劉慈欣 (Liu CiXin) is a hard science fiction author, famous in his home country and internationally. He won nine Galaxy Award (China’s most prestigious literary science fiction award) and one Hugo Award (the world most prestigious literary science fiction award). More and more of his work is appearing translated to English. This page attempts to collect all the available English translations of his fiction. Did we miss any? Please let us know in the comment section!
This is the trilogy that made the author famous in the United States and that gave him his first rocket.
The Three-Body Problem
(Published as 三体 in China in 2008, and in USA in 2014)
I was quite excited to read a book of China’s most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin. I was even more excited to read it translated by a Hugo/Nebula winner author, Ken Liu.
The book starts during China’s Cultural Revolution, and today’s China. The sci-fi component of the plot emerges quite slowly, the first part of the book focuses on the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, and the terrifying experience of Ye Wenjie through it. That was, to me, the most interesting and powerful part of the entire book. After reading it my expectations were so high, that the rest of the book (while still good) was a little bit disappointing.
As the book progresses, it switches to full sci-fi mode and moves away from historical towards purely fictional. It is an interesting story, that deals with the effects on human and alien societies after their first contact.
The Dark Forest
(Published as 黑暗森林 in China in 2008, and in the USA in 2015)
I loved the first book of the trilogy, but this second book surpasses it by far. It is one of the most breathtaking sci-fi books I’ve read in a while. It is deep, and it is action packed. You are often left reflecting on the nature of man and of human society, or churning thrilling pages that leave you breathless. This book is surely in line for next year Hugo awards!
In The Dark Forest, Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion four centuries in the future. The aliens’ human collaborators have been defeated, but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access to all human information, means that Earth’s defense plans are exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret.
This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies, hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists, but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he’s the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead.
(Published as 死神永生 in China in 2010, and soon to be published in September 2016 in USA)
Review pending publication
Short Stories (stand-alone and collections)
The Weight of Memories
(Published in the Sea of Dreams collection in China in 2015, and as a stand-alone short story in USA in 2016)
What if an unborn baby was given all the memories of her/his ancestors? Would those memories, and all the knowledge of centuries give her/him a kick-start, an incredible advantage?
Liu CiXin try to answer these questions in this short story.
While I am a big fan of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (most commonly known as The Three-Body Problem trilogy), I did not like this short story as much: many of the scientific concepts are too much out there to be credible. What I did like a lot was the social commentary embedded in the story, despite its grim tones.
The Wondering Earth collection
(Published stand-alone novels in China from 2000, and in USA as a collection in 2013)
This is a collection of short stories, many of which are also available as stand-alone in kindle edition. These includes: The Wandering Earth, Mountain, Of Ants and Dinosaurs, Sun of China, The Wages of Humanity, Curse 5.0, The Micro-Age, Devourer, Taking care of the Gods, With her Eyes, and The longest Fall.
Guardian review (sorry we are not done reading it yet): Liu Cixin’s writing will remind SF fans of the genre’s golden age, with its positive focus on scientific development, combined with a consistently constructive vision of China’s future role as a global superpower. It’s characteristic of an SF genre which has been embraced by Chinese culture because it is seen as representing the values of technological innovation and creativity so highly prized in a country developing more quickly than any other in the world today.
(Included in “The Wandering Earth Collection” as well)
Liu Cixin excels in hard science-fiction stories, and this is a good example of this fact. In this story, a marine geologist with a troubled past is destined to have the first encounter with an alien civilization. The plot is interesting, but it is not the plot that makes Mountain remarkable: its simple, non fictional, hard science, adroitly leverages to create awe and wonders. Physics is really differently when you are no longer on your normal every day Earth surface setting.
In this respect, this story reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, where the wonders of space physics, and not the aliens, are taking your breath away.
Buy as stand-alone: [Amazon]
Also published in Apex Magazine: [free on-line] or [Amazon]
Release date: August 14th, 2018
When Chen’s parents are incinerated before his eyes by a blast of ball lightning, he devotes his life to cracking the secret of mysterious natural phenomenon. His search takes him to stormy mountaintops, an experimental military weapons lab, and an old Soviet science station. The more he learns, the more he comes to realize that ball lightning is just the tip of an entirely new frontier in particle physics. Although Chen’s quest provides a purpose for his lonely life, his reasons for chasing his elusive quarry come into conflict with soldiers and scientists who have motives of their own: a beautiful army major with an obsession with dangerous weaponry, and a physicist who has no place for ethical considerations in his single-minded pursuit of knowledge.