Not only brilliant books in their own right, the Remembrance of Earth’s Past saga serves as a reminder of the presence of impressive and unique science fiction outside the English-speaking world ... another intriguing, cerebral scientific mystery ... Liu covers a lot of scientific and philosophical ground, and he’s not afraid to slow things down to allow his characters to discuss the real-world underpinnings of their work, or the virtues of, for example, pure versus practical research. Some might regard these dips in the pacing as a flaw, but for Liu, the digressions seem to be the point ... he builds tension as masterfully as ever.
Ball Lightning is, in fact, a genuine mystery in contemporary physics and atmospheric science. However, none of the myriad theories proposed to explain it go quite as far as Liu’s speculation, which breaks the tenets of particle physics ... Ball Lightning establishes Liu as a dominant force in so-called 'hard' science fiction ... Liu populates Ball Lightning with logical, well-crafted individuals and manages to conjure a compelling conflict out of a cast of characters who are all trying to do the right thing ... At its core, Ball Lightning is an emotionally compelling and well-written story hiding within a shell of detailed and thoroughly researched quantum mechanics.
...for a while, the novel, like that old airplane, has some trouble catching flight. And I'll admit to wondering occasionally in the early going, while waiting for its momentum to build, whether it might have been better to bail halfway through ... This novel rewards commitment. Eventually, after the introduction of a few late-arriving characters...Liu's own boundless creativity finds its footing. The wayward gears fall in line and the text shudders to life. Vivid, mind-bending life.
Most sci-fi authors these days lean toward the focus on people ... Cixin Liu’s Ball Lightning (Tor, 384 pages, $28.99), translated from the Chinese by Joel Martinsen, swings firmly the other way ... Yes, there is a human story buried in the techno-political struggle, for only an obsessive with a reason for his obsession would keep pursuing such a mystery. Nevertheless, it’s science that commands the high ground of the action ... In this stand-alone novel he has taken sci-fi back to its origins in fear and hope and mystery.
Ball Lightning continues Liu’s combination of intriguing scientific speculation and engaging, evocative prose. Highly recommended for fans of Liu and any general readers looking for an exciting and breathtaking new sf read.
It's lucky for readers that Cixin Liu (smoothly translated here by Joel Martinsen) is fairly skillful at making such exposition interesting ... The novel's story expands to include terrorism, war, and a few half-hearted stabs at investing Chen with anything resembling a personality ... When ball lightning's potential as a weapon of war is explored, the parallels with previous doomsday weapons in previous World Wars are invoked with a good deal of thought but no art ... This can make for some fairly bloodless reading, despite the interpersonal tensions Cixin Liu amplifies between secondary characters in the book's final third ... Ball Lightning will nonetheless surely appeal far more to Cixin Liu's large body of established fans than to a newcomer perhaps wondering what all the fuss was about.
Liu (the Three-Body Problem trilogy) pits the quest for theoretical knowledge against the push for practical, if deadly, applications ... Readers intrigued by cutting-edge and slightly speculative science, and the philosophy of scientific ethics, will want to pick up this fine novel.
Fascinating conundrums and intriguing extrapolations abound—Liu demands a basic scientific literacy of his readers—but the story lacks the visceral tension, generated by the existential threat of hostile aliens, that gave the previous trilogy its edgy brilliance. What’s of greater import here is the way Liu’s approach differs from what we might expect ... Consistently surprising and absorbing—just not for the usual reasons.