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Review: The Infinite Library and Other Stories

Posted on December 03 2017

There is something enchanting about fantasy set within the limits of the familiar that contrarily paves the way for the endless possibilities, and this book delivers just that. Hidden in bustling streets and conversations we know too well, The Infinite Library and Other Stories brings fantasy to a place where we find ourselves grounded in reality, taking speculative fiction to greater heights as we realise that anything can happen without the need to teleport ourselves out of spaces we are familiar with — that magic and mischief can very well happen in our very own backyard.

In Victor Fernando R. Ocampo’s The Infinite Library and Other Stories, the fabric of what we know as reality is pulled and stretched: a boy creates monsters from nanotech clay and programs them by reciting stories; a young woman finds the secret to save their doomed generation ship inside a children’s primer; residents of Bukit Batok face a slow-motion disaster that threatens to turn them into living mathematical equations; three Filipino siblings enter a black hole to save humanity from an enemy that uses words as weapons.

In these stories are truths about the human condition that find their way to us as we realise that sometimes advanced technology, nanobots, and all things we would initially deem non-human can teach us the most precious things about our humanity we ought to hold on to. If anything, these truths shine all the brighter juxtaposed amidst a world where the absence of human emotion is expected yet found abounding as infinitely more.

As speculative fiction takes the stage as a rising genre in Southeast Asia’s literary scene, The Infinite Library and Other Stories is a priceless collection of seventeen stories that push the limits of form and trope — from realism to genre and experimental fiction. All speak of the unease of being between two worlds, of not quite fitting in, and also of the comfort of words and books, which never fail to illuminate our way through the darkness.

 

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