My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Remembrance of Earth’s Past (Book 3 of 3)
Genre: Hard science fiction
English translation published: 2016 by Tor Books (US) and Head of Zeus (UK).
Death’s End is an incredibly epic conclusion to the insanely imaginative and unpredictable hard science fiction trilogy, Remembrance of Earth’s Past.
I’ve read the first two books of this trilogy more than a year ago. The reason why I did not read Death’s End till now was not because I didn’t enjoy these books. On the contrary, just on those two alone I was already touting Remembrance of Earth’s Past to be one of my favourites. It was due to how well the sequel The Dark Forest seemed to have wrapped up the story then that I didn’t immediately continue with the final book. Each book in the trilogy was so thought-provoking and full of creativity that I found myself needing time to absorb and digest what I’ve read. Death’s End is the ultimate entry in this incredible trilogy which utterly floored me with its mind-blowing ideas that employed real world theoretical and astrophysics in an all-out epic and fascinating narrative.
Honestly, I had no inkling how the story will progress after the superb ending The Dark Forest. Turns out that the first part of Death’s End took the reader back to the Crisis Era that took place for the two centuries after the ending of The Three-Body Problem when the human race realised that the Trisolarans, living four light years away, are coming for Earth. The sequel told the story of Luo Ji commencing from the Crisis Era. This time the story was told from the perspective of a new main character, Cheng Xin, who was involved in another project during the same era. Readers who felt that the female representation was severely lacking in the previous two instalments should be glad to know that Cheng Xin is female and will be the primary character that we follow throughout the entire book.
However, I wasn’t as captivated by Cheng Xin as a character as much as I did with Luo Ji. For one thing, I felt that almost every single decision she made was opposite from mine. This was not to say that her characterisation was not realistic. I guess that my instincts towards humanity in general tended to be more pessimistic. And this brings me to the main themes of this story – survival and the human condition. As with all great science fiction, Remembrance of Earth’s Past is a study of the human condition – how humans deal with first contact and then possible annihilation at the hands of an eminently more advanced race. The narrative was both sweeping and personal as we get to see global shifts in mentality across the eras, as well as interactions between individual characters.
When I say that the narrative in Death’s End was epic, I almost felt that it was an understatement. The story in The Dark Forest spanned hundreds of years, and it paled in comparison to this astounding concluding volume. I won’t even mention how many years the narrative covers because this is something a new reader needs to discover and experience. Don’t even read the “Table of Eras” found at the start of the book. All I can say that at the end of this entire trilogy, the one thing that resonated with me the most is the reason why I’ve always been so enamoured and, at the same time, terrified with the Universe.
Time is the cruelest force of all.
Cixin Liu clearly has a keen mind and interest in the hard sciences, specifically in physics. Characterisation-wise, Death’s End fell short of The Dark Forest. Regardless, the sheer creativity of the author in employing his knowledge of physics and incorporating them into ideas that left both my jaw and brains on the floor impressed me so much that this was truly a science fiction masterpiece in my mind. Ideas from Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity to quantum mechanics to super-string theory. It came as no surprise that I loved how these concepts were so well-presented and executed in the story. The combined force that was Liu’s staggering imagination and mastery of these subjects came together in a story that was utterly unpredictable. One simply cannot think of the things that could happen in the story without both these elements. I cannot say this enough – I was mind-blown – numerous times in fact.
One last thing that I must mention is the amazing translation by Ken Liu. It is a testament to his translation skills that a Chinese science fiction book that is so filled with scientific terms and concepts can be read so seamlessly in English. I would say the same of the translator of The Dark Forest, Joel Martinsen. These books did not read nor feel like translated books to me.
In short, Death’s End was masterful conclusion that pulls out all the stops to an already incredible and inventive trilogy. I’d say that this is a highly recommended science fiction read, and practically a must-read for fans of hard science fiction.
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)