Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Ancestral Temple in a Box, by Chen Qiufan

★★★★☆ Clever and Surprising

(Virtual Reality) On his deathbed, a man implores his son to visit his plaque at their ancestral temple—which appears to exist in virtual reality. (5,530 words; Time: 18m)

"," by (translated by Emily Jin, edited by Neil Clarke), appeared in issue 160, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2020.035 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Sonny certainly seems like an odd fit for his family. A high-tech guy who loves virtual reality doesn’t fit well into a very traditional clan that earns its living with hand-made wood products. And yet his father wants to patch things up and insists he promise to visit him in the family temple.

When we learn the family temple he has in mind exists in virtual reality, it’s almost funny. As though Dad knew his son quite well and figured that was the only way to get him to comply. But we quickly learn that Dad actually values Sonny’s modern perspective, which is heart-warming.

In fact, what’s brilliant about this story is that Sonny finds a harmonious way to integrate human creativity with mechanical efficiency. Far from the cheap, machine-made products he originally had in mind, he produces something to genuinely make his father proud.

Con: I didn’t find I had any emotional connection to any of the characters in the story.

There are a few rough spots in the translation where the wrong word or the wrong syntax gets used.

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Chen Qiufan Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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