Jumpnauts (Folding Universe #1), by Hao Jingfang (Translated by Ken Liu)

The Book

Series: Folding Universe
Pages: 368
Age Group: Adult
Published on 10/1/2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Available on:


From the Hugo Award--winning author of Folding Beijing comes a gripping science fiction thriller in which three unlikely allies attempt a desperate mission of first contact with a mysterious alien race before more militaristic minds can take matters into their own hands.

In a future where the world is roughly divided into two factions, the Pacific League of Nations and the Atlantic Division of Nations, tensions are high as each side waits for the other to make a move. But neither side is prepared for a powerful third party that has apparently been an influential presence on Earth for thousands of years--and just might be making a reappearance very soon.

With the realization that a highly intelligent alien race has been trying to send them messages, three rising scientists within the Pacific League of Nations form an uneasy alliance. Fueled by a curiosity to have their questions answered and a fear that other factions within their rival Atlantic Division of Nations would opt for a more aggressive and potentially disastrous military response, the three race to secure first contact with this extraterrestrial life they aren't quite convinced is a threat.

Bolstered by recent evidence of alien visitations in the distant past, the three scientific minds must solve puzzles rooted within human antiquity, face off with their personal demons, and discover truths of the universe.

My Review

Jumpnauts is a first-contact science fiction novel, part of the Folding Universe series, written by the Chinese author Hao Jingfang, and which has been published in English translated by Ken Liu, and published by Head of Zeus. A novel which blends Chinese culture and philosophy with science fiction, weaving a thrilling story that is surprising at many points, and which makes an original use of the alien-helping humanity premise.

In a relative near-future, the Earth is dominated by two superpowers, the Pacific League and the Atlantic Alliance, which have been at the border of war for 20 years; in this context, a succession of seemingly random events will put together a group formed by the archeologist Yun Fan, military researcher Qi Fei and astronomer Jiang Liu to determine the origin of the signals that appear to have been sent by an extraterrestrial object that is closing to the Earth.
After a series of adventures and a first part that centers more around the conflict between Jiang Liu and Qi Fei for Yun Fan's heart (including really neat combat scenes between both men), our group ventures into the space with the part pilot, part chef Chiang Tian; ready for that contact with the alien, and which will take them on a journey of discovery and learning, not only about themselves but about the whole humanity.

The characters are interesting, especially the clash of opposite ideas that is portrayed through the confrontation of Jiang Liu and Qi Fei; and Yun Fan is a good representation of the mission over the individual. They don't progress much through the novel, but that's a choice taken by the author, creating characters that are already at the top of their careers, put in front of a species that makes them look like kids.

It is refreshing to read a science fiction novel that is not set in the Occidental word, but that rather prefers to explore Chinese tradition and philosophy, putting the focus mostly on Confucianism. Ken Liu has done an amazing job of translating it without losing the original nuances, keeping the text as close as possible to the Chinese version, and trusting the readers to get the meaning enclosed in this novel.

While I have certain problems with the pacing of the first part, definitely the second half of the book has redeeming qualities, proving worth the whole read; if you are in the search for a different first contact novel, Jumpnauts it is, with a blend of Chinese culture and sci-fi that makes it a really enjoyable read.

The Author/s

Hao Jingfang

Hao Jingfang

Hao Jingfang (Chinese: 郝景芳; pinyin: Hăo Jǐngfāng), is a Chinese science fiction writer.

Hao Jingfang was born in 1984, graduated in physics and gained her PhD in economics at Tsinghua University in 2013. She has been working since with the China Development Research Foundation (CDRF), where she acts as Deputy Director of Research Department I.She won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette for Folding Beijing, translated by Ken Liu, at the 2016 Hugo Awards.

Hao Jingfang was awarded the First Prize in the New Concept Writing Competition (2002). Her fiction has appeared in various publications, including Mengya, Science Fiction World and ZUI Found.