Short Story Review: Presence by Ken Liu

Note: This review is part of the 2016 Summer Reading Diversity Spotlight.

Presence by Ken Liu
Release Date: November/December 2014 Issue
Publisher: Uncanny Magazine
Genre: Sci-fi
Source: Uncanny Magazine
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Timeshare bodies. That’s how I’ll put it. In this short story, we follow a man who lives halfway across the world from his sick mother, who he visits through a host, through a robot, and spends time with in her dying days. Time he is seemingly only able to make after realizing this is it. Because he’s got work and a family of his own and responsibilities but he balances his time more wisely as his mother’s last days approach.

Still, he can’t help but wonder how things would have been had his mother joined him in America instead of remaining comfortable in their home land. He wonders about how his being Americanized may have affected his view of the world, his relationship with his loved ones. He wonders about how helpless he feels, seeing his mother in this way, so frail.

He wonders about the illusions we give ourselves to reassure others and ourselves, to cope with truth, with life, with death. This was such a gripping (it reeled me in right away – I totally had a few tabs – options – open of short stories to read and this is the one that took all of my attention) and powerful short story and I can’t believe I hadn’t read Ken Liu’s work before. You can bet I will be reading more of this Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Award winning author very soon. This was absolutely stunning! If you’re prone to crying while reading, grab a Kleenex.

Presence by Ken Liu is available today.