The Cretaceous Past by Cixin Liu
Hardcover – Subterranean Press – Jun 2021 – 185 pages
All the years of human civilization represent an infinitesimal fraction of the time since life first burgeoned on planet Earth. How likely is it, then, in those great depths of time, that humanity alone benefitted from the spark of intelligence which gave rise to culture? This is the question posed by China’s preeminent science fiction writer for more than twenty years Cixin Liu in his magisterial new short novel, The Cretaceous Past. The answer he offers is unexpected, supposing an unlikely alliance between the largest creatures in the world of the deep past and some of the smallest. And it all begins with a toothache.
When a Tyrannosaurus rex suffers pain from meat trapped between its enormous teeth, a nearby colony of ants risks entering the great creature’s maw to make their own repast from the remains of the dinosaur’s most recent meal. From this humble beginning, over the course of millennia, a symbiotic civilization achieves amazing advances, reaching dizzying heights in countless endeavors scientific and social, facing dangers and exploiting opportunities at every turn. In this absorbing tale, Cixin Liu manages to describe the history of successive epochs of a might-have-been world, doing for the past what Olaf Stapledon’s classic Last and First Men did for the future. Here, Liu embarks on a new journey, sure to please the legions of devoted readers of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy. The Cretaceous Past offers Liu at his finest, demonstrating flights of imagination and depths of speculation sure to reward new fans and old alike.