The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin

I’m copying over some reviews of titles I’d written up in 2018 and earlier, just in case these titles are new for other people.

Liu Cixin crafted a thoroughly fantastic and stunning follow-up to The Three-Body Problem with The Dark Forest. The tension from the final chapters of the first novel carried over well into the sequel. The Dark Forest excels in portraying a worldwide reaction to the certain knowledge that an advanced alien species had successfully cut us off from advanced scientific inquiry (by making it impossible for us to study anything at the quantum level) in order to keep us weak in preparation for the massive fleet that they had sent our way to take over our planet and escape the inevitable destruction of their own.
Just like the first novel, the development of fully realized characters is superb, and the exploration of our evolving and devolving society during the couple of centuries after doomsday begins looming on the horizon is spectacular.
The most striking element of The Dark Forest is in the application of the title itself as an ominous response to the Fermi Paradox. The concept that we aren’t seeing evidence of alien civilizations because they are applying game theory to any other potential life in the universe is an interesting one. To announce one’s existence to anyone else in the dark forest of our universe presents the very real risk that anyone receiving the announcement might be aggressive or induce aggressive response from one who isn’t simply because they might assume that you might be. It’s a sincerely horrifying prospect that there could be numerous civilizations out there who are just acting prudently in not broadcasting their presence and that there are other civilizations who might validate that concern by being a threat to any other life they might encounter. It’s really fascinating to think of it that way. I certainly didn’t think of that when I was writing my paper on the Fermi Paradox when I was in college, and I wish I had.
The only problem I can think of with this book is that there seems to be a minor shift in tone and style from the first novel, but that could easily be due to there being a different translator involved with this volume. It’ll be interesting to read the third book to see if that’s the case, since it is translated by the same man as the first one.
I honestly don’t know where the third book might take me, because this one seemed to be such a perfect place to end the story…but I can hardly wait until the English translation is released later this year.

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