I was very excited to read this, as I’ve loved every story by Chiang I’ve ever read. “Stories of Your Life…” is one of the most excellent collections of short stories out there. However, it’s undeniable that Chiang’s work is idea-based, rather than character-based or plot-driven. He just happens to have more really good ideas than most people.
Still, I feel that his format is more suited to short stories than to longer fiction. ‘Lifecycle…” is a novella, rather than a full novel, but it’s a bit long for an idea-based work. (Putting a bit of rather trite romantic tension which is not truly relevant to the idea, into the book, does not a novel make.)
Reading this felt exactly, precisely, like reading a feature article in Wired. It’s a report on the development of a new technology, with a bit of an ‘insider’ view to jazz things up. Of course, the tech in question is imaginary… but still. Now, this isn’t really a criticism. I subscribe to Wired, and read it cover-to-cover. (Well, except for the product advertisements… I mean ‘reviews.’) I also really like it when they speculate about future uses of technology… and that’s exactly what this story is. It may not be my favorite of Chiang’s work – but it’s still more than worth reading.