Read by Emily Woo Zeller, Ramón de Ocampo, Nancy Wu, Cindy Kay and Michael Kramer
About The Book
Includes stories featured in Pantheon—now an animated series on AMC+
“I know this is going to sound hyperbolic, but when I’m reading Ken Liu’s stories, I feel like I’m reading a once-in-a-generation talent. I’m in awe.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author
“Captivating.” —BuzzFeed “Extraordinary.” —The Washington Post “Brilliant.” —The Chicago Tribune
With the release of The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, Ken Liu’s short fiction has resonated with a generation of readers.
From stories about time-traveling assassins, to Black Mirror-esque tales of cryptocurrency and internet trolling, to heartbreaking narratives of parent-child relationships, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories is a far-reaching work that explores topical themes from the present and a visionary look at humanity’s future.
This collection includes a selection of Liu’s speculative fiction stories over the past five years—seventeen of his best—plus a new novelette. In addition, it also features an excerpt from The Veiled Throne, the third book in Liu’s epic fantasy series The Dandelion Dynasty.
Stories include: Ghost Days; Maxwell's Demon; The Reborn; Thoughts and Prayers; Byzantine Empathy; The Gods Will Not Be Chained; Staying Behind; Real Artists; The Gods Will Not Be Slain; Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer; The Gods Have Not Died in Vain; Memories of My Mother; Dispatches from the Cradle: The Hermit—Forty-Eight Hours in the Sea of Massachusetts; Grey Rabbit, Crimson Mare, Coal Leopard; A Chase Beyond the Storms (an excerpt from The Veiled Throne, Book 3 of the Dandelion Dynasty); The Hidden Girl; Seven Birthdays; The Message; Cutting
Reading Group Guide
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This reading group guide for The Hidden Girl and Other Stories includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
From the award-winning author of The Paper Menagerie, Ken Liu, comes his next collection of speculative fiction. There are stories with time-traveling assassins, otherworldly beings, unbelievably vicious internet trolls, and tyrannical digital gods. He covers everything from the complexities of parent-child relationships to what it means to be a human, and he offers a glimpse into the possible futures for humanity.
The Hidden Girl and Other Stories is a far-reaching work that explores topics of today, while considering the past and looking forward at what is to come.
Topics and Questions for Discussion
1. While all of the stories have their own themes, arcs, environments, and characters, talk about the overarching narrative of the collection as a whole. Would there be a different order that you would choose? What story do you think Liu is trying to tell through this particular order?
2. One of the recurring motifs is the definition of humanity—what truly makes us human. This is especially prominent in the stories that feature the idea of Singularity. Discuss the idea of uploading one’s consciousness into the cloud. As a human, what is there to gain and what is there to lose? Do you think Liu tries to represent both sides?
3. Why do you think Liu chose to end the collection with “Cutting” and have the last words be “remember to forget”? Do you think it’s in reference to all of the previous stories or just to “The Message” (a story in which a man’s inability to forget civilizations that came before him leads to his death and the near death of his daughter)?
4. The idea of heritage and belonging is touched on in “Ghost Days.” Talk about how Liu uses the words alien, ghost, and foreigner to create the feeling of being an outcast, and how it’s passed through generations.
5. In “The Reborn” the prisoner tells Josh Rennon, “‘I don’t want to be free of these ghosts. Did you ever consider that? I don’t want to forget’” (p. 55). Would you rather forget something horrible that happened to you or do you believe that even the painful memories and harmful mistakes are what make a human whole? Do you think it’s possible to fully forgive awful deeds if you can’t remember them?
6. Talk about the themes touched on in “The Reborn.” Are there certain acts that are completely unforgivable? Josh truly loved Kai before he remembered that Kai was responsible for the murder of Josh’s parents. Do you think Josh made the right decision in the end? Talk about some of the ways that Liu made Kai sympathetic.
