My first book review and I’m going to tackle the hard science fiction masterpiece of a trilogy written by Liu Cixin and translated by Ken Liu and Joel Martinsen 😀
In my post WWW Wednesday — Yay! , I said, and I quote (yes I quote myself) : “yep, you guessed it, when I finish this book I can write a review of the trilogy”.
Well, the time has come! *suspenseful music*
The way this is going to work (hopefully for all my book reviews) :
1. Summary (from Amazon or Goodreads) of each book.
2. What Worked For Me and What Didn’t Work For Me for each book in series order. This will take up the majority of the post.
3. Content warnings.
4. Final star ratings, 5 being the highest, and final conclusion. (Yes, I did tell some of you that I don’t do star ratings much, but for the sake of reviews, I will)
I will do my best to make sure that all my reviews are as spoiler-free as possible.
For today’s post, I will mention concepts that form small and / or large parts of the books, but I won’t elaborate too much, so it’ll be relatively new to you, should you choose to read this trilogy in the near future.
ARE YOU READY FOR IT? *Taylor Swift music playing in the background*
Book 1 : The Three Body Problem
Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.
What Worked For Me :
Ye Wenjie’s Motivations
- Come on, it was for her father!
- Her original thought : to reform, not to conquer.
- A virtual reality game in which the conditions of Trisolaris (the aliens’ world) are explored.
Science and Tech
- Unfolding a proton into two dimensions and embedding circuits into its surface? Oh yeah.
Lyrical and Cohesive Prose (especially for a hard science fiction novel, more on this later)
What Didn’t Work For Me :
A little slower paced (especially compared to the other two books).
Ye Wenjie’s Capture (a little spoiler)
- Okay, this was really abrupt.
- How could she have been detained so easily?!?! Didn’t she have bodyguards?
- She just had a really cool, revolutionary type line, then 5 mins later, she’s captured.
Book 2 : The Dark Forest
In The Dark Forest, Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion-in just four centuries’ time. The aliens’ human collaborators may 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 totally 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.
What Worked For Me :
How it shows Earth’s reaction to a confirmed alien invasion
- It goes into the nitty gritty of everything.
- The public’s reaction, politicans’ reactions, and the global reaction.
- Humanity’s morals and ethics are considered in depth (Chidi, yes you, from The Good Place, I’m sure you’ll have fun lecturing people).
- After Luo Ji fulfills his Wallfacer duty (sort of), and enters hibernation (a fascinating concept of how a person can be asleep for many years and wake up unaged), by the time he wakes up, the Earth is transformed. Beneath the surface is a bustling tree city, with buildings situated within leaves and branches. Not joking.
- There are information windows everywhere you touch, so essentially, advertisements and news services customized to an individual.
- Even flying cars that don’t require a human driving!
What Didn’t Work For Me :
Trisolarans’ fear of Luo Ji
- It took me a while (and looking through Wikipedia’s plot breakdown) before I finally understood why the Trisolarans were so afraid of Luo Ji, they devised all sorts of methods to get rid of him. Rather than being hinted at, I just wish we knew through more concrete wording.
- The same applies to Luo Ji’s discovery of the big game changer.
Book 3 : Death’s End
Half a century after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to co-exist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent.
Cheng Xin, an aerospace engineer from the early twenty-first century, awakens from hibernation in this new age. She brings with her knowledge of a long-forgotten program dating from the beginning of the Trisolar Crisis, and her very presence may upset the delicate balance between two worlds. Will humanity reach for the stars or die in its cradle?
What Worked For Me :
Yun Tianming’s Fairy Tales
- These were GENIUS.
- Simply, it’s about a long lost good prince reclaiming his throne from a bad one (the world is magical, by the way).
- But there are several fascinating factors to this story that Yun Tianming used to try and convey to those on Earth on how they could escape the greatest threat in the universe. Namely, these factors were the soap and boat, and Needle-eye’s paintings. It had to be done this way to prevent Trisolarans from interfering.
- A fascinating concept where a world is concentrated in a tiny space but is on a loop so that it feels as though it’s endless. (That’s how I interpreted it)
Zero Homers’ Ideals (not a major part but fascinating, and doesn’t really spoil)
- They want to reset the universe like a clock at midnight. 😀 These Zero Homers think that if they get the universe to zero dimensions, it will reset and have ten, twelve, or the original number, of dimensions back. Thus, everything will return to its utopian form, because the laws of physics would have been reinstated.
- It is quite bittersweet…but I loved how the ending connected back with the beginning, with Cheng Xin’s star.
- Sophon (formerly the Trisolarans’ ambassador to Earth) reminded me a bit of Janet from The Good Place in the last few pages. 😀
What Didn’t Work For Me :
The Defeat of the Trisolarans
- Because the Trisolarans were the main antagonists for 2.5 / 3 books, it felt so abrupt to me when they were defeated by a dark forest strike (the greatest threat in the universe).
- I was rather disappointed — one moment they were there, and the next, they weren’t.
- Trisolarans, as I showed in my Alien post, were highly advanced in science and technology, so it felt odd that they could be defeated so easily.
- Of course, the author could’ve been making a point to show that in the universe, which abides by the dark forest theory, nothing, not even the most intelligent of civilizations, can survive a dark forest strike. But perhaps it could’ve at least been shown that Trisolaris went out with a bang, rather than a muffle.
Now this applies to all the books : while the world and plot are extremely strong, the characterization feels a little off at times and I found it rather difficult to connect with the protagonists. However, Liu Cixin is pretty good at creating original characters, both main and supporting.
Both translators, especially Ken Liu, were able to deliver gorgeous prose in each of the three books. Here are five of my favorite sentences from Death’s End (because that’s the only book I took notes about my fav sentences for 😂) :
The politician’s voice was lovely and sweet, as though the words were strung together by strands of blown sugar…
Time turned malleable and meandered slowly, like the fog that drifted through the bamboo groves.
The beautiful world revealed its fragility to Cheng Xin, like a lovely soap bubble floating through a bramble bush : A single touch was enough to destroy everything.
Outside the ship, the thin membrane of space-time rippled with the gravitational waves, like a placid lake surface disturbed by a night breeze. The judgement of death for both worlds spread across the cosmos at the speed of light.
Honorable Mention : One day, AA came and played a holographic movie for her. The movie, named A Fairy Tale of Yangtze, had won Best Picture at that year’s Oscars.
(even in the far off future, the Academy Awards / Oscars still exist! pretty cool, huh?)
Content Warnings :
Some usage of strong language and mature terms. Also some violence.
My Star Ratings and Final Conclusion :
It looks like 5 stars, but my rating is 4.8 / 5. Despite the things that didn’t work out for me, I can overlook most of them due to the sheer profoundness and eloquence that Liu Cixin delivered. The characterization was full of originality, and world and plot were incredibly solid and strong. But this entire trilogy is one of a kind, and a phenomenal masterpiece.