09 June 2019

Hard sci fi that bends reality very convincingly

Science fiction | Ball Lightning | Cixin Liu


Good, but not as good as the Three Body series or Wandering Earth.

I like Joel Martinson's translations better than Ken Liu's. Let's get that out of the way directly. Ken Liu's are more faithful, Joel Martinson's flow.

Chen sees his parents incinerated by ball lightning on his 14th birthday, and therefore grows up to be a ball lightning researcher. The only way something as rare as this gets funded for research is military applications. He meets and works with Major Yun Lin, who is a reckless but influential person with a searing interest in new weapons of all types, the more quixotic, the better. They are joined by the cantankerous genius theorist Ding Yi (who also shows up in the Three Body series).

What eventually happens to Yun Lin is an outcome of her psychology, quite fascinating and heh heh, quantum. And I have never, ever, come across such a way of concluding a war as in this book. Trust you me, MAD is nothing.

Ball lightning turns out to be something that Cixin Liu specialises in inventing: strange forms of matter that seem superbly convincing while you read the book. You have to finish the book, roam around outside, touch a few solid things, and check on the Internet that, since the book was published, scientists have actually found out what it is (and it's not what's said in the book, thank goodness for that!), and then return to the normal world after the mad roller coaster ride of imagination.

This book has a slower pace and not as large a sweep as the Three Body series. But it is a prequel. Fans of the series should read it; they will not be disappointed.

3 stars = I liked it

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