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Ball Lightning

(Remembrance of Earth's Past)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  7,299 ratings  ·  880 reviews
A new standalone military SF adventure from the bestselling and award-winning author of The Three-Body Problem.

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 phenomena. His search takes him to stormy mountaintops, an experimental military weapons lab, and an old Soviet scien
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published August 14th 2018 by Tor Books (first published 2004)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hard sci-fi fans
3.5/5 stars

Cixin Liu greatly examined the effects of obsession, science, and weaponry in Ball Lightning.

I’m a fan of Cixin Liu’s Remembrance of Earth Past trilogy. The second book in that series, The Dark Forest remains in my personal top three sci-fi novels of all time and will most likely stay there for a very long time. Plus, the fact that Ball Lightning is translated by Joel Martinsen, the same translator of The Dark Forest, made me eager to read this one.

Picture: Ball Lightning Chinese cove
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I got this book, I freaked out. I mean, let me put it this way: Cixin's imagination is heads and shoulders above most of the crap out there. Maybe even a large portion of a torso. :) So the moment I got it, I started dancing around and played the fool because anyone who puts so many AWESOME ideas on the page is going to make me do the happy-jig.

Fast-forward half a second.

I'm reading this. I dropped all my other projects like hot potatoes and felt very little guilt about it.

The establishing
I absolutely loved this author's The Three-Body Problem trilogy and was hoping for more of the same with this, one of his earlier books.  As in The Three Body Problem, Liu Cixin explores mind-blowing physics ideas.  The imagination of this man is stunning!  And yet.....

I had a difficult time getting involved in this story.  The characters felt flat and I had a hard time caring about any of them.  There were times I was simply blown away and enthralled, utterly captivated, but those were few and
kartik narayanan
Ball Lightning is great hard sci-fi but is boring AF.

I have been a huge fan of Cixin Liu's writing. His 'Remembrance of Earth's Past' series is one of the best science fiction series ever. It combines science with an engrossing storyline; the likes of which I have not read in a long time. So, I had high expectations for Ball Lightning .

Unfortunately, Ball Lightning reads like a science text book for the most part and is not even an interesting one (my school texts were far more interesting). It
Three Body is my favorite SF series of all times. It surpasses everything I ever read. The protons theory, the two and four dimensions universes, the scope, the droplet, the Singer, in a word The Imagination blew my mind. I expected nothing less from this one, but it did not quite raise to the expectations.

Chen, as a fourteen-year-old boy, watched his parents turn to ashes from a ball lightning. From that moment on, he dedicated his life in understanding it. Later on, in order to pursue his life
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ball lightning is a very, very hard sci-fi book. I guess you know that already though, if you read anything by Liu Cixin, but for those, who haven't - it's a fair warning. Ball lightning is a sci-fi so hard, that even a front runner, a flagman of recent times of this genre - A. Weir's "The Martian" - seems quite a simple science fiction and not a particularly hard one.

That said, as "Ball lightning" also explores lots and lots of quantum physics and quantum effects, (and we all sci-fi fans know,
Lashaan Balasingam (Bookidote)
You can find my review on my blog by clicking here.

Have you ever been so deeply fascinated by something that it hence led you to dedicate all your life into understanding the very core of that object of interest? While finding your purpose in life can lead a person to fully actualize themselves in the long run, this inevitable tunnel vision can also turn toxic one’s self and their immediate social circle. It’s being able to distance yourself from it whenever possible that you put yourself in a p
Scott  Hitchcock

Interesting premise and as always the author opens up new worlds to those of us without a working understanding of advance theoretical physics. I didn't love this like I did the Remembrance of Earth's Past Trilogy but it was still very thought provoking. This also serves as a prequel of sorts with some character overlap and the first signs that somebody is watching us.
Paul E. Morph
Apr 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Man, it's hard to rate this one. The trouble with reading works in translation is that you have no way of knowing how many of the book's faults are inherent in the work and how many of them are due to something getting lost in translation.

