I just recently finished reading the book Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu.
If that author looks familiar, it’s because he’s the Chinese sci-fi author of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past Series, which includes The Three-Body Problem (TBP), The Dark Forest, and Death’s End. The Three-Body Problem was the most talked about book in sci-fi reader circles in 2014 and 2015 and is the book that won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
This book is one part prequel to TBP and one part completely separate story. Some of the characters from TBP appear in this story in events that take place many years before TBP. However, the focus of this story is not the aliens that appear in TBP and its sequels,
Instead, the story here is about the question of what is ball lightning and asks the question of what if ball lightning was something more than what it appears to be.
The book begins with a tragic incident involving ball lightning that turns into a lifelong scientific obsession for the main character. Along the way, he encounters other characters who are immersed in their own lifelong obsessions. One of those characters is a scientist who once shared the same obsession with ball lightning for much the same reason. Another character is military officer who is obsessed with weaponizing scientific discoveries. And a third character is another scientist who is obsessed with science for the sake of discover, dame the consequences.
Before the end, all discover that ball lightning is not a weather phenomenon involving lightning, but instead reveals a new discovery of the nature of atoms, matter, and the universe.
Ball Lightning is translated by the same translator as The Dark Forest, so the writing style will read similar to the previous book. Once again, Cixin Liu’s scifi visions are brought to the English reading world, and once again he demonstrates why he is one of China’s best scifi authors.