cover image Supernova Era

Supernova Era

Cixin Liu, trans. from the Chinese by Joel Martinsen. Tor, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-30603-6

Liu, author of the intellectually challenging Three-Body Problem trilogy, provides a more accessible look at humanity’s future in this political thriller founded on a thought experiment reminiscent of classic SF. A supernova near Earth bathes the planet in radiation that has minimal effect on people 13 or younger, but will kill anyone older within a year. That provides time for the governments of the world to prepare the oldest children to assume the leadership of their respective countries. Liu focuses on a group of students in China who are assigned some territory to govern; they must plan to have adequate resources while dealing with their neighbors’ territorial ambitions. The complicated role-playing game is used to identify potential leaders. After the inevitable deaths of all the adults, which is chillingly described, the adolescent leaders are left to grapple with an overwhelming set of responsibilities—and a population of even younger children who have their own ideas of how a post-adult world should look. There’s more talk than action, and the global scale of the disaster leaves little room for individual character development. Plausible but surprising twists make this a memorable what-if tale. (Oct.)