Using this book as a specific example, the dialogue is painfully stilted, the pacing is mind-numbingly slow and the characters are (mostly) flat and uninteresting. If this book had been written in English, I'd be docking stars left, right and centre for this so
I can't even imagine the situation inside Liu Cixin's head. He has a "what if" idea and then explosion after explosion happens. He also has an uncanny ability to create tension not from characters or plot, but from the realm of ideas. Speaking of characters, if you read scifi for character development, then he might not be the best writer for you. You should be able to accept that he comes from a literary tradition that is not western, somewhere where character development is not as important, h ...more
Jerry Jose
While this book leaves readers vacillating between the possibility of story being a loose prequel to The Three Body Problem and a solid standalone on its own, Liu collapses that state function in the afterword. Maybe this is a good time to publish an updated version of 'The Dark Forest', with Tyler's actual plan from the chinese version.

According to Liu, The Ball Lightning belongs to the earlier strand of chinese science fiction than the expansive category he puts his Trilogy into. Yet, he keep
Michael Finocchiaro
I was disappointed in this book because the translation was wooden and uninteresting and even repetitive, the characters had zero depth (particularly the protagonist), the plot was rather boring and took forever to move forward. Don't let this discourage you from reading The Three-Body Problem trilogy but this one was a dud. Indeed, it might be a poor translation, but the lack of character depth doesn't do it any favors.

Fino's Cixin Liu and other Chinese SciFi and Fantasy Reviews
The Three Body P
I can't get enough of Cixin Liu's incredible imagination and vision. I love everything he's written and Ball Lightning is a brilliant book. It's not the easiest read in the world - its ideas and science are challenging at times- but the effort is so worth while. Love these characters, their stories and this vision of co-existing dimensions. I also saw Ball Lightning myself many years ago and so I read this with extra fascination. Review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights. ...more
Tim Hicks
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
First off, this was written in 2003. Let's not forget that.

Sometimes I give a not-very-good book four stars because I enjoyed it. This is one of those.

There are some lyrical paragraphs, but they are spices to a main ingredient of "You see, Billy, ..."
It is of course difficult for an author to bring the reader up to speed on hard SF, and I won't guess whether it's easier when you're making up quite a bit of the science.

The characters are wooden, and I guess I have to like how the author sets up
Jason Furman
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ball Lightning, by the author of The Three Body Problem, is the story of a man who watches his parents get incinerated by ball lightning and ends up devoting his life to the study and control of ball lightning. Evidently a real phenomenon that is rarely observed and not well understood, the book starts by having him go through the current scientific theories but then the science gets into increasingly exotic macroscale quantum mechanics as his search takes him increasingly through Chinese and ev ...more
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"I knew I was leaving something behind forever, and I knew I would never return."

Word of warning: do not read this Liu Cixin book first if you're just getting into the author. Read The Three Body Problem.

Review: Liu Cixin does it again. I can't believe i'm giving a book five stars that really had me wondering if I was going to finish it at all during its first third, and then becoming overwhelmed with WTF (in a good way) in the final third. There's a whole bunch of science mumbo jumbo that yo
An imaginative and gripping read, if you can tolerate Liu's usual superficial female typologies: either intelligent, childish, fatally flawed, and overly confident with dire consequences for humanity, or just insignificant. Despite this, I still was able to mostly enjoy the book. ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it liked it
A book that is as single-mindedly focused on ball lightning as the characters are.

The characters here are so thin that they barely have names. (Seriously: you learn the main character’s name only from dialogue, and it appears, like, twice in the book.) The main character barely has a mental life at all, and I definitely think this is the weakest part of the book, but it is worth saying that the whole point of this book is that the characters pursue the mystery of ball lightning at the expense of
Nusrat Farzana
May 21, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
God bless this man.
ash c
Liu done it again - such a fun book full of amazing, creative ways to make me feel existential dread.

"I said, "Why do we have time to stop? There was no quantum effect this time despite the complete absence of an observer. We have to find the reason. Lin Yun looked up and shook her head. "No, there was an observer.""

I find the above quote a cool nod to George Berkeley's contribution to solipsism, a philosophical school of thought that says that only one's own mind is sure to exist, and nothi
isabelle ☻
4.5 ✩

though ball lightning hasn't managed to quite match the scientific and ethical scope of the remembrance of earth's past trilogy, it definitely featured liu cixin's vivid imagination and fantastic ideas that kept me shooketh amazed and captivated with every twist up until the very end.(view spoiler) it displayed the clashing and mixing of ideologies t
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Ball Lightening, by Liu Cixin, is a fascinating and fairly original book from the author of the Three Body Problem (which have yet to read as of this writing). The book follows a physicist who, as a child, saw his parents incinerated one stormy night by a ball lightening event. From then on, he becomes obsessed with the phenomena, and bases his whole life around the study of ball lightening, in an attempt to understand it.

