A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight
Phase II, one story in four will be modern (post-2000). I am curious
if modern stories appeal to my readers more than the classic ones
up is Xia Jia's A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight.
Jia is a popular Chinese SF author. Her work has recently begun
to be translated into English, in large part due to the efforts of
Ken Liu. A teacher and a writer, she describes her idiosyncratic mix
of hard and soft science fiction “porridge SF”. I’ve been very
impressed by the work of hers that I have been lucky enough to read.
Will my young readers be similarly impressed?
Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight can be read
one was pretty macabre. Putting the 'souls' of poor people into
machines for amusement and then forgetting about them before
perfunctorily destroying them is pretty grim. I feel like it's a
statement about society. Even if they're 'just machines' with
implanted memories for extra realism, I feel like they deserve better
than a terrifying death by robot spider. That probably doesn't figure
into the ledgers and account books that control the whole process.
was a slow, calm read. It kept the same feeling throughout. Even the
climax with the spiders wasn't edge of the seat stuff. Just
deliberate, slow storytelling. Which wasn't a bad thing, just
pleasantly different. More a story about a place and a feeling than
about an event. I can't help comparing to Westworld which I just
finished rewatching. Two very different examinations of the
'realness' of robots within theme parks.
it, would read more.
I enjoyed this story. It reminded me strongly of Hayao Miyazaki
films. (That’s a good thing: I have fond memories of watching
Miyazaki films with my brother when I was younger, and I still enjoy
them now.) In particular, the main street was like the beginning of
Spirited Away with the street full of delicious food that the parents
eat. And the bitter ending feels very familiar.
previous stories, I think this one would really appeal to children.
When I was about 8 or so, I watched A. I. and enjoyed it even if I
didn’t fully understand it. Similarly, I think I would have enjoyed
this story as a kid, even if it would have been on the edge of my
tolerance for graphic and frightening content. (Frightening images
stick in my mind for a long time.) It’s probably equivalent to or
less disturbing than Coraline by Neil Gaiman.
biased because this story is recent - and by default it’s a bit
easier for the story to be original. Some of the older stories
reviewed for this website unfortunately suffer from being
retroactively trite or cliche because of the copycat stories that
followed. This story doesn’t have that problem, and I found it
refreshing to read about artificial beings so far advanced that they
function like individualistic, flawed human beings.
element that makes this story interesting from my perspective is that
the author grew up in Chinese culture, which is almost totally
unknown to me. Some of my cousins have married into families with
Chinese or Hong Kong culture, but my own background is far removed
from these cultures. (1890s immigrants from China to Canada; plus
Trinidadian-Hakka Chinese). Xia Jia is probably using tropes common
to Chinese literature, but they’re fresh and new to me.
really liked this story.
liked that this was a story focused on characters. That we see
everything through the point of view of a child, and that the primary
focus is the relationships he has with the people around him, and his
status as belonging in the Ghost Street but not quite fitting in. I
was startled by how it ended, but it didn’t wreck my enjoyment of
appreciated how the story gave us little glimpses into the ghosts’
history, without overwhelming it with details. Even for the
characters where they gave few details, the characters still felt
also loved the worldbuilding in this story. Even though we don’t
get much of a sense of the world outside the Ghost Street, there is
the sense that it is there. I like how little details of the world
are scattered throughout the story. If there are more stories written
in this setting, I’m interested in reading them. The idea of a
society that makes people into sentient ghosts for tourism is
fascinating, in a horrible kind of way. I would like to know more
about how this world works, and the people who live in it.
liked that the story didn’t try to justify the technology that
makes it all work. I feel like doing so would have detracted from the
story, and strained my suspension of disbelief. Since the story
didn’t try to explain how people can sell their souls to become
ghosts, I was free to accept it and move on.
was not the first story I’ve read by Xia Jia. I’ve previously
read (and enjoyed) “If on a Winter's Night a Traveler.” Based on
these two stories, I’m going to have to go read the rest of her
fiction that has been translated into English.
Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight is a translated piece which
gives snapshots of the life of an entity being raised by creatures
known as 'ghosts' which are human souls which occupy robotic bodies.
While at the beginning of the piece readers are led to believe that
the narrator, Ning, is the only living creature on the street which
is the setting for the entire story, it is later revealed that they
are simply a more advanced version of a ghost. The story does not
have a single cohesive plot, but instead provides three brief
glimpses into the life of Ning. The narrative leaves many questions
unanswered and does not fully flesh out any of the characters, which
lessons the impact of the conclusion. Overall this story has
potential, but in its current form isn't anything extraordinary.