Review: To Hold Up the Sky by Liu Cixin

Author: Liu Cixin
Publisher: Tor Books
Released: October 20th, 2020
Received: NetGalley

4 1/2 kitties

I received a copy of To Hold Up the Sky in exchange for a fair and honest review.

To Hold Up the Sky is a collection of short stories written by the one and only, Liu Cixin. As with the rest of her works, these stories dive into a world of science fiction that only Liu Cixin could dream up.

Included in this collection are eleven amazing stories: The Village Teacher, The Time Migration, 2018-04-01, Fire in the Earth, Contraction, Mirror, Ode to Joy, Full-Spectrum Barrage Jamming, Sea of Dreams, Cloud of Poems, and The Thinker. All of which I’ll discuss in more detail below, as well as rating them individually.

What I love about this collection is that it shows a range of writing and ideas, any of which can touch the spirit of those reading. Personally, I found myself falling in love with three stories in particular, The Village Teacher, Contraction, and The Thinker. I’m sure that everyone will have their own favorites, however.

“In my sci-fi, I challenge myself to imagine the relationship between Small people and the Great universe – not in the metaphysical sense of philosophy, nor as when someone looks up at the starry sky and feels such sentiment and pathos that their views on human life and the universe change.”

The Village Teacher
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

“The children and firelight, the children and firelight. It was always the children and firelight, always the children at night, in the firelight.”

As mentioned above, this is one of my absolute favorites from this collection, if not the favorite. Having it come first sets the tone for this entire collection, and I firmly believe that it was the right choice.

It’s a somber tale, but it is also beautiful and thought-provoking. It’s an interesting blend, featuring a smaller town in China, as well as a larger universe (and what that means for everything and everyone that comes in contact with it).

The Time Migration
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

“When did the war start?”

“This one? Two years ago.”

“This one?”
“There’ve been a few since you left.”

The Time Migration was another fascinating story from this collection, and the ideal follow-up to The Village Teacher. At least, in my mind.

In some ways this plot felt familiar, but in many other ways it was something wholly unique. It is yet another story written to be thought-provoking, discussing the concept of humanity and it’s evolution. It is wonderfully done.

Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

“By removing those gene segments that produce the aging clock, humanity’s typical life span can be extended to as long as three hundred years.”

2018-04-01 is an interesting read. I had a bit of trouble getting into it, but once I did…the impact of the story is unavoidable. Yet another example of Liu Cixin’s rich writing style – even unlikable characters have a story worth telling.

Fire in the Earth
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

“All he heard, echoing in his brain, was that noise, every syllable engraved on his memory as if etched on a record.”

Fire in the Earth is a chilling, but wonderfully written, addition to this collection. At first I wasn’t sure what to think of it, but wow did it get me by the end! I wavered a bit on giving this one four or five stars, and could very easily see my mind being changed at some point.

Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

“The universe had been expanding for about fourteen billion years would, in two years, start collapsing. Now, out of those two years, there’s only one hour left.”

Wow. Out of all the stories in this collection, I think Contraction made me stop and think the most. It dives headfirst into the world of physics, the expanding universe, and so much more. All while providing a new perspective on it all. Wonderfully done.

Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

“Every time we take action, the target escapes on step ahead of us. They know what we’re going to do.”

This was another great addition to the collection, though in many ways it felt completely different from the rest of the stories. I believe that to be a good thing, showing the depth of range once again!

Ode to Joy
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

“You’ve erected a bridge from classical music to the masses, and so much we bring humanity’s highest ideals directly to the common people.”

I think out of all the stories in the collection Ode to Joy stuck out as the oddest of the bunch. I don’t mean that in a negative way, though I did struggle to get into this one a bit. I love that music was the common theme for this story, and wouldn’t have minded reading more of it, if only to see where else it could have gone.

Full-Spectrum Barrage Jamming
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

“The fallen city had already disappeared from view.”

Set in Russia, and written with all of the love and passion of somebody fascinated with another country, Full-Spectrum Barrage Jamming is undoubtedly the most graphic story in this collection. By graphic, I mean gory. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you. It fits in with the tale itself, and thus I have no complaints about it. It is about war, after all.

Sea of Dreams
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

“No matter how many years passed by, the scene when the low-temperature artist arrived remained clear in her mind.”

Sea of Dreams was another fascinating read. I love the idea of using art and ice sculpture as a way of starting this particular conversation. It was totally unexpected, but it worked rather nicely in this instance.

Cloud of Poems
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

“Oh, yes, humanity lived inside the Earth nowadays.”

Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will probably appreciate Cloud of Poems – I know I did! It’s got that classic science fiction vibe, while also pulling in a bit of that humor that is so well known to the Hitchhiker’s Guide universe.

The Thinker
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆

“He still remembered how he felt the first time he saw the Mount Siyun Astronomical Observatory thirty-four years ago.”

Last, but certainly not least, there’s The Thinker. The final short story in this collection. This was another one of my favorites. It was wonderfully done, covering the slow passage of time between two characters, their shared connection, and a twinkling in the stars. It was powerful, thought-provoking, and sweet, all in one. I absolutely adored it. It was the perfect conclusion for Liu Cixin’s collection.


About Liz (AKA Cat)

I am an avid animal lover, photographer, reader, and much more. While my photography blog is feeling a bit neglected at the moment, the other sites I'm involved in are going strong. ✧I review books, comics, and basically anything else in the literary world over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks (of Books). ✧I review comics and books, as well as write content for Word of the Nerd. ✧I review comics for Monkeys Fighting Robots. ✧I write content for Screen Rant and CBR. ✧I write book reviews for The Review Crew.
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