. Bookish conversations are always welcome on Jorie Loves A Story. I especially would love to hear your thoughts on Speculative Fiction, Silkpunk and why you love seeking out short form fiction and anthological collections like this one!

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “The Hidden Girl”, book synopsis, author photograph of Ken Liu, author biography and the blog tour banners were all provided by Midas PR and used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2020.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Tuesday, 3 March, 2020 by jorielov in Anthology Collection of Stories, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, England, Hard Science Fiction, Head of Zeus, Novellas or Short Stories, Science Fiction, Silkpunk, Space Opera, Speculative Fiction

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