Death's End (The Three-Body Problem Series, 3)

by Cixin Liu

Other authorsKen Liu (Translator)
Paperback, 2017

Publication

Tor Books (2017), Edition: Reprint, 624 pages

Description

With The Three-Body Problem , English-speaking readers got their first chance to experience the multiple-award-winning and bestselling Three-Body Trilogy by China's most beloved science fiction author, Cixin Liu. Three-Body was released to great acclaim including coverage in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. It was also named a finalist for the Nebula Award, making it the first translated novel to be nominated for a major SF award since Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities in 1976. Now this epic trilogy concludes with 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 21st 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?… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member santhony
Death’s End is the concluding volume of Cixin Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy. If you haven’t read the first two books, don’t begin here. But definitely begin, because this is the most magnificent science fiction work I have ever read, and I have read almost all of them.

The
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first book in the trilogy, The Three Body Problem, was a very nice work, but ultimately the least engaging of the three. The Dark Forest was the best book I’ve ever read, of any genre. It contained elements of anthropology, sociology, philosophy and outstanding hard science fiction concepts and scenarios. It was simply magnificent, and ended in such a manner that a third book was not necessarily required.

Well, Death’s End picks up where Dark Forest leaves off, in fact with a little overlap in order to introduce the main protagonist in the final work. For three hundred pages, Death’s End was every bit the equal of Dark Forest, but then there occurs a roughly 100 page segment that is so dumb, so contrived and so out of character with the other 1500 pages of the trilogy that it made me question who had written it and why it was there.

It is not really a spoiler to reveal that the referenced 100 pages involve a rather silly fairy tale (for some reason they refer to three tales, though there is really only one, split into three chapters). The fairy tale is part of an inter-stellar conversation between two of the book’s main characters in which one is trying to convey a message through the use of metaphor. The Trisolarans have allowed and even initiated the conversation, but under very strict guidelines that limit information that can be conveyed, under penalty of death. Then, they allow a 50 page fairy tale to be conveyed, and memorized word for word by one of the characters. Sure, that makes sense. I guess the incredibly advanced Trisolarans don’t understand the concept of metaphor and think telling a 50 page fairy tale would be normal conversation under the circumstances.

There follows another 50 pages in which the Earth Federation goes about deciphering the fairy tale in such a way that is even dumber and even more senseless than the fact that the fairy tale was conveyed in the first place.

SPOILER: In one of the most incredibly stupid moments of any book I’ve ever read, the experts are stumped by a particular place name in the fairy tale. Luckily for them, one of the analysts talks in his sleep. After muttering the mysterious place name in his sleep, he is informed by his live-in girlfriend that the name is actually a combination of two place names in Norway, and not just any place names; names that have not been used for centuries. Luckily for him, his Norwegian girlfriend is a scholar in ancient Norwegian place names. Lucky humans, what are the chances.

Then, like nothing ever happened, the novel returns to absolute excellence for the final 300 pages. It is the damndest thing; like listening to a two hour concert featuring the works of Mozart that is interrupted for ten minutes by a cacophonous din of meaningless music, and completely unnecessary as the author could have easily gotten where he needed to go without such a bizarre detour. For such a magnificent work to be marred in such a way is a shame, because one of the strengths of the trilogy is its believability and rock solid hard science fiction. Character actions and plot lines flow so smoothly because they are imminently believable and flawlessly crafted.

In any event, it is the best science fiction series I’ve experienced; far more complex and engaging than the Foundation works and so much more approachable and enjoyable than the Dune novels. If a 20 year old asked me where to start in reading science fiction, I would direct him to Foundation and other Asimov works. If a 40 year old, who had sampled much of the genre asked the same question, I would insist that he read this trilogy. Afterwards, he would thank me for the suggestion but ask, “What was up with that stupid fairy tale.”
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LibraryThing member setnahkt
A science fiction series that gets rave reviews from both Barack Obama and George R. R. Martin is certainly worth investigating. Since the books are heavily philosophical, so is my review. These are disconnected observations rather than a summary of the novels; so be it.

