Book review: To Hold Up the Sky

To Hold Up the Sky

To Hold Up the Sky,
by Cixin Liu
Various translators
from the Chinese

Tor Books
336 pages
Science Fiction


Buy the book on my Bookshop

I discovered Cixin Liu a couple of years ago and was totally blown away by Supernova Era.
This time, I would like to present the latest collection of his science-fiction short stories: To Hold Up the Sky.

I don’t often read short stories, as they often feel like unfinished pieces to me, but there are a few impressive exceptions.

This collection is definitely one of them. It contains eleven 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.

Cixin Liu is here just as impressive as in the novel Supernova Era.
Most stories deal with themes of science, space, astrophysics for instance, IT, genes, and the environment, how humans stand in all that, and what their challenges are, or as the author explains in the introduction, “the relationship between the Great and the Small”, in other words, between the universe and “human smallness”.

I like the high level of science contained in some of them. His writing is very compact, with some amazing endings. This is not beach reads sci-fi, but really very complex stories, so brilliantly crafted. This shows even in translation (which can only be masterful I assume, even though I can’t read Chinese).

I was particularly impressed by Contraction.
We are currently observing space expansion. But is it an infinite phenomenon? Will space-time start to contract at one point? Will it impact matter? These are the issues considered in this story, with a fabulous ending worthy of Oulipo writing.

Another impressive story is dealing with art. I will not give any details about Sea of Dreams, it’s like a major universe-size fresco reflection on art and life. 

“Art is the only reason for a civilization to exist.”

The introduction helped me measure even more Cixin Liu’s impact on the genre. Indeed, most of his stories presented here were written more than a decade ago, at a time when “sci-fi was still a very marginal pursuit in China.”

VERDICT: An impressive collection of brilliantly crafted short stories. Very solid sci-fi with science and reflection on our place in the universe.


Or any other great Chinese sci-fi?

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines, I received this ebook free of charge through Netgalley, for review. I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.


6 thoughts on “Book review: To Hold Up the Sky

  1. Even though I’m not very knowledgeable about certain areas of science, I do enjoy a well written book. It helps to pull you up to a higher level of understanding even though there will still be gaps in your grasp of the subject.


  2. I have the same notion as you, that short stories make for unfinished business. It takes a lot for me to stick to an anthology. This one looks like it might just do the trick. Thanks!


What do you think? Share your thoughts, and I will answer you. I will also visit your own blog

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

You are commenting using your 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 )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.