Written by an engineer, and reads like it. It uses a broad brush—with not much description or characterization—to explore such trivialities as life, reality, human perception, and humanity’s place in the universe.

Much of it has a sense of odd turning into familiar: the bloodshed of the Chinese Cultural Revolution projected onto the book’s pro-alien human factions and real world’s opposed-yet-alike movements; virtual realities inside a nesting doll of x-dimensional spaces that may themselves be virtual; environmental dangers, imagined and real.

Einstein supposedly pictured himself chasing a beam of light before developing his theories of relativity. Liu imagined standing on the surface of a planet quite unlike Earth to come to this book and its two siblings. Based on the first installment, I can tell that investing some time in the trilogy will be worth it.

Written by Cixin Liu, 2012