7. “Thought and Prayers” focuses on the dark underbelly of the social media world and “internet trolls.” Do you agree with Heartless that “everyone is a troll now”? Is it almost impossible to have any sort of true authenticity in an online presence? Talk about some of the problems that online trolls have caused in real life. Do you think this story could be where we are headed?
8. Maddie is the only recurring character and yet her stories are not consecutive. What are some of the pros for the fact that there are stories in between Maddie’s episodes—although they do seem to be linked and occur in the same world? What are some of the cons?
9. “‘But why do you think we are a problem that needs solving?’. . . ‘We don’t call ourselves refugees; you do. This is our home. We live here’”(p. 258). This is what one of the boys still living on Earth says to Asa --π when she is bartering with him. While, of course, people living on Earth are either forever at sea or underground, there also seems to be a thriving tourist population. Humans appear to have adapted and some don’t know any other kind of life. So, why do you think many still look at them as refugees? What are some examples of the language that Liu uses to make underwater-Harvard actually seem appealing and beautiful?
10. “The Hidden Girl” has a tone that is somewhat different from the majority of the stories. There’s very little technology, and it seems to lean much more toward spiritual and mystical ideas. Why do you think Liu chose this particular story to be the title that represents the whole collection?
11. All of the stories touch on deep philosophical questions about the human experience—what it means to be a parent, a child, part of a family unit, an outcast. What is the story that you feel captured it accurately? What were some of the ways that Liu summed up our existence successfully?
12. This collection focuses a lot on where the Earth is headed and what our future might look like. Would you say that Liu’s vision is somewhat hopeful? While many die, there are people who adapt and carry on the species. Or would you say that his idea of the future is pessimistic? If so, why?
13. Talk about which of the postapocalyptic or alien worlds you would prefer to inhabit and why.
14. In almost every one of the stories a loved one has either already passed away or dies in the story. How does Liu explore the idea of loss and its impact on different members of the family?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Many of the technologies mentioned throughout don’t seem entirely too futuristic. Singularity, and the quest for immortality by uploading your consciousness, is something that has been in the news over the past couple of years. Before book club, do a little research on the subject and come prepared to distinguish the fact from the fiction.
2. Before book club, think about what you might be if you drank the Revelation wine. Then have members discuss each person and see how your view of yourself compares with others’ views of you. For an extra element, have a specialty-themed beverage for that night that everyone has to drink.
3. Think about which of the stories you wish would be developed into a full-length book. Come up with a plot of what that book would be. Would you have it pick up after the end of the short story and flesh it out from there? Or would you use the story as an outline and fill in other plot points within the current structure?
Ken Liu is an award-winning American author of speculative fiction. His collection, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, has been published in more than a dozen languages. Liu’s other works include The Grace of Kings, The Wall of Storms, The Veiled Throne, and a second collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories. He has been involved in multiple media adaptations of his work, including the short story “Good Hunting,” adapted as an episode in Netflix’s animated series Love, Death + Robots; and AMC’s Pantheon, adapted from an interconnected series of short stories. “The Hidden Girl,” “The Message,” and “The Oracle” have also been optioned for development. Liu previously worked as a software engineer, corporate lawyer, and litigation consultant. He frequently speaks at conferences and universities on topics including futurism, machine-augmented creativity, the history of technology, and the value of storytelling. Liu lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.
"Five narrators perform 20 stories by author Ken Liu, both individually and as ensemble presenters. While no single narrative thread binds the stories together, themes on the question of identity are common. Standouts among the stories include the three 'Gods' pieces ('The Gods Will Not Be Chained,' 'The Gods Will Not Be Slain,' and 'The Gods Will Not Have Died in Vain'), all performed by Emily Woo Zeller; 'Thoughts and Prayers,' performed by the entire cast; and 'Maxwell's Demon,' performed by Cindy Kay. Regardless of whether the narrators are performing individually or with others, they excel at realizing the intricate stories and complex characters Liu has created, and at injecting humanity and compassion into disparate and even alien cultures."