East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Time travel and Arabian Nights


2457-1Ted Chiang‘s The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate is a novelette originally published by Subterranean Press.
I spent a few hours reading it during the weekend, and as it usually happens with stories by Ted Chiang, I was overawed by the author’s skill and finesse.

I will not spoil the plot here (as I know there’s a reader of this blog that has a copy of the book on her ereader).
Suffice to say that this is a time travel story, set in the world and told with the style of The Arabian Nights.
And readers of this blog probably remember I am a fan of the Arabian Nights.

This being a time travel story, it probably qualifies as fantasy1  – even if, despite the setting and the language, Chiang slips in his narrative a rather plausible science fictional rationale.
But matters of classification really are beside the point2, as we are dealing with a wonderful and poignant story, masterfully designed and perfectly told.
The sort of story that deserves a second reading to try and learn how the author did it.

  1. and as an Oriental fantasy at that! 
  2. I was exposed to the classic I don’t read fantasy because I love science fiction just a few days back, and thus I discovered I cannot suffer the fools any longer. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

6 thoughts on “Time travel and Arabian Nights

  1. Actually I was a little disappointed by this novella. I’ve found the style of Chiang too “cold” for an oriental fantasy.


  2. How could it happen I don’t know anything about this novella? :O
    I must read it.
    You know, I like Time traveling, Ted Chiang and The Arabian Nights and here we have all this good stuff.
    I can’t resist it, really! I’ll go for it as soon as possible.
    Great post 😀 thank you for sharing.


  3. Last night I read it and I really enjoyed it!
    I told you that I would read it as soon as possible and I discovered I had it in the collection of Ted Chiang stories (Stories of Your Life and Others) that I had taken to read Seventy-Two Letters an interesting steampunk story.
    There is always something intriguing and fresh in the stories of Ted Chiang.
    Something that is worth reading them.
    He never disappoints me, as well as your reviews. 🙂


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s