Note: I’m not a book reviewer and I’m not an English professor! 🙂 Three years ago I made a new year’s resolution to read a book a week and I’ve stayed pretty much on track. But, sometimes I fly through books without thinking much about them – which seems such an awful missed opportunity! So, I’m typing up my quick thoughts after finishing. Might contain spoilers, mistakes and gross misinterpretations! Read on at your own peril!

Just finished Ball Lightning, a sci-fi novel by Cixin Liu originally published in China, but translated to English last year. Cixin Liu wrote The Three-Body Problem series that had me hooked last year, so I’ve been looking forward to this one!

The book stays true to his previous work, valuing accuracy and logic in his descriptions of scientific research. I love this style! The beginning of the book encourages you to let your guard down as you read through descriptions of real (or at least completely plausible) events. It doesn’t feel as like sci-fi book, but just a novel with some technical explanations along for the ride. Slowly the book exits normality and you find you’re reading descriptions of watermelon-sized electrons and “Ball Lightning Accelerators” with equally technical descriptions. It’s hard to notice when you left reality and the narrative is so much more captivating because of it.

The translation is great and adds another joy if you like reading books from other cultures. I had a little difficulty keeping the names straight in the beginning, but not nearly as tough as Russian novels. I got a particular joy out of the character traveling somewhere in China that I’d been lucky enough to visit and recognizing the region’s name.

Lin Yun, obsessed with militarizing seemingly everything, was an interesting character, but I didn’t really like how her arc wrapped-up. I liked her until the end, where she retold her backstory. Maybe I missed something deeper, but I felt her obsession with pushing toward her goals was more meaningful without the whole daughter/father conflict at the end.

I’m not sure I’d recommend this book to my non-sci-fi friends, but I liked it. The character building was a little weaker than The Three-Body Problem, but the “science-building” was stronger. In fact, most of my excitement in the book didn’t come from the character arcs, but from wondering where the phenomena of ball lightning would progress.

-DKT