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Death's End (Remembrance of Earth's Past) Hardcover – September 20, 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.
KEN LIU (translator) translated the Hugo-winning The Three-Body Problem and edited Invisible Planets, the first English-language anthology of Chinese SF from the 21st century. A winner of the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards for his own original fiction, he is the author of the Dandelion Dynasty series of silkpunk epic fantasy novels (The Grace of Kings and The Wall of Storms) as well as The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, a collection.
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Remember how far we have come from? The whole story started in around 1960s as China went through a horrible period of political turmoil. When senseless mobs beat a little girl’s father to death in public, her faith in humanity was shaken and lost. Her solution was to seek help from species of other planets, thus changing the course of humanity. As a result numerous lives were lost in the ensuing battles and conflicts. But two unlikely heroes came to rescue – Mr. Luo Ji devised a way to blackmail and diffuse the Trisolarian invasion, and Mr. Zhang Beihai managed to save and plant a human seed far away from the Earth.
Did both strategies work? The Death’s End provides the final answer. The main character of the third book is another woman (Ms. Cheng Xin). She is smart but weak, and the choice she made in this book will be long debated among the Three-Body fans. But does it really matter at the end? It appears that, regardless of her choice, the fate of humanity was inevitably sealed. I will say this, that two women, Ye Wenjie in book one and Cheng Xin in book three, pretty much decided the course and the ending (a feminism analysis of Big Liu is due).
There are so many refreshing gems in the Death’s End that makes the book irresistible. For example, how to send a communication device to Trisolaris but the device must have minimum amount of weight and can survive long distance of space travel? Big Liu’s answer was plainly crazy yet sensible. For example, Big Liu rebranded himself temporarily and inserted a long and intriguing fairytale, yes, you are reading this correctly, a fairytale about how an evil prince stealing the throne of a kingdom and a princess fighting back. Finally, a stupendous weapon called the “dual vector foil”. I don’t want to elaborate. Let’s just say that if you are still reading my comment here, you are not affected by this weapon (yet).
Besides sci-fi and fairytales, Big Liu clearly likes to write detective stories, which are dotted throughout this book series. Book one began with a scientist trying to figure out what was wrong with his vision and who was behind all the suicides of other scientists. Book two had a heavy dose of mouse-and-cat game between wallfacers and wallbreakers. Book three involved many experts (scientists, intelligence officers, and professors in literature) trying to decipher the true meaning of the fairytale. These plots will keep you guessing and add extra thrill.
Finally, the ending. So much happened while ions went by in the final pages. I remember many people complaining about the slow pace of book one. When u reach the end of book three, u will instead suffer whiplashes. I had to turn back and go over many pages again asking what the F is going and trying to make sense of what is happening. Suffice to say that it is a finish that I have never seen it before in any sci-fi literature. Probably the GRANDEST and the MOST INSANE ending of all.
Go read it, and start to marvel and tremble.
I read the first two volumes in Chinese and the third in English, mainly because it became too labored an effort to read the transliterated foreign proper nouns and technical words in Chinese (for me, anyway), and I can attest to the quality of the translation and its loyalty to the original. It felt as if I read all three books seamlessly in the same language. Although certain things are inevitably lost in translation, Ken Liu, as an accomplished writer himself, certainly compensated for the loss with innovations of his own. My only complaint has to do with certain word choices. For example, pinnace and dinghy are perhaps neither familiar to most readers nor appropriate terms for astronautic vehicles, and at times certain passages are unnecessarily grandiloquent while at others overly casual when exploring scientific and philosophical concepts. I was especially dismayed that the end of a fairy tale in the story opted for a word-for-word translation instead of “and they lived happily ever after,” despite that’s exactly what the source material means, and it was the only moment that I felt like I was reading a translation.
It is important to point out that although the three books complete the same story arc in a mostly chronological order, they involve very different scale, scope, and more importantly, themes. Emotionally, each book is fully resolved at the end. In this regard, the first book, though a thorough page turner and winner of the Hugo Award, perhaps has the least depth of the three.
One major theme of the first book is certainly the existential crisis that can arise out of either failure to grasp reality or loss of faith in humanity, and the second book inverts that theme to become the humanity’s shifting beliefs in reality and faith when faced with a crisis of existence. Death’s End, on the other hand, annihilates any notion that we may have of both crisis and existence.
Romantic love evolves along with the installments. The Three Body Problem has a cynical notion of love, and the stories of various marriages are marked by betrayal, indifference, and lovelessness. In Dark Forest, love is an ideal that ultimately proves to be an illusion. In Death’s End, love is concrete with cosmic consequences, yet at the same times becomes the most elusive and utterly devastating.