Observation 1: Almost all
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the science fiction I’ve read comes from American/European culture. This is from China. Is there anything different? After all, a science fiction writer is supposed to predict the future – or at least come up with a future that’s plausible; does the future look different to someone from a different culture with a different political ideology? It does, a little – and I found the differences surprising. The Western science future has often been the playground of the rugged individualist – especially during the “Golden Age” from the 1930s to 1950s. Stories from this era make space travel the province of the wealthy industrialist or the inspired inventor; what actually happened is that governments took over until very recently. In Cixin Liu’s trilogy, governments are in charge from the start – but do a pretty poor job of it; the United Nations is portrayed as particularly inept, for example blocking lines of scientific research because they are deemed too dangerous only to find that this forbidden research is just what’s needed to solve developing problems. Fortunately, “rugged individuals” come along and pursue the forbidden research – sometimes with extreme measures, like assassination – and save humanity. The difference from the Western versions is said individuals are not defying international law for their own interest, but for the interest of humanity as a whole.

Observation 2: Ideology doesn’t appear much, and when it does it’s again not what I expected. I assume this book had to get through Chinese censors to get published, but one of the heroes (sort of, he’s eventually punished for “crimes against humanity” because he violated UN laws on forbidden research) is a wealthy Western capitalist (to be fair, he’s portrayed as acquiring his wealth in an unusual fashion, and he’s also portrayed as having unpleasant personality characteristics). And one of the villains announces “The era for humanity’s degenerate freedom is over. If you want to survive here, you must relearn collectivism…”. And the results of that “collectivism” are pretty grim – just like the actual results of collectivism in the recent past. The era of the “Cultural Revolution” in China affects some of the protagonists, and they’re not very happy about it.

Observation 3: Cixin Liu is very hard on environmentalism and anti-intellectual/anti-science movements. These are consistently portrayed as anti-human, and are generally terminated with extreme prejudice by the powers that be. Since the PRC is technocratic society, I imaging that had no trouble getting past the censors.

Observation 4: The trilogy deals with the Fermi paradox from the very beginning, and in what I consider a more logical fashion than Western science fiction. In our popular science fiction – you can take Star Trek and Star Wars as examples – alien civilizations are portrayed as having roughly the same degree of technological development as the Earthlings that encounter them. In actuality – assuming there are alien civilizations at all – that’s vanishingly unlikely. If you consider the entire history of Earth, and the history of technology, alien life forms will most likely be either single celled organisms – that’s what the average living thing on Earth is, over time – or beings so advanced they are indistinguishable from God. Or Satan. All it would take in the four billion years or so of Earth history would be a minor difference – the development of intelligence occurring a little earlier or a little later, by a factor of 0.00001, say – and we’d be either at the Mesolithic level or have 40K years of further advance under our belts. It’s scarcely imaginable what technology will look like 40 years in the future, much less 40000. If you extend that across the entire galaxy, it’s likely there will be some civilization out there (again, assuming that there are any at all) that’s billions of years more advanced than ours. A corollary to that is Western science fiction usually assumes that advanced alien civilizations will be benevolent – or at worst neutral – toward humanity; the trilogy does not make that assumption and the results are viscerally horrifying. It’s one thing to imagine aliens invading Earth for resources or slaves or Lebensraum; it’s another to find them treating us as something like cobwebs in the corners – needing to be swept up to make things neat.

