“Seven Birthdays,” by Ken Liu

“Bridging Infinity” Anthology, ed. Jonathan Strahan

“Seven Birthdays,” by Ken Liu.
Published in Bridging Infinity, reprinted in Tor.Com.

Speculiction writes:

Contextualizing the contemporary Western situation with some simple but effective bits of far-future imagination, Liu keeps things relevant by understanding the idea that problems will always exist, and thus what matters is our approach—our attitude—toward them.

Rocket Stack Rank gives the story four stars, citing pros and cons:

Pro: (…) The ending is heartwarming because, after all that time, Mia finally has the right words–and they’re noble, inspiring words. At the large-scale level, it’s a great description of human evolution and transformation into a galaxy-spanning civilization–if civilization is even the right word for something so grand.

Con: There’s little action and no tension in the story, which mostly consists of a recitation of events that transpired.

Tangent Online reviewer Jason McGregor comments:

While this story doesn’t seem to be as free from a sort of historical dualism (which leads to a tincture of human self-loathing which is mostly balanced by an explicit appreciation of our “wondrous” quality) as it is from the human vs. nature dualism that it explicitly disavows and does seem like yet another climate change story at first, it does move on to bigger and better things which do involve mega-engineering and a bit of “gosh wow” and is a good execution of the tried-and-true and fitting “time lapse” structure.

What did you think of “Seven Birthdays”? Read the story, and join the discussion in the comments!

4 thoughts on ““Seven Birthdays,” by Ken Liu”

  1. I think this is the sort of “grand scope” SF that is more impressive and interesting than actually enjoyable. It certainly delivered a big sensawonder hit.
    One issue I had was that given the grand future of humanity being predicted it seemed highly unlikely that the central characters would actually have kept enough of themselves to still relate to each other. Having that thread running through it to give you something understandable to follow to was clever by Liu, but in some ways it was the least successful element.

  2. What I appreciate most about this story is the way it presents the progression of social and technological developments. Each one is a tremendous leap, but Liu also establishes a clear flow, one advance leading into the next. That’s really nifty. It also lets him build up to some really cool stuff.

    I was particularly taken by the segment where Mia “redeems history.” There are more ways to rescue lives and redeem what might have been than Abby and others believe — that’s a heck of a thing to build up to, and as merely one step along a progression…

  3. There’s a really intriguing underlying premise here: at the beginning, we get some fairly “standard” SF-nal developments, but what really gets us to gonzo, galaxy-changing capabilities, is giving us time. Bringing us to the point where we can exercise patience. Infinite patience, the story says, gets you infinity.

    Life is hectic, and patience seems the furthest thing from anybody’s mind. And, in contrast, the story also valorizes “quick hacks” that let you advance one step forward, however imperfect that may be. But still, I find this… interesting.

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