Sunday 25 September 2016

Book Review - The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu

I loved this book. The first part of the trilogy was great, but this one manages to elevate itself above that. All the aspects that made the first book so good can be found here. There's some good, and interesting science here, which provide food for thought as well as a framework for the story. Being told from a Chinese perspective gives it a fresh feeling - I get the same sense from some Russian sci-fi as well. The cultural differences provide an additional layer to the tale which I appreciate.

The opening scene grabbed my attention immediately, and it's cleverly told from an ant's perspective, which helps bed the thought of the dark forest concept. In a book full of fascinating ideas, this really stood out for me, and on occasion I found myself musing on it.

The book is split into two, the first half concerns humanity's preparations for the alien invasion. The presence of the alien technology limits options, although many of the developments are as you'd expect, there's some different ideas here. The author does a splendid job of conveying and inferring a lot of information, without being bogged down in too many details.

The second half takes us into the future, and again the author's imagination is evident with how society has changed. The culture shock of those who awaken into this new world is well described, and brings a human element to the story. We see the ingenuity of humankind, but also learn more about the full capabilities of the Trisolarians before they reach Earth.

The only real issue I had with the book was one of the aspects of its conclusion. The ending itself works well, and fits the build-up, while still leaving the story open for the third book. But there's a part that's related to the human condition that is often used as a fundamental truth, or key difference for humanity, and for me it feels a little overused. Although many great sci-fi authors have used the same construct, so maybe it is a fundamental truth :-)

With the two books so far, I think this trilogy stands out as some of the finest modern science fiction. It demonstrates great imagination, but also understanding. These are books that any fan of the genre should check out.

This is the second novel in the "Three Body" near-future trilogy. Written by the China's multiple-award-winning science fiction author, Cixin Liu.

In Dark Forest, Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion—four centuries in the future. The aliens' human collaborators have been defeated, but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access to all human information, means that Earth's defense plans are exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret.

This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies, hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists, but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he's the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead.

Click here to buy The Dark Forest from Amazon

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