Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review Your Multicolored Life by Xing He, translated by Andy Duda.
Fiction Friday: Your Multicolored Life
Today’s short story is Your Multicolored Life by Xing He, translated by Andy Dudak, as featured in Clarkesworld. You can find it here. It’s a powerful tale about revolution, slavery, and the purpose of humanity in a technologically advanced world. I had a good time reading it. So let’s begin.
Your Multicolored Life
The future is run by machines and humanity is reduced to slavery. Stuck as a miner, Zhang Hua flees his controlled life and meets with an outsider named You Ruo, who has plans for a revolution against the machines. However, their efforts are in danger when they have trouble seeing eye to eye.
This is a wonderful story that gripped me all the way. It’s a long one too, long enough to have chapters. I felt it was easy to start and stop at certain points, but it’s short enough to be read in a few sittings (about 8000 words). The story is the plot of how robots rule the world and humanity is enslaved. With AI on the horizon, some fear such a future. The machines only see labor, while the people are unaware of their purpose.
Many conclusions can be drawn from that, but I find the plot itself showing a world where the idea of revolution, of change, not immediately obvious. We have Zhang, who is trying to survive in an unfamiliar world, and You, who is trying to make change for the better. Yet their ideas of revolution conflict with each other since they don’t necessarily want one or the other.
Zhang is used to enslavement, so he can’t fathom the idea of freedom. You, meanwhile, can’t fathom why someone wouldn’t want to be free when their life is all they know. Sometimes, this is why most people don’t rebel despite dealing with oppressive regimes. Even if they did rebel, what would they do after? They’re so used to one way that doing anything different is impossible.
Considering this is a translated story from a Chinese author, they’re no strangers to the idea revolution. The Tiananmen Square is a legendary moment that saw Chinese citizens fighting against their communist regime. I can see some similarities in this story. I feel this is a common theme in Science Fiction. The concept of machines ruling over us is a common idea, but I think it was executed well here.
The story rotates between two perspectives. Zhang Hua’s survival as a runaway and You Ruo’s desire for change. I liked their clashing personalities and their interactions together. I felt they could have been a little more chatty, learning more about their history (some of it is through telling, which would have made it longer, but I doubt it would have been that much longer to get some sort of talkative personality out of them.
You Ruo was the more interesting one and I felt the story should have been from his perspective alone. He had a clear desire for change, but I didn’t necessarily need to see Zhang Hua’s life prior. Perhaps having him wander the city and taking in how bad it is, and then meeting the runaway could have made a more interesting story. A revolutionary through non-violent means makes for a wonderful and insightful story.
I like a good dystopia now and then, and I feel like the author could take this story and make it into something big. A pacifist’s revolution where a revolutionary wants to incite change but doesn’t want the bloodshed. It’s a wonderful idea.
I should speak a little bit about the ending. It kind of ends abruptly. I don’t want to give away all of it, but it seems that the non-violent revolution seemed to take effect, but it leaves it open to the imagination exactly what their fate was. My guess was that despite their efforts, the humans attained a sense of comfort in their own lives and didn’t need any change to live peacefully.
It’s hard to interpret this sort of ending. On one hand, change through oppression is an intriguing concept. An odd message, but it can be explained. On the other, nothing changes that drastically and their efforts were pretty much for nothing. It’s an interesting ending, but it’s one that makes me figure out the true message.
The whole story is about content, trying to understand in a familiar life. Zhang is trying to escape, but he doesn’t want to change. You want change but can’t convince anyone. It’s a tricky balance to figure out how to succeed when two alternate lives intersect.
This was a wonderfully told story with a deep, philosophical plot and a revolutionary plot that’s sure to pull you away from the typical dystopia novel. I’ll leave it up to you how to interpret the ending, but I feel this is a great story to start the month off.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
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My Japanese Mythology-inspired short story, Do Not Stare Into The Eyes Of A Kitsune, is finally available. You can buy it on Amazon or wherever ebooks are sold. Help a debut author make his debut worth it.
I announced other works, including a kaiju-themed “mini-novel” (which you can learn about here) and a short story anthology in the near future. This is only the beginning for me and I have more to share.