Very enlightening and thought-provoking, although sometimes the thoughts are nightmarish. I had a minor problem dealing with names; although international in scope many of the characters are, understandably, Chinese and it was hard to remember who’s who.
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LibraryThing member ben_a
Thomas Wade, he's our man. Glad someone finally wrote a science fiction novel with Bill Belichick.
LibraryThing member renbedell
The Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy is a fantastic series of hard science fiction mixed with anthropological ideas. The greatest part of the series is that each book has its own tone and direction that keeps it very fresh. Death's End changes many times over on themes and storyline that keep it
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constantly moving. The storyline itself isn't the main focus, but more of a driving force for the ideas Cixin Liu presents. His ideas can be very technical, but are very informative and I always found them incredibly interesting. Overall the main theme is human survival in a both individual but mostly as a species focus. At times it is beautiful and hopeful and others it is tragic. This is a great science fiction series that I would recommend to any die-hard fans.
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LibraryThing member mcdenis
This is volume three of the Three Body Epic and clearly the most imaginative of the narratives. The author flexes the limits of your imagination about outer space and galactic dimensions and consequences if those dimensions collapse. I am not an astrophysicist so I cannot attest to the verity of
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all the descriptions. Nevertheless it is a worthwhile but difficult read.
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LibraryThing member rlangston
A great end to the series. I read it immediately after The Dark Forest and although the scale of the narrative changed, the pace increased.

In response to those reviewers who have criticised the "fairy tale" - it is perhaps slightly long, but there is a clear context for it. It certainly isn't 100
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pages, and the deciphering of the fairy tale is done well, and is revisited throughout the remainder of the book. It certainly shouldn't put anyone off from reading the book.
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LibraryThing member Stevil2001
Each successive Remembrance of Earth's Past novel has gotten longer than the previous, duller than the previous, and worse than the previous. I struggled with Death's End a lot, though maybe that was exacerbated by my need to read all 700+ pages quickly because I was coming up tight on the Hugo
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voting deadline. As in The Dark Forest, the bland characters here are less than interesting, but unlike in The Dark Forest, the cool concepts don't seem to come very quick or fast to make up for it. Every now and then something really arresting happens (the Post-Deterrence Era was traumatizing, and the journey into the four-dimensional realm was great), but then it goes back to slow banalities.

That is, until the end. The last couple hundred pages suddenly get weird and wacky and completely fascinating, with low-entropy entities and fantastic weaponry and beautiful imagery and a mind-boggling scale beyond anything seen in this series up to now by several orders of magnitude. If the whole book had been like that, or if we'd just gotten to that stuff sooner, this would have been a much better book, but it was just so boring to get there that I got intensely frustrated.
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LibraryThing member judtheobscure
Although better than the second installment, the dark forest, this never reached the heights of the first book for me. I loved the fable/fairytale in the center of the book that illustrated and alluded to the scientific concepts the second half of the book involved, and thought the use of the tale
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was brilliant and original. However, flat characters, overly long time periods between action and lousy character arcs spoiled it for me and made finishing the book more of a chore than a joy despite the many brilliant scifi concepts in there. I need a mixture of science and humanity to make a work work for me.
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LibraryThing member quondame
More interesting than The Dark Forest, full of wildly imaginative stories - but that’s the problem, the stories are connected by a protagonist Cheung Xin who keeps dozing off/hibernating or ducks into a pocket universes and so gets to see it (almost) all. A much more comfortable translation than
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The Three Body Problem but not supple. And I don’t like ending stories with the universe (about to) wink(ing) out.
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LibraryThing member zeborah
A fitting conclusion to this epoch-spanning trilogy. This book also gets a bit deeper into the psychology of its main characters than I think the others did, perhaps because we do stick with her for the whole book.

I was a bit disappointed that the game theory that permeated it did get stuck on the
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"hide well, cleanse well" philosophy, the idea that since every species is a threat, every species is alone, and never considered the idea that if you can get past this to form alliances then you've immediately got an advantage over everyone who doesn't. And then of course I was disappointed that the book skims over so many aeons and we never get to see what happens in the next universe, but of course that's the nature of the story.

