Ambiguity Machines: And Other Stories


Product Details

$16.00  $14.88
Small Beer Press
Publish Date
5.5 X 8.5 X 1.0 inches | 0.9 pounds

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About the Author

Vandana Singh ( was born in India and she currently lives near Boston, Mass., where she professes physics and writes. Her short stories have appeared in many Best of Year anthologies and she has received the Carl Brandon Parallax award. Her books include the ALA Notable book Younguncle Comes to Town.


Publishers WeeklyTop 10 SF, Fantasy & Horror Spring 2018: "Physicist and SF author Singh's first collection for U.S. readers is a spectacular assembly of work and not to be missed by fans of cutting-edge SF with a deeply human sensibility."

"Singh defies expectation with every exquisite turn of phrase. She gives you strange, powerful visions that move the heart and challenge the mind."-- Ken Liu, author of The Grace of Kings and The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

"Ranging in scale from the smallest life to far-ranging interplanetary adventures, and drawing upon both science and mythology, Vandana Singh's stories are luminous and compassionate." -- Yoon Ha Lee, author of Ninefox Gambit

"For all the book's diversity, though, a few signal traits stand out. Like Ursula K. Le Guin, Ms. Singh is drawn to scientists, and her speculative worlds are often fleshed out through field reports and research abstracts. . . . The capstone to this hopeful, enriching collection is the small masterpiece 'Requiem, ' set in Alaska in a future scarred by climate change and dominated by massive tech corporations. A university student named Varsha has gone to a polar outpost to collect the effects of her aunt Rima, a brilliant scientist and engineer who died while researching whales. There Varsha witnesses a whale migration herself, and it's this miraculous encounter amid the increasingly artificial world that reaffirms the 'tenuous, temporal bridge between being and being.' The more mechanized our future, Ms. Singh suggests, the more precious our connections with the living will be."-- Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

"As ambitious and cerebral as the various experiments her scientist characters embark on. The stories are full of the musings of these scientist-philosophers as they navigate relationships, grief and the space-time continuum -- fitting, as Singh herself is a physicist. . . . There's a wonderful discordance between the cool, reflective quality of Singh's prose and the colorful imagery and powerful longing in her narratives."-- Washington Post

"Through the complexities of physics and the wisdom of ancient stories, Singh breathes new life into the themes of loneliness, kinship, love, curiosity, and the thirst for knowledge. Ambiguity Machines and Other Storiesis a literary gift for us all."
-- Rachel Cordasco, World Literature Today

"The novella original to the collection, 'Requiem, ' comes at the question of life, connection, and the near-future of our planet by putting Indian and Native Alaskan cultures into conversation among the backdrop of a rising tide of White Nationalism in America. Singh's story of a woman coming to retrieve her much-beloved aunt's personal and research materials from a far-north research facility is rich, dense, and balanced in its handling of grief as well as its argument about whales, humans, and the languages that can connect us all."-- Brit Mandelo,

"Singh is laying the groundwork attempt to re-write the plots of Chosen Ones, dystopian governments, and self-actualizing hero tropes common to Western literature, where the quest for "the meaning of life" is often seeking a single endpoint, an origin. Singh's characters wish only to know for the sake of knowing. Life isn't defined by linear time, it is the richness of experience."-- Aerogram

"Singh's compassionate imagination and storytelling talents are here clearly on display."-- Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Intergalactic Medicine Show

"Exhibiting Ursula K. Le Guin's prescription for hard times, the voice of this visionary writer explores alternative ways to live and offers hope, joining other 'realists of a larger reality.' The takeaway from Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories is: We are all story. Vandana Singh underscores the ultimate point that stories make the world and the universe has a place for all of them."-- Lanie Tankard, Woven Tale Press

"A delicate touch and passionately humanist sensibilities sweep through this magnificent collection, which ranges from the near future of our world to eras far away in space and time. Highlights include "With Fate Conspire," in which Gargi, taken from slum life because of her ability to use a device which lets her look through time, has more power to influence history than the scientists around her suspect; "Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra," about an 11th-century Indian poet who has become the companion of a spacefaring folklorist; and "Ambiguity Machines: An Examination," a story in the form of a test that pushes the limits of narrative by trying to define what is not possible rather than what is. The short piece "Indra's Web" is more interested in depicting its solar-powered utopia than in plot or characterization, but in general this collection is full of risky experiments that turn out beautifully: colorful, emotionally resonant, and consistently entertaining. Refreshingly for this flavor of SF, the protagonists are often bright, passionate women in middle life, driven by some kind of art or science or cause and in no way defined by their relationships with men. Those not familiar with physicist and SF author Singh (Younguncle Comes to Town) will find this a perfect introduction to her work."
-- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"In 'Wake Rider, ' a young woman faces death in different forms as she also contemplates the possibilities of her life. In 'Oblivion: A Journey, ' a long-held need for revenge keeps the protagonist striving for life beyond death until the realization sets in that mortality may be the only relief. The heroine of 'Requiem' travels to Alaska a year after her aunt's disappearance, seeking answers. All of the stories here feature characters who are trying to discover the nature of their existence and how their lives connect others. VERDICT Rising star Singh draws on her Indian roots and physics background to bring her first North American collection to readers. Admirers of literary sf will want to read this."-- Library Journal

"The best science fiction requires a protagonist who normalizes the fantastic to tell their story. Vandana Singh's Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories achieves this and more, with a bold collection of stories about fate, worth, and inner magic. . . . From plot to setting to payoff, Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories is a marked achievement in science fiction."-- Foreword Reviews