Cixin Liu 2015. The Dark Forest. Translated by Joel Martinsen. Kindle Edition. Also New York: Tor Books. 512 pp.

More hard science fiction by the author of the Three-Body Problem. Cracking good.

Main premise: It is a dangerous universe out there and alien contact is (of course) not going to be the starry-eyed utopian adventure portrayed by some (Steven Spielberg’s ET, for example). If there is other life, some of it will be far superior technologically and won’t be wanting more upstart civilisations developing the same capabilities. So don’t go waving a torch around …

Of course there is a story too, and although there is plenty of predictability in the plot there are still enough surprises and thought experiments based on a very well-informed vision of current physics to be a highly entertaining read. Like a lot of hard science fiction, this is a bit naïve in style and the characters are a bit thinly-drawn. But translating material like this from Chinese can’t have been easy. Nevertheless, the ideas shine through. (Although it would be been sensational to have this material in the hands of a writer like Iain M. Banks.)

This is a sequel to the Three-Body Problem by the same author, but it is unlike many sequels which give the impression the publisher rang the author after novel number one and said “Well, that went better than I thought. Can you do another? Quickly?”. Surely in this case Cixin Liu had his plan well thought-out before he started. The final volume Death’s End has only just been released as an English translation in late 2016.