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The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth's Past) Paperback – August 16, 2016
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"Wildly imaginative, really interesting." ―President Barack Obama on the Three-Body Problem trilogy
“A breakthrough book . . . a unique blend of scientific and philosophical speculation, politics and history, conspiracy theory and cosmology.” ―George R. R. Martin, on The Three Body Problem
“Extraordinary.” ―The New Yorker, on The Three Body Problem
“Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review, on The Three Body Problem
"A must-read in any language.” ―Booklist, on The Three Body Problem
"A meditation on technology, progress, morality, extinction, and knowledge that doubles as a cosmos-in-the-balance thriller.... a testament to just how far [Liu's] own towering imagination has taken him: Far beyond the borders of his country, and forever into the canon of science fiction. - NPR, on Death's End
"The best kind of science fiction, familiar but strange all at the same time." -- Kim Stanley Robinson, on The Three Body Problem
About the Author
CIXIN LIU is a prolific and popular science fiction writer in the People's Republic of China. Liu is a winner of the Hugo Award and a multiple winner of the Galaxy Award (the Chinese Hugo) and the Xing Yun Award (the Chinese Nebula). He lives with his family in Yangquan, Shanxi.
JOEL MARTINSEN (translator) is research director for a media intelligence company. His translations have appeared in Words Without Borders, Chutzpah!, and Pathlight. He lives in Beijing.
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With all of that said, I feel strongly that The Dark Forest may be the best work of science fiction I have ever experienced. I read the English translation of Cixin Liu’s Chinese science fiction novel, The Three Body Problem. I thought that it was very good, but not excellent. I was sufficiently intrigued to proceed on to the second novel of the trilogy, The Dark Forest, and I am eternally grateful that I did. I am just floored by how good this novel is, on so many levels.
I have read so many science fiction novels that are little more than spaceships and aliens, with poor underlying stories or character development. The Dark Forest is an outstanding piece of literature, above and beyond its label as a work of science fiction. It has very thoughtful themes, touching on philosophy, anthropology, sociology and psychology. The advanced technology and elements of hard science fiction are outstanding, second to none. The underlying story is absolutely captivating, as are the characters.
At the conclusion of the Three Body Problem, we are left with an alien race, the Trisolarans, who have embarked on a four hundred year long trip across the galaxy, ostensibly to conquer and inhabit the Earth. Through use of their advanced technology, they have arrested the technological development of the human race and are able to eavesdrop on every aspect of life on Earth. Faced with this scenario, how does the human race respond? As the years pass and different generations are tasked with coming up with strategies to face the threat, the author continues, time and again, to impress with his vision and the elements of human psychology and philosophy that he employs.
Most impressive to me is the author’s ability to deal with these philosophical and technological themes in such a way that the reader can easily follow and appreciate. To me, he walks the perfect line between being intellectually challenging, yet approachable (unlike some of Frank Herbert’s work, which was more than I could handle).
So, if you have read The Three Body Problem and are trying to decide whether to proceed on to this second installment, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to do so. If you have not read the Three Body Problem, I urge you to do so, with the knowledge that the follow up book will be worth the effort. The Dark Forest wraps up very nicely and could easily be the end of the story; however this is a trilogy, so I will gladly continue to the final chapter, hoping not to be disappointed. The Dark Forest is a terribly difficult act to follow.
Comparing with the first volume, the new translator localized the writing in a more "English" way, making the reading for English speakers feel like reading an original Western literature instead of an Eastern-Western translation, which may not be too good for "preserving" the original writing, but... there isn't too many Chinese culture/history related content in this second book anyway.
One more thing to add, unlike vivid human beings appear in regular full-length fictions, most characters Liu sculpted in his works look like symbols instead, which I fancy is on purpose, being probably the only "obstacle" for this book in the way of becoming a true saluter to those real Classics back in the Golden Age of Science Fiction.
Definitely a powerful Hugo/Nebular contender and a likely winner next year.
For your own sakes, read it yourselves.
I'll tell you how good Death's End is when I'm done with it, but (if you haven't) buy book 1 today, and if you've read the first one and are not sure whether or not to continue, think no further. This trilogy should be required reading in schools. Liu is the first author I'm aware of to reach the heights of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. In fact I think he's better than Clarke and gives Asimov a run for his money.
Liu's take on the Fermi Paradox in this series, particularly the second book, is so consequential that it makes his detours into discussions of euthanasia seem almost frivolous in comparison. He has probably invented an entirely new field of study in these novels. (He calls it Cosmic Sociology.) Along the way he dispatches themes like gender identity; loyalty; the relationship between being a sentient/intelligent species and being a culture or a people; the relationship between totalitarianism and democracy in times of crisis; the meaning of culture; the potential soul of atheism; nationalism; the hypocrisy of popular demands; the burdens of leadership; the relative importance of the environment; child rearing; the tugs of war between love and duty; death vs. living forever; faith in the future; and a bunch of others as if they were mere footnotes in the grand scheme of things, hitting you with revelatory meditations in almost every chapter.
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