Waste Tide

Translated by Ken Liu, who brought Cixin Liu’s Hugo Award-winning The Three Body Problem to English-speaking readers.

Mimi is drowning in the world’s trash. 

She’s a waste worker on Silicon Isle, where electronics — from cell phones and laptops to bots and bionic limbs ― are sent to be recycled. These amass in towering heaps, polluting every spare inch of land. On this island off the coast of China, the fruits of capitalism and consumer culture come to a toxic end.

Mimi and thousands of migrant waste workers like her are lured to Silicon Isle with the promise of steady work and a better life. They’re the lifeblood of the island’s economy, but are at the mercy of those in power. 

A storm is brewing, between ruthless local gangs, warring for control. Ecoterrorists, set on toppling the status quo. American investors, hungry for profit. And a Chinese-American interpreter, searching for his roots. 

As these forces collide, a war erupts — between the rich and the poor; between tradition and modern ambition; between humanity’s past and its future. 

Mimi, and others like her, must decide if they will remain pawns in this war or change the rules of the game altogether.


“WASTE TIDE, originally published in China in 2013, is an ambitious exploration of a global throwaway culture. […] Despite having been published six years ago, the novel is filled with fresh ideas about what happens when everything — tradition, culture, even human beings — is disposable.”

The Washington Post

“The waste is hellish in more than one sense. Much of it, in Mr. Chen’s horrifying vision, will come in the near future from prosthetic implants, artificial cochleas, breast implants and the other self-enhancements of the developed world.”

The Wall Street Journal

“The author patiently engineers […] ingredients and personalities into a nightmarish conflict while showing a particular talent for writing viscerally gripping action.”

Kirkus, Starred Review

“The author patiently engineers […] ingredients and personalities into a nightmarish conflict while showing a particular talent for writing viscerally gripping action.”

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Part eco-thriller and part techno-thriller […] [Chen Qiufen] does a nice job of using technology to drive action and make readers think about the choices we make as a society and how they can affect others.”


“Already an award winner in China, this book is likely to draw comparisons to Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem and Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 and is a provocative addition to the growing corpus of Chinese speculative fiction and near-future and realist sf as a whole.”

Library Journal

“Smart, relevant, and propulsive: this is what sci-fi was made for.”

B&N Sci-fi & Fantasy blog

“A sci-fi blockbuster with mob bosses, robots and a powerful virus […] downright prescient.”

Shelf Awareness

“The pinnacle of near-future science fiction.”

Cixin Liu, Hugo Award-winning author of The Three Body Problem

“An accomplished eco-techno-thriller with heart and soul as well as brain. Chen Qiufan is an astute observer, both of the present world and of the future that the next generation is in danger of inheriting.”

David Mitchell, New York Times bestselling author of Cloud Atlas

“Something startlingly new […] an action-packed story that’s full of moral complexity. This is the futuristic vision that everybody needs right now.”

Charlie Jane Anders, author of All the Birds in the Sky and The City in the Middle of the Night

“In a 21st Century waste land—the world’s center for electronic recycling—where the excesses of global consumption, Chinese triads, international corporations, and environmental groups collide, Chen weaves a stunning tale of greed and deftly exposes all the hidden contours of the human heart.”

Maggie Shen King, author of An Excess Male

“Filled with wonderful invention, compelling characters and a whirlpool of story, WASTE TIDE is an urgently-needed, thought-provoking wild ride of a novel. I couldn’t put it down.”

Lavie Tidhar, author of Central Station

“If stones could scream they would sound like Chen Qiufan. WASTE TIDE is a work of spoiled and toxic beauty, a tale of money, metal and transmigration that lays bare the global marketplace’s broken condition. It’s more than a timely eco-thriller (though it’s certainly that); it’s a dark mirror held up to our anthropocene selves.”

Simon Ings

“A hard-hitting, uncompromising look at the near future”

Adrian Tchaikovsky