79 pages 2 hours read

Ted Chiang


Fiction | Short Story Collection | Adult | Published in 2019

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.


Teacher Introduction


  • Genre: Collection; fiction; science fiction; speculative fiction
  • Originally Published: 2019
  • Reading Level/Interest: College/adult
  • Structure/Length: 9 stories; approximately 368 pages; approximately 11 hours and 22 minutes on audiobook
  • Protagonist/Central Conflict: Similar to Ted Chiang’s previous work, this collection features a variety of protagonists and conflicts, with each story delving into intricate scientific and philosophical themes. For instance, the title story, “Exhalation,” deals with the discovery of an alien civilization’s history recorded on thin sheets of metal.
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: Varies by story; may include violence, mature themes, and complex scientific and philosophical concepts

Ted Chiang, Author

  • Bio: Born 1967; American speculative fiction writer; recognized for his explorations of complex scientific, technological, and philosophical ideas in his works; technical writer in the software industry
  • Other Works: Stories of Your Life and Others (2002)
  • Awards: Locus Award for Best Collection (2020); “Exhalation” won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards; “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” also won the Hugo and Nebula awards

CENTRAL THEMES connected and noted throughout this Teaching Guide:

  • Repentance, Atonement, and Forgiveness
  • Technology: Abuse and Responsibility
  • Climate Grief and Humanity’s Ecological Footprint
  • Faith and a Divine Presence
  • Free Will
  • Parenting and Love

STUDY OBJECTIVES: In accomplishing the components of this Guide, students will:

  • Consider the role that speculative fiction plays in shaping our real lives, and how that narrative can help improve the world around us.