Without spoiling, this book covers a variety of topics, from the mysterie
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book came out in China before The Three-Body Problem, but was made available to English readers after. I get why that was done, TBP being the epic classic of his works, but I would actually recommend people start with this book. Unless you are a hard sci-fi lover already, then this book is much easier to get into (especially the hard science bits) and get used to his style of writing. He himself claims (in the afterword) that this book is more "Chineese" whereas TBP is very influenced by Ar ...more
L.S. Popovich
Cixin Liu is probably among the top ten best science fiction writers alive today. I'd like to think so. I'm so glad his stuff is coming out in English. Thank you Ken Liu.

Which brings me to my main point: When are you going to accept my friend request, Cixin Liu?
(Wait, maybe if I try: 你什么时候接受我的朋友请求?)

Well, in any case, this book was by turns mesmerizing and deceptive. The set up is almost like something out of a pulp SF paperback, but the author infuses it with so much science that it takes on unp
Fred P
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's so much to say about this book. First off, it's written by a Chinese author, but it reads like cutting-edge "western" sci-fi. It doesn't shy away from criticism of military research, and tells a cautionary tale about the pursuit of next-generation weapons. It's also a believable character story, with a likeable narrator. The science and action are realistic, futuristic and grounded. The topics of weather control as a weapon, and the taming of ball lightning are timely; even prescient. At ...more
Yanique Gillana
This is the first I've read from Liu since The Rembrance of Earth's Past trilogy, and I was not disappointed.

This is a very different type of story from him. Where his other series focused on the plot and the science while never really delving into the characters, this story paid more attention to characters and relationships. As usual, the science was interesting and presented perfectly, and the Chinese perspective added a layer of interest to the story.

Recommend for fans of Hard Sci-Fi.
Aug 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this over 2 days. The science is very informative just like his previous novels. Although from what I've read, this was written prior to the trilogy. I felt like it wasnt written as well. The dialogue felt strained and wooden at times. Not sure if it was the translation. The plot was ok but I felt like the science took over too much. The characters were good and I did like the 1st person pov. Not his best. Reccomended for people whl love science heavy scifi. ...more
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-read
BALL LIGHTNING was actually written before Cixin Liu’s amazing, award-winning THREE-BODY trilogy. Liu is the first Chinese-language science fiction author to win the Hugo award and thus I was quite excited about reading BALL LIGHTNING.

One of the features of Liu’s science fiction is his inclusion of real science and mathematical concepts along with his whimsical adaptation of these ideas in creative and mind-expanding ways. This is a central feature of BALL LIGHTNING which is about a form of sphe
Anthony Hillman
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is my first time delving into the world of Chinese science fiction. I'd planned on reading The Three Body Problem by the same author first, but it's consistently on loan from my local library, so I decided to get this one.

This book follows a scientist with a singular focus on unlocking the mysteries of the titular phenomenon after witnessing it turning his parents to ash on his fourteenth birthday. His research leads to him working on top secret weapons development for the Chinese military
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
The ending of this book was absolutely poingant, beautiful, and simply brilliant.

Unfortunately that wasn't enough to salvage the book from the previous 300 plus pages of boredom. Most of this novel is really just an exploration of hypothetical science. Interesting, thought provoking speculative science, but with a minimum of plot (the book jackets forecast interpersonal conflict doesn't show up), and a minimum of characters (which is particularly sad because what makes the ending so amazing is t
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Science Fiction fan and writer.

Liu Cixin also appears as Cixin Liu

Other books in the series

Remembrance of Earth's Past (3 books)
  • The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #1)
  • The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2)
  • Death's End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #3)

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If you want to know the future, get a crystal ball. If you want to know how people feel about the future, read a science fiction...
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“First I’ll tell you about the picture of the universe painted by modern physics: the geometry of the universe is not physical.” “Can you be a little less abstract?” “What if I put it this way: in the universe, apart from empty space, there is nothing.” 2 likes
“From a physics perspective, the form of matter movement known as life has no more meaning than any other movement of matter. You can’t find any new physical laws in life, so from my standpoint, the death of a person and the melting of an ice cube are essentially the same thing. Dr. Chen, you tend to overthink things. You should learn to look at life from the perspective of the ultimate law of the universe. You’ll feel much better if you do.” 0 likes
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