The grand scale of Cixin Liu’s ‘The Three-Body Trilogy’ continues in this third volume ‘Death’s End’, translated from the Chinese, as was the first volume, by Ken Liu. This 600 page book moves forward at a stately place, building solid ideas one upon another, continuing to extrapolate the future of humanity under the threat of annihilation from the Trisolarans and the earth-shattering events of the previous volumes. At the end of ‘The Dark Forest’, Earth was left in the precarious situation of a stand-off with the Trisolarans, threatening to reveal their planet’s position to the inimical Galaxy at large if they pursued their invasion of the solar system.
At the beginning of ‘Death’s End’, we go back to incidents earlier in the previous book, seeing some of them briefly from another viewpoint, the selection of the Wallfacers for instance, while other large-scale plans are put into place.
Cheng Xin is one of those involved in formulating and implementing these strategies and she becomes the major character in this book as the Earth moves on into the deterrence era, the Stairway Project, the work of Swordholders and beyond. Each time, I began to wonder how the situation could be resolved and how humanity could be saved, Cixin Liu reveals another vista of startling consequences and stunning concepts. He displays a wonderful skill throughout the book, though, in that whatever twists and turns the plot takes, each is perfectly logical and even inevitable in retrospect.
Cheng Xin moves through time from one crisis to the next, spending her time in stasis as some of the characters in the previous book had. Each time she awakens, society has changed in response to both technological advances and the sociological effects of the current state of intergalactic affairs. It’s fascinating to see how Cixin Liu advances his tale of humanity’s development, capturing the mass psychology of a world under threat of imminent destruction or in a state of confidence or suffering from an uncertain but delayed future. There are fascinating glimpses into changes of technology, dress and attitudes that are woven into the background to provide a realistic description of a future history.
The whole book is written with an air of authority. It contains much more exposition than you would normally expect to find, in the form of excerpts from a history book written in the far future and in sections of historical and technical explication. These don’t detract from the story, though. They are written in such a way that they become part of the narrative, taking us on this sweeping tour of the future in leaps and bounds without getting lost on the way.
Cixin Liu is also not afraid to put his characters into seemingly impossible situations and send them on decades-long missions, throwing earth-shattering revelations and heart-rending disappointments at them one after another. As in previous volumes, there are moments of stunning revelation where you suddenly realise something fundamental about the nature of galactic civilisation or the fundamental constants of physics or the meaning behind Yun Tianming’s fairy tales.
There are many layers to this story, built up and woven together to form an extraordinarily grand tale of mankind’s future. This volume brings the trilogy to a grand and satisfying conclusion.
Gareth D. Jones
(pub: Head Of Zeus. 602 page hardback. Price: £18.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78497-163-2
pub: TOR/Forge. 604 page hardback. Price: $29.99 (US), $37.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-7710-4)
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