Rating: 3 stars

“Living with you will be like aiming for a moving target; you’ll always be further along than I expect.”

Story of Your Life is narrated by linguist Dr Louise Banks. The story, addressed to her daughter, alternates between recounting the past, living the present: the coming of the aliens and the deciphering of their language; and remembering the future: what will happen to her unborn daughter as she grows up, and the daughter’s untimely death.

The military hires Dr Banks to communicate with aliens after their arrival at different sites across the globe. Gary Donnelly, a physicist, is also hired by the military to gain knowledge of physics from aliens. After a few sessions of their interactions, they discover two distinct forms of Heptapod’s language. Heptapod A is their spoken language and Heptapod B is their written language.

Soon, Louise became quite proficient at Heptapod B and found herself thinking in their language and began to see time as Heptapods do. She saw glimpses of her future and of a daughter she did not yet have.

One day the aliens shut down the looking glasses and their ships disappeared. It was never established why they left, or why they had come in the first place. The Heptapod languages changed Louise’s life, and once she knew the future, she never acted contrary to it and eventually marry Gary even after knowing her marriage will one day come to an end and their daughter will die young.

I referred to Wikipedia to write the plot summary of the book accurately. It’s not because I didn’t follow the story but because it’s too complex to put into words efficiently.

I watched Arrival recently and I found out it was based on ‘Story of Your Life’ by Ted Chiang. I loved the movie more than I enjoyed reading the book. It seldom happens but the book concentrates more on the principles of physics, mathematics and linguistics which I failed miserably to understand. While the movie was not entirely based on the principles and philosophies which worked in favour of the movie. The movie was brilliant and I enjoyed it immensely.

People, however, argue that the movie is not an adaptation of the book but it’s rather based on the book. It’s cliche but I don’t see the difference anyway. There are certain changes made in the movie which rendered it different from the book. The major and obvious change I noticed is that Gary’s character is named Ian in the movie and it’d be helpful if anyone can point out the reason for doing so.

I pondered whether the book should’ve been named ‘Story of My Life’ rather than ‘Story of Your Life’ but as I read, there were flashes of Louise’s future, in which she interacts with her yet unborn daughter and how their relationship would develop, in between interactive sessions with aliens, I understood the reason for naming it so. The relevance of the title was then apparent and it’s up to readers what they might interpret from it.

I recommend this book only to those who enjoy reading science-fiction in particular. I might read more of Ted’s works in future but don’t plan to read it anytime soon.

“Unconditional love asks nothing, not even that it be returned.” 


Let me know whether you’ve read the book or watched the movie in the comments below. Also, tell me about your favourite movie!

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  1. Great review, you know I never knew this film was inspired by a book. I agree with what you said to be honest, it’s not really that hard to follow but even the film was slightly confusing once she started learning their language. Reading the book it definitely sounds like something I would’ve given up on maybe.
    Just to answer your question, my favourite movie is Howl’s Movie Castle by Studio Ghibli 🙂 Also adapted from a book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! You should only read the book if you enjoy reading science-fiction. The movie you mentioned looks good and I haven’t watched much Anime. I’ll definitely watch in future!


  2. Enjoyed this review! I watched and enjoyed the movie- though I did guess what was going on with the daughter. Definitely interested in the book though. Can’t pick a favorite movie though it depends on my moon 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not normally a fan of science fiction but the book sounded really good until you said it’s more technical! The movie I need to check out. I don’t know what to make of still making the choices you do when you know the marriage won’t end well and your child will die… perhaps, knowing what will happen will make sure she’s prepared for it, or the love of a child no matter how long the child is in your life is enough. Either way, I hope the daughter lived a life filled with love and laughter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “I hope the daughter lived a life filled with love and laughter.” I hope that too! 🙂 I think it’s for a reason we don’t know or can’t see/predict the future. If I would, I would’ve written it down.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We can prepare and plan for the future and make it a little more predictable, but if we knew everything that was going to happen, it would no longer be a test. It defeats the purpose entirely.

        Liked by 1 person

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