Book Review: Ball Lightning

By Liu Cixin

I have a love/hate relationship with this book. First, I loved the characters with their individual obsessions (Chen’s with ball lightning, Yun’s with weapons research, and Yi’s with physics). Each was well developed and I felt compelled to continue the book simply because of my attachment to the them. I also enjoyed the concepts and philosophical points included in the book. Each is romantic; none more so than Chen’s who as a child finds himself the heir to his father’s artistic ethos “the key to a wonderful life is a fascination with something” moments before the object he devotes the rest of his life to leaves his family a pile of bone white ash on the kitchen floor. I also loved how the book detailed the steps from scientific discovery to research and development and then industrialization without beating the reader over the head with the pitfalls of the whole industrialized scientific-military world. The issues are introduced just enough to let you ponder them yourself without the book becoming a soap box. However, the book was too ambitious and fell just short of being amazing.

Some of my gripes are that the plot became repetitive and I felt like I was reading the same thing twice. I also had a hard time accepting the quantum theory in this book. While it was interesting, it got to be a bit much. My last issue is that the plot never really peaks. It builds and builds but it left me wanting more at the end.

I would only recommend this to a true fan of hard science fiction. It was a good story based on a conceptually interesting futuristic technology with truly great character development. The plot could have used more action though and, unless this is your kind of book, I don’t think it is easily accessible to the vast majority of people. If you like really good science fiction though, this book is worth picking up.

Interested in reading it? Buy it from Amazon here.

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