The narrative structure of Death’s End is also different compared to the previous two books. It doesn’t have the air of mystery of The Three Body Problem that is imposed by an unknown entity, or the intentional concealment of Dark Forest that plays smoothly into the Wallfacer Project. Instead, the story unfolds in a straightforward manner, but every decision made has far reaching consequences that you may not see for hundreds of pages, which in turn are foretold by minute details before they are revealed. There is one subtle but brilliant point a third into the book where the Trisolaran emissary sadistically admonishes the forlorn protagonist that the universe is not a fairy tale. It may seem like a mundane cliché by a cartoonish villain, but this point ties together the entire trilogy.
The last installment, like the previous two, pays ample homage to other works of science fiction, sometimes covertly. It is interesting, however, that Liu also subverts elements from his prior stories in the trilogy. Similarly, Ball Lightening, of which a weaponized version is mentioned repeatedly in the second book, is an earlier eponymous novel of his. Three short stories come to mind: The Wandering Earth, The Rural Teacher, and a third one that may reveal too much plot by its title alone. The Wandering Earth tells the story of a human society that tries to escape the Sun that is shifting out of main sequence unexpectedly early by making Earth itself into a giant spaceship in order to fly to, ironically, Alpha Centauri, the Trisolaran home world. A specific object that appeared in The Wandering Earth is mentioned twice in Death's End, and becomes a powerful symbol at the very end of the novel. The Rural Teacher also deals with a fertile universe and the destruction of stellar systems, but unlike the Dark Forest, that universe is much more benevolent toward civilizations.
Given the limited scope of the first book and the impeded scientific progress in the second, Death’s End is the only part of the trilogy to expansively explore frontier scientific ideas. The scientific foundations of the book are mostly solid and airtight, even when it feels dubious as observed by characters. Artistic licenses are only taken when it involves speculations far beyond even the frontiers of our current scientific understanding. However, one problematic aspect has to do with traveling and manipulating objects in four-dimensional space, as the novel implies that distance in 3D space can be shortened by traveling in the fourth dimension, which is incompatible with orthogonality of dimensions in the Euclidean part of space-time, and there is no metric shortening of the lower-dimensional distance by traveling in any direction in the higher-dimensional space. Of course, it is certainly possible that the local geometry of said fictional space is non-Euclidean.
The author does a superb job confounding the philosophical center of the books with a very comprehensive treatment of the different beliefs in science, society, politics, religion, gender, human nature, life, etc., both through an interspersed objective omniscient narrator and through the subjective thoughts of opaque characters. Indeed, there is no true villainy in the trilogy, even when we’re dealing with genocidal alien invaders and mundicidal star destroyers. However, there remains a palpable degree of ethnocentrism and, more problematically, androcentrism that belies the author's ambitious big picture of cosmic proportions. Though the male gaze is prevalent in the first and second books, it nonetheless reflects the inner worlds of the male protagonists, if not the author himself, from an exceedingly patriarchal society. Yet what Liu perceives to be the difference between “masculine” and “feminine” values cannot be reconciled even at cosmic scales, despite the author’s clear intention to absolve and diminish all sins, aggression and weakness alike, in the grand schemes of the Dark Forest universe. It is disappointing, but forgivable.
Many critics think that Death’s End is the best of the trilogy, including the translator. I disagree. Liu has written three entirely unique books out of the same story, one may even argue that they’re written in three different genres, and each succeeds and excels on its own equal footing. Nonetheless, Death’s End is the grandest, and it will blow your mind.
Top international reviews
I found parts of the second and third books difficult to read. I had to force myself to read through them - the ideas and events were almost too much to consume. It was difficult to focus on the fact that this is all fiction. But there was still that doubt - what if this is really what the Universe holds? It is a scary thought. Perhaps with books like this, humanity might be better prepared for what might really be worst-case scenarios?
This is why I have given this book four stars instead of five. I cannot say I love it. I love it and hate it. The ideas it encompasses, the situations and the - callousness? - of the universe and those that inhabit it were a struggle to have in my head. But it is worth it, to experience the universe anew, and expand the way I think about it - albeit in a (hopefully) fictional way.
I must also give a special thank you to the translators and editors - they have done a magnificent job, I hardly knew it had been translated at all!
Like climbing a mountain, it can be stressful and difficult at times, but the vista from the top can make it worth it.
I've no idea how Amazon Video is going to be able to turn these books into a watchable TV series, but I've little doubt that it will require the reported Billion dollars that Jeff Bezos is prepared to pay in order to even attempt to realise something as grand and as complex as this story on the small screen. I will certainly look forward to seeing the attempt, but in any event, if you like SF then do yourself a massive favour and read this series.