The multi-dimensional twist to modern environmental concerns - people destroying their environment to retain a temporary advantage was really interesting and also somewhat distressing....
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LibraryThing member LadyDarbanville
3.5 stars. Possibly one of the coolest endings to a sci-fi book I've ever read, but unfortunately the journey to that ending was quite dull at times.
LibraryThing member cindywho
That was the most epically (is that a word?) trippy book I've read in a long time. A few eye rolls on masculinity issues - but the end game to this trilogy was amazing.
LibraryThing member travelster
Wow, many and great new concepts as well as a great story.
LibraryThing member fpagan
Wow! This is the final novel in Liu's hard-SF trilogy begun by _The Three-Body Problem_ and continued by _The Dark Forest_ , and its stunningly imaginative sweep confirms that the trilogy deserves to be described by a term such as "super-epical". The bulk of the _Death's End_ story takes place
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between 2208 and 2400, but the late chapters extend it *vastly* farther into the future while adding to the trilogy's collection of abrupt surprises and mind-bending ideas. [SPOILER ALERT from here to the end of my remarks.] Could what some see as the messiness of the laws of fundamental physics really be the result of alteration by extraterrestrial civilizations (ETCs) engaged in genocidal warfare? Could one ETC really try to obliterate another by effecting dimensional reduction (4-space to 3-space, or 3-space to 2-space) of the space occupied by an entire stellar system? Could the second ETC, given that the equation for the radius of a black hole is R = 2GM/c, really try to protect itself by hiding in a "black-domain" variety of black hole created by drastically lowering the speed of light within its space?
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LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Best of the trilogy as far as I am concerned – definitely the one with the most action. However, it struck me as something very close to looking like Chinese propaganda – even the way it all ends. If you want insight into Chinese culture and have an affinity for super hard sci-fi check out the
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whole trilogy. The physics and galaxy-bending astrophysics were way over my head. The best sections were the ones where we get a personal perspective on what's going on.
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LibraryThing member willszal
It isn't until this final book in the thesis that Liu's thesis comes out: life follows a trajectory resulting in dimensional war that eventually ends up collapsing the universe (and the birth of another universe).

Although this writing is considered science fiction, the plot takes direction from
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Cold War politics of Mutually Assured Destruction.

This is a kind of fiction that I find irresponsible. The more we are exposed to ideas, the more "normal" they feel (regardless of how far outside any natural thresholds or ethics they might fall). Liu's premise that life is inherently competitive to the point of galactic genocide says a lot about his psychology, but little about human nature, and even less about the alien society. It is a book that leaves the reader feeling as though the world is devoid of meaning, and that is not the energy we could use these days.

That said, the book is artfully written, especially the opening with the fall of Constantinople.
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LibraryThing member rondoctor
Like the first two books in this series, the Death's End story line has a mixture of plot pacings. Sometimes these make the story less interesting and you just have to plow through it, but other times, this varied pacing reflects real life. All in all, I highly recommend this 3rd book in the
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series. It has several surprise twists leading up to an unexpected conclusion.
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LibraryThing member Phrim
In Death's End, the Liu tells the story of what happens when the mutual annihilation deterrence introduced in the previous book inevitably fails. Cleverly, he manages to tell the story both ways--what happens when humanity fails to invoke the mutual annihilation, and what happens when they do
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invoke it. Unfortunately, either way results in the end of humanity. Failing ends in Earth being conquered and enslaved. Invoking curiously causes the immediate end of the Trisolarans, but gives Earth time to prepare and possibly avoid their end. Of course, it doesn't work, though the author tries to couch Earth's calamity in some really off-the-wall wonkiness. I found this book to be fairly depressing on the whole, and found it hard to relate to the weird ending.
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LibraryThing member 3j0hn
Ultimately worthwhile, but there is just sooooo much exposition. SO MUCH.
LibraryThing member Algybama
Exciting but not entirely satisfying, since it doesn't answer many of the mysteries: why did some of the Wallfacers become so frightened of celestial bodies? What happened to the Imprinted soldiers? Why did Ye Wenjie decide to help Luo Ji? I don't mind cliffhangers and the unexplained, but there is
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too much in this trilogy that was left ignored. I also didn't like Sophon as a character at the climax - nothing about her behavior was believable in the least. Something similar could also be said of Wade and AA as major characters that didn't really go anywhere.

