Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cixin Liu's Death's End

Death's End (translated in 2016) is the third in the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy and it is incredible. Its scope is immense, centering on the "dark forest" problem in the universe, namely that civilizations immediately try to destroy each other when they discover a sign of life. Therefore often the best idea is to hide. This third book is by far the best, and somehow manages to both be apocalyptic and hopeful. After reading, you'll be reminded (or at least I was) of how your life is both meaningless and meaningful at the same time.

He deftly deals with the politics and religion of coming into contact with hostile forces. First earth tries a UN-type unified response, but over time that breaks down and there are violent clashes that result as humans try to figure out the best way to continue the species (this was the key theme in Book 1 as well). Deterrence was an important theme in Book 2 and its ramifications continue into Book 3. Religious beliefs shift and adapt, always looking in vain for a savior. Eventually a lot of human attention is spent on trying to make sure humans and Earth are remembered at all.

The science is remarkable. Discussions of light speed, dimensions (two-dimensional space becomes a major part of the story) and the structure of the universe itself are intense but not overwhelming. Lastly, it makes you wonder whether we should make any effort to find extraterrestrial life. It might not turn out well.


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