"Arrival" by Ted Chiang (2015)
"Once I have the basic idea laid out, I set my mind to multiprocessing: one section of my mind deriving a branch of mathematics that reflects the network's behavior; another developing a process for replicating the formation of neural pathways on a molecular scale in self-repairing bioceramic medium; a third devising tactics for guiding private industrial R&D to produce what I'll need."
The cover of this book is somewhat misleading. It's actually a collection of short stories, only one of which inspired the 2016 film Arrival. For this reason I'll be discussing the stories on an individual basis.
1. Tower of Babylon
The title is fairly self-explanatory, with the exception being that Jahweh never smites the Babylonians for their impudence. It's far more fantasy than science fiction, but it offers an intriguing premise.
Two beings of greatly enhanced intelligence engage in a duel. According to the "Story Notes," this is the oldest story in the collection, and it shows. It has some interesting ideas, but it's not as polished as the other stories here. Reminded me of certain characters within Frank Herbert's Dune novels.
3. Division by Zero
A mathematician discovers an unsettling truth. It's the most depressing story here, but it's well executed. Bears some strong similarities to the following entry, Story of Your Life.
4. Story of Your Life
The story on which Arrival is based, though in a far more stripped-down form. I liked it much more than the movie, though I still found it a bit implausible.
5. Seventy-Two Letters
Members of the aristocracy deal with a population crisis in a world that never experienced an industrial revolution. This is my favorite of these stories. I loved the author's invented system of magic.
6. The Evolution of Human Science
I'll call it a paper appearing in a future scientific journal. It's very short.
7. Hell is the Absence of God
A man tries to rejoin his wife in heaven, within a world where heaven and hell are manifested daily. I liked the way angels were presented, but it seemed like it needed more of a philosophical underpinning.
8. Liking What You See: A Documentary
College life within the context of being able to "switch off" one's perception of facial beauty. It goes on far too long, and I couldn't figure out why the characters wouldn't just switch over to some other physical measure of attractiveness, such as build, height, or even the sound of someone's voice.
"NeuroLogic" by Eliezer J. Steinberg, M.D. (2015)
"Make Way for the Super Humans" by Michael Bess (2015)
"Homo Deus" by Yuval Noah Harari (2015)
"House of Suns" by Alastair Reynolds (2008)