But these are just a few problems I had with the book - and I understand that this isn't a character-driven story, so I wasn't completely disappointed when nothing really panned out for any of the character aside from Luo Ji. I just wish the author would've given some closure to a few more of the many (too many) plots and characters that he had opened up throughout the three books.

Still, these books contain THE best space-stuff that I've ever read.
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LibraryThing member briandarvell
Excellent end to a truly great trilogy. This may have been the best novel in the series. Full of great ideas and story arcs I just cannot recommend this series enough to lovers of science fiction. I will definitely read other novels by this author and potentially reread this series again in the
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future.
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LibraryThing member DarthDeverell
Cixin Liu’s Death’s End, the third novel in his Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, begins concurrently with some of the events of the second novel, The Dark Forest, before using the ability of people to go into hibernation to jump forward in time and move well beyond the second book. The
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Dark Forest left off with a stalemate, as Luo Ji holds the ability to instigate mutually-assured destruction against both Trisolaris and the solar system. In the uneasy peace, the Trisolarans have begun sharing their technology with Earth and even become fascinated by human culture. Humanity, however, has learned from Luo Ji’s “Dark Forest” theory of spacefaring civilizations that intelligent alien life is likely more dangerous than they thought and would strike first if faced with a threat, so human civilization has found ways to minimize its broadcasts of signals into space in order to avoid attracting attention from any other alien civilizations.

Cheng Xin, an astrophysicist, began working on a probe to reach the Trisolaran fleet as it approached before entering hibernation. In the future, she finds society much changed and her place in society elevated as she owns the rights to a star that is discovered to have Earth-like planets. She gifts the planets to humanity and, for her generosity, the people of Earth want her to take over control of the mutually-assured destruction technology that preserves the peace with Trisolaris. Unfortunately, the Trisolans realize that she is unlikely to use the weapon, and prepare to invade the Earth. Meanwhile, the ships Blue Space and Gravity, the latter of which contains a gravity wave transmitter, encounter a pocket of fourth-dimensional space beyond the solar system. Realizing that the Trisolarans have invaded, they broadcast the location of Trisolaris, thereby committing the world to destruction under the dark forest theory while also putting the Earth at risk for the same fate. Trisolaris abandons its plans to invade the Earth, while humanity wonders if there’s a way to save itself. It finds a way through a series of layered metaphors transmitted from the only human aboard a Trisolaran ship, which draw upon Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Descent into the Maelström” in order to hide clues for explaining lightspeed travel (pgs. 446, 449). Unfortunately, the destruction of the Solar System follows a plan that the Earth spacefleet could not foresee.

Demonstrating the role of the media in shaping public perceptions of places, Liu references the 2008 film Australia as Cheng Xin’s only knowledge of the continent prior to the Trisolarans attempting to exile humanity to the continent (pgs. 236-237). Liu’s title, Death’s End, refers to some of the changes that hibernation technology caused in human society. He writes, “Once the technology was successfully commercialized, those who could afford it would use it to skip to paradise, while the rest of humanity would have to stay behind in the comparatively depressing present to construct that paradise for them. But even more worrisome was the greatest lure provided by the future: the end of death… those who chose hibernation were taking the first steps on the staircase to life everlasting. For the first time in history, Death itself was no longer fair” (pg. 77). Here Liu uses science-fiction to pose larger questions about the nature of humanity, how changing something as universal as death would affect all levels of society, and explores the concept in tandem with his plot about human advancement following first contact with an alien intelligence. Similarly, another character remarks about the nature of death, “Death is the only lighthouse that is always lit. No matter where you sail, ultimately, you must turn toward it. Everything fades into the world, but Death endures” (pg. 449). Similarly, Liu examines how other technologies, like lightspeed travel, contribute to inequality as the future of the solar system is in doubt. He writes, “The inequality here was seen as the greatest in human history: inequality before death. Historically, inequality mainly manifested itself in areas like economics or social status, but death basically treated everyone the same… But never before had a situation like this presented itself: less than one-ten-thousandth of the population could go into safe hiding, leaving billions on Earth to die” (pg. 473).

