The Three-Body Problem 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 is an author I wish I could be more familiar with. The Three-Body Problem was a positively stunning piece of hard science fiction with a profound hint of the fantastic still built on extrapolation.
I don’t know what is lost in the translation from Chinese into English, but I find it difficult to believe that it could have been more well-written if it had been written originally in English. I suspect that this is equal parts the quality of the original material and the caliber of the translator. From what I have read it appears that the second volume in the trilogy has a different translator while the final volume is translated by the same man who expertly converted The Three-Body Problem into English. Sadly, though the second volume is available now, I have to wait until later this year before the third book is released in English.
This novel begins during the nightmare of The Cultural Revolution spearheaded by Chairman Mao and a good deal of the narrative focuses on the anti-intellectual and anti-progress philosophy that was imposed upon the whole culture during that time period beginning in the 1960s and continuing for a couple of decades after that. It is interesting, to say the least, to have a perspective on that period provided by someone who grew up through it as the author had.
From there it grows into a frankly captivating and disturbing first contact narrative that unfolds in a rather unexpected way. I can’t say much without giving altogether too much away, but I can’t recommend this book enough for anyone who enjoys science fiction or simply enjoys science and wants a fictional template through which certain concepts can be expressed and better visualized.
I look forward to the second novel and wish that I could look forward to reading the third book much sooner than it is going to be available to those of us who can’t read a Chinese dialect.


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.

Death’s End 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 really tackles a lot of heavy material with Death’s End, starting approximately when The Dark Forest did in our near future and running billions of years into the future…jumping forward sporadically as the protagonist is awakened from hibernation to participate in or witness universe shaping events.
Human nature, sociology, game theory, and dimensional physics all play a major role in shaping a narrative that delves far deeper into this possible future for the human race than the previous two novels in the trilogy. What’s most surprising is just how deftly it’s all woven together, and that is even more surprising when taking into consideration that it was translated into English while maintaining coherence and literary quality.
While at times almost disorienting, this book was an absolutely necessary conclusion to the trilogy that began with The Three-Body Problem.