Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cixin Liu's The Dark Forest

Cixin Liu's The Dark Forest (2015) is the sequel to The Three-Body Problem. Aliens (the Trisolarians) will be reaching earth in 400 years, so global leaders come up with a plan to protect themselves. Since the Trisolarians can see and hear everything on earth, the United Nations decides that the only solution is to have a small group of people (called Wallfacers) who are given as many resources as possible but who never say anything about their plans. The story centers on Luo Ji, one of the Wallfacers who does unpredictable things but is clearly targeted by the Trisolarians as the most dangerous person on earth. Eventually in the novel he goes into hibernation for two centuries and the narrative picks up again with an account of how much has changed.

The ideas in the novel are well conceived and Liu provides a realistic view of how humans react to impending disaster (hint: not well). There are a lot of plot twists as the Trisolarians get closer and humans grapple with the consequences. The "dark forest" refers to the universe itself, to how vast and empty it is. Unfortunately, humans have the arrogance to call attention to themselves when it is better to remain unknown and hidden.


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