Liu also broadens his cosmology. The Trisolarans were the only alien civilization glimpsed in the series’ previous two novels, but here he offers glimpses of fourth-dimensional civilizations (pgs. 287-303) as well as one of the alien species that engages in Dark Forest Deterrence, destroying advanced civilizations before they become a threat (pgs. 555-564). In both of those cases, Liu carefully avoid describing the aliens’ physiology, giving just enough of a hint about their technology to fit the themes of his novel without portraying so much that it could become easily dated. This foreshadows his conclusion, in which the fate of the universe hangs in the balance. The end effect is a work of tragic beauty, befitting the themes Liu examined throughout the series. For those who aren’t ready to walk away from the “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy, Liu authorized Li Jun’s fan fiction, The Redemption of Time, as an official interquel to the series and Ken Liu also translated that work.
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LibraryThing member mbmackay
The final book of the Three Body Problem trilogy.
This is seriously dark sci-fi. The underlying plot is that advanced civilizations in the universe routinely exterminate/destroy any signs of advanced life anywhere in the universe - they may be a threat.
The books are not quite as dark as the theme
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might suggest. There is a lot of speculative fun. There is good science, and where the plot requires it, the fanciful science retains a ring of plausibilty.
The author is Chinese and writes for a Chinese audience. Unsurprisingly, while there are some western characters, the heroes and good guys tend to be Chinese. For a western reader, this is a refreshing contrast, and makes one realise how stultifying most western sci-fi must be to eastern readers.
While I found the broad themes well done, the pace of the book varies - I think some more editing could have improvemed the overall book.
I've rated this book as 4-stars, but mostly because of the grand creativity - the actual writing may not have warranted such a high score. But I'm glad to have read all three volumes, and will be recommending the trilogy ot selected readers.
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LibraryThing member fugitive
First, there is no way this book will make any sense unless you've read the first two in the series, The Three-Body Problem and The Dark Forest. This is NOT a stand alone work.

Second, Ken Liu, who translated the first book, is back as the translator of this final work and to me he is the preferred
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translator of author Cixin Liu's works. I don't speak or read Chinese, but my reaction to Ken Liu's work is that he creates a more natural style than translator Joel Martinsen did with volume 2, The Dark Forest. Martinsen is an excellent translator, but Ken Liu brings an empathy to the author's work that I didn't see in the second volume.

Third. This is a great book and a great read. The entire series reminds me of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy in its scope, breadth, and audacity. There's a reason the author is considered China's greatest science fiction writer. This is that good. At no time did I know where the plot and characters were going or what was going to happen. The story unfolds as a vast panorama as seen through the eyes of a few characters. It is poetic, tragic, inspiring, and thought provoking (any more superlatives out there I should use?).

The scientific underpinnings of this final volume deserve a special shout out. There was little that was truly new to me, but it was obvious that Mr. Liu is attuned to some of the more interesting areas of science and physics in our post-Einsteinian civilization. As I wrote in my review of the first book in the series, his grasp of technology reminds me most of Gregory Benford.

Asimov? Benford? Liu!
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LibraryThing member JBD1
A worthy climax to this epic series. I probably should go back and read the first two volumes now. This one I took a long time with, so that I could linger over the stories and deep though that went into the narrative.

Awards

Hugo Award (Nominee — Novel — 2017)
Locus Award (Finalist — Science Fiction Novel — 2017)
Seiun Award (Nominee — 2022)
Premios Kelvin 505 (Finalist — 2019)
Dragon Award (Finalist — Science Fiction Novel — 2017)
Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year (Science Fiction and Fantasy — 2016)

Pages

624

ISBN

0765386631 / 9780765386632
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