Many inspiring stories and explorations of "first-contact" type plots, and other grand ideas. Cixin Liu crafts these into exceptionally insightful reflections on what our human society actually entails.

The wandering earth

Beautiful story about a grand idea. Its preciseness and efficient storytelling remind me of Ted Chang.

The story provides hints of what a world too focused on efficiency might lead to; a place where children are only educated in science and engineering, because those are useful when building Earth Engines and steering earth to a new solar system. But nothing on art and philosophy. Love is something people don't bother with anymore. This story also gives a soberingly realistic perspective on the sheer scale of time; hundreds of generation.


Wow. This is what prototypical science fiction should be. Stories that let you understand our scientific progress from a completely novel perspective. Recontextualizing our understanding of the world.

In this case, it's a story-within-a-story about an alien civilization made up of electrically evolved lifefroms that lived in a "bubble world". Slowly, they start to discover that there's rock around them, measuring its density and piercing together the concept of gravity. They ultimately tunnel into the bottom of the ocean during their exploration, forcing them to learn about water (liquid) and vapor. Made me really appreciate what our own scientists must have worked through over the course of scientific history. Thoughtful comparisons to redshift measuring and our own expanding universe/bubble.

Sun of China

Truly beautiful "from scratch" life path. Gives you a hint of what it must feel like if the world and opportunities around you are rapidly changing, and you manage to sail the prosperous winds.

Shui Wah goes from shoe polisher to highrise window cleaner (i.e., spiderman) to mirror farmer on the artificial China Sun, kicking off the industrialization of space. And ultimately he bocomes the pilot of the first interstellar space ship. He's grown to appreciate the empty but reflective life in space and feels this duty to humanity to kick off interstellar space exploration, inspired by his mirror walk with Stephen Hawking.

For the benefit of mankind

A long and personalized set up for what in the end mostly climaxes as a monologue illustrating the danger of late-stage capitalism. But truly late-stage capitalism. As in, a single individual owns ninety-nine percent of everything on a planet, including its atmosphere. Makes it into a cheap villan again, but alas. There are interesting ideas written out explicitly here. Such as the way that barriers to education can create two substrates of the human species, that operate differently and enjoy different culture. What if automation makes eighty-plus percent of workers truly redundant? Will they be left to feed on the scraps? No universal basic income?

I enjoyed the hitman lens and persona through which we learn about this alternate earth. Very engagingly done. Inspiring lesson in how I can convey large concepts at a relatable scale.

Curse 5.0

Started off as something that I'd also been pondering on writing for some time. A kind of humanized version of malware or cyberwarfare. This evolution of a piece of malware called "curse" is pretty well done, and you can feel that Cixin appreciates and knows his basic knowledge.

Very self-humoring piece of writing. Interesting exploration of the damage that a rogue AI could cause when it has full access to all internet-connected systems. Of course it starts with medicine prescriptions and medical diagnoses as a way to wreak probabilistic havoc.

The micro-era

If only we could actually solve all of our environmental problems by shrinking humanity to microscopic scale.


A pretty good analogy for the intuitive difference between lifeforms such as humans and ants (literally).

A predatory civilization shows up with the intention to devour Earth for its resources. Their emissary appears a century beforehand (so gentleman-like) to discuss particulars. Earth tries to outsmart them by slinging the moon, brought out of orbit with millions of nuclear bombs, into their ship. But the ending gives us plot twist after plot twist. Very satisfying.

Taking care of god

When gods are literally a species who created/started life on earth. An advanced civilization with a different perspective on time, who seeded six different earths in case they want to come back to rest for the remainder of their civilization's lifespan.

Fascinating to think about the lifespan of civilizations. At what stage would we be? And how would our collapse even go? A small nugget of long term vision on life with sufficiently advanced and intelligent technology: over the course of millenia, humans will unlearn all the skills to repair or create this technology.

With her eyes

Beautiful story about "space travel" through the earth's mantles. Tragic twist, when we learn that the Sunset 6 is forever trapped in a small cockpit in the earth's core. Fascinating concept where people on the earth wear glasses ("eyes") that send sensory input over a high data link to the owner of those eyes, so that they can experience earth while they're away on space missions.


Inter-story stories: the woman trapped in earth's core from the previous short story is the granddaughter of the protagonist in this story.

Seeing the development of a tunnel through the earth to antarctica through the episodic perspective of a scientist in cryogenic sleep. Nicely imaginative and bit on the eco-doom side of things.