How the author was able to write this down and the translators get it across in English is nothing short of miraculous. I couldn't put these books down and felt a real sense of loss when I finished.
Absolutely fantastic and immersive reading experience.
The good bits for me was the love story involving aerospace engineer Cheng Xin, who takes on the role of Swordholder, which followed on (I felt) less excitingly from that of the Wallfacer in the previous book, and average Joe, Yun Tianming, that literally stretched in unrequited fashion over eons, and even in disembodied form (you have to read it yourself; much too many details to labour over). However, even that storyline was checkered, and unsurprisingly so, because of all the eras spanning centuries or more that the reader has to travel through plus all the astrophysics to navigate.
So it comes as a huge relief when I got totally drawn into the fantasy tales that Yun Tianming tells Cheng Xin as an allegory and possibly hidden message about the Trisolarians who may or may not be ready to live in peace with the human race. Those tales are nestled in the middle part of 600+ pages and were good enough reasons for me to power through and not give up, and see how they were significant to the main storyline.
Another character that held an interest for me is a Lucy Liu-like character from “Kill Bill”, who is actually a Sophon, or a Trisolarian android acting as a kind of envoy and communications agent, who spectacularly splices with her samurai sword some pesky humans who just cannot wait their turn to get at the food supplies in the story arc about displaced populations herded like refugees in the Australian continent, which was a terrifying part of the novel. But she too similarly disappears and reappears another few eras later.
The unifying character Cheng Xin and her faithful sidekick AA hibernates through many eras to finally reach another terrifying prospect of the entire solar system collapsing into two dimensions. That in itself was spectacularly dealt with but as they journeyed on to more desolation, it really felt too dark and bleak for me.
A clever and intelligent book, but I felt buried under the deluge of ideas and information.
Could the author be right? Could this be the universe we live in? I would love to hear what real physicists think!
I was totally hooked on the first two books as they managed to combine complex ideas with advanced scientific concepts. But what underpinned this was a fascinating story. For me it was the mysticism and unpredictability that surrounded the Trisolaran civilisation and their need to find a new world, their relationship with Earth and the human reaction to the ongoing threat. This is what drove the story and for me what made the first two books some of the best sci fi I have read in years. Unfortunately the third book is a big let down, it has some interesting parts but the main story loses all its pace, there are huge sections of technical description and exploration of theoretical concepts which just become tiresome when all you want is for the story to advance. The biggest and most disappointing factor for me is the fact that the Trisolaran’s simply disappear from the story with no satisfying conclusion as to their own outcome (perhaps this will be another book...?). I found the ending long winded and without direction. It felt almost as if the author had to fill 600 pages up so kept going off on irrelevant tangents.
I feel that this trilogy is a must for any sci fi fan as the author has a style and expertise that is totally unique, however, just be prepared for a slightly less than satisfying ending !
A few key people find themselves as consistent actors through an aeons-spanning history, and we see their vulnerability observing the consequences of their decisions. Human nature is explored deeply; decision making becoming paralysed in the face of what the commune considers acceptable, the danger of comfort, complacency, the few 'sane voices' being ignored by many ignorant, the failure or ambition of one person leading to the doom of many. And within it is an ebb between being civilised or returning to revenge and capital punishment.
I don't know how plausible the science really is but as illustrated it is mind-boggling, however there are regular moments which make you question the price of progress, or whether progress really means anything at all.
It is without a doubt an exceptional story however for me it fizzled out at the end; the scope becomes small, a lot of potential questions unanswered, subplots unexplored. Plausible, believable? Yes. Satisfying? Not really. It's reminiscent of a "and they wall woke up..."
If anything, there are too many great ideas, which arent really followed up on.
Tighter plotting and less explanation would have improved this. A story that I actually wanted to read( the first novel was much better in that regard).
I really, really enjoyed these three books. I checked some of the authors other works as was devistated with disappointment. The Three body problem is a tour de force, a game changer, the other works I have tried from the same author are patially read and abandoned.
A one hit wonder, but one hell of a hit
He's writing about Dark Forest theory, which says the galaxy is teeming with life but it's a very dangerous and unpredictable place i.e. like walking through a forest in the dark. The only mathematical invariant in all this is that everyone is very afraid of everyone else and so keeps very silent.
There's some great commentary on chinese life. He has a character who is the super hard-line type who violently overthrows the smug guys in charge, but then finds himself launched off into oblivion on a spacecraft heading off to some distant star rather slowly.
Narrative flows between different characters, which are constructed quite elaborately.
Liked it because in comparison to hardcore Sci-Fi where the focal point is always the technology, this book focuses on humanity, the characters and the plot.