“I’ve always felt that the greatest and most beautiful stories in the history of humanity were not sung by wandering bards or written by playwrights and novelists, but told by science,” writes China’s most popular science-fiction writer Cixin Liu in his author’s postscript of Three-Body Problem, the first installment in his sensational, award-winning trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past. “The stories of science are far more magnificent, grand, involved, profound, thrilling, strange, terrifying, mysterious, and even emotional,” he continues.

Liu, who first released his work in 2006, later publishing his first English-language novel, translated by Ken Liu in 2014, has garnered international acclaim through his narrative craft, which transcends time and culture. (He was also awarded the prestigious Hugo award in 2015 for best novel, and includes Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama among his fans.) The series begins with Three-Body Problem, a masterful story of forlorn love, loss and a humbling devotion to scientific and human progress that’s set to staggering backdrops, ranging from the Cultural Revolution to outer space. Followed by the sequel Dark Forest, translated by Joel Martinsen, the books eerily touch on larger, overarching questions about humanity’s purpose and existence. The trilogy comes to rhapsodic close with the recently released Death’s End, also translated by Ken Liu.

A computer engineer for a power plant in his hometown of Yangquan in Shanxi province, Liu is a national icon, and one whose personal experiences — witnessing the launch of China’s first artificial satellite, Dongfanghong I, at age seven in 1970, bearing witness to the violent, factional civil wars of the Cultural Revolution, or being captivated early on by stars and the infinite expanse of the galaxy — have largely informed his brilliant and imaginative work. “These wonderful stories are locked in cold equations that most do not know how to read,” he writes further. That is, until now.

Explore more features from our China Issue.