The Man Who Ended History • 2011 • Time travel novella by Ken Liu


Synopsis Some scientific invention makes it possible to virtually travel back in time and witness historical events. But it is only possible to witness it once from the same perspective, because the process eats up the record. The inventor and her husband draw attention to the actrocities of Unit 731 during WWII. They hope that eyewitnesses will shut down denialists. But Chinese versus Japanese, and U.S. politics start their own games.

Review It wasn’t the first time that I heard of Japanese atrocities during WWII but it was the first time to get to know more concrete information. I felt strangely connected to the responsibility of Japanese descendants, as I have learned to take a similar role regarding Nazi Holocaust, with all those visits to Dachau and Auschwitz during highschool. The deeds of Unit 731 are hard to stomach. So, the story is surely not for the faint-hearted, as it goes into details like a documentation should do. I also know from personal experience how historical revisionists deny the facts of such deeds, more than 60 years after WWII. Liu made a perfect case of adopting articles and discussions into an awesome piece of time travel fiction. Through changes of perspectives, interleaving interviews and other elements of documentaries, Liu managed to bring in other philosophical and ethical discussions. Fascinating!

The only thing that I didn’t like: In between I never knew how real the descriptions were – if everything was made up or how much of it.

Meta: isfdb. This novella was published August 2012 in Lightspeed. I read it as part of The Paper Menagerie. It is also available for free.



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