Death’s End by Liu Cixin

  1. Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

    Jun 29, 2010
    Scottish Highlands
    Death’s End is the third book in Liu’s Three-Body Problem series (also referred to as Remembrance of Earth’s Past which was the name given to the series when it first appeared but by the second book the publishers were referring to it as the Three-Body Problem). As such my thoughts here will be as much about the whole series as about Death’s End itself.

    The previous book put forward the concept of the Dark Forest in which the most important galactic survival trait is to stay hidden, or at least to keep your home system hidden; all civilisations are potential threats so revealing yourself will inevitably result in your destruction because there will always be someone out there more technologically advanced than yourself. Now the Trisolarian invasion has been held off by the threat of revealing the location of both the Trisolaris system as well as our own. This is comparable to our current nuclear deterrence principles, but deterrence is all about the resolve of the deterrer; if the enemy calls your bluff will the deterrer have the resolve to push the button in the knowledge that it will result in the destruction of everyone, both friend and foe?

    This whole series is hard science fiction at its best but also its most complex and as such will not be for everyone. That scientific complexity ramps up through each book in the series with Death’s End presenting some of the hardest concepts for the lay reader to grasp. Amongst other things the reader is asked to visualise the appearance of higher dimensions, something incredibly difficult to do even with the benefit of good descriptions, and Liu’s descriptions are good, but the reader shouldn’t be surprised when their head starts hurting! In this respect Liu’s writing could be compared with the likes of Greg Egan who is equally unapologetic about his tackling of complex scientific concepts in his writing. I don’t want to put readers off as the scope of this story is so mind-blowing it is well worth the effort and in fact I don’t think the story would suffer too much from the reader skimming some of the heaviest stuff. One of Liu’s great achievements in both this book and the previous ones is to achieve such extraordinary outcomes through completely plausible sequences of smaller logical steps.

    Character-wise none of the books in this series is particularly strong; the reader never really gets that close to any of the protagonists and the warts-and-all presentation of those characters also tends to keep the reader at a distance. Few of the characters are very sympathetic and all make mistakes that are all too believably human as well as infuriating. In fact the prevailing feeling throughout is of a very honest exposure of many of humanity’s worst traits. That could get all rather depressing but, for me, Liu shows how, despite humanity’s failings, we can still achieve extraordinary things and, again for me, that is one of the most important message of this series.

    These books are certainly not an easy read; there are some extremely difficult maths and physics concepts to wrap your mind around and the characters always stay a little remote, though I still wonder if that’s a cultural thing rather than a real writing flaw. However, I think that anyone with a serious interest in science, lay or otherwise, will be swept along so remorselessly by the vast scope of the ideas in these books that such criticisms become unimportant.

    Finally, whilst some have criticised the ending I personally found it a very satisfying and moral conclusion which gave me no problem at all. For me these books rank alongside any of the best hard science fiction books that I have read. Just brilliant!

    5/5 stars
    dannymcg and Brian G Turner like this.
  2. hitmouse

    hitmouse Well-Known Member

    Jul 3, 2011
    Good review. Up there with the very best hard SF.
    Vertigo likes this.

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