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Death's End by Liu Cixin
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it was amazing

It has been more than two weeks since I finished reading the third book in Cixin Liu's Three Body Trilogy, and it has left me with a lot to process. It would be impossible to cover everything I want to say about this book into one review. Among those things, I recently had a discussion (in my GR review of The Dark Forest - check it out along with the comments if you're interested) about Liu's conservative Marxism, and I won't rehash that here.
This is also a five star review for a novel that I have some very emphatic philosophical differences with. Liu's views on gender types and gender roles are traditional, to say the least. If you were taken aback (as I was) by the female characters in Three Body Problem and Dark Forest, you will be positively incensed by Death's End. The angelic Cheng Xin - the woman at the center of the novel's events - is alternately put on a pedestal and torn off of it, and constantly patronized and coddled by the male characters. The "feminization" of human values in Death's End always leads to humanity's peril.
To be fair though, Liu's depressingly cynical outlook has little use for masculine values either. If the feminine is regressive and fetal, the masculine is belligerent and destructive, and the oscillation of these extremes is the fatal cocktail for the disaster that befalls the human race in Death's End. For Liu, there is no escape from our basic nature, unless... (see discussion of Marxism in my Dark Forest review/comments).
The scope of Liu's imagination and the weight of his intellectual enterprise makes my distaste for his philosophical positions palatable. I don't need to agree with you to appreciate you, so long as you can back your shit up. Liu backs his with a universe where time and space itself can be toys or weapons (or both); where you can literally reach through the fourth dimension to interact with yourself in the past; where one can collapse an entire solar system (or universe) into two dimensions as easily as sneezing into a tissue. No other science fiction writer today - not even the greatest of them - is coming close to operating on his level. This is the kind of thing that must be read and discussed by conscientious readers everywhere, and only the highest praise will do.
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Reading Progress

February 12, 2016 – Shelved
February 12, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
November 2, 2016 – Started Reading
November 10, 2016 – Finished Reading
November 27, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by carol. (new)

carol. Interesting commentary. I'll consider myself prepared.


Stevie Kincade The scope of Liu's imagination and the weight of his intellectual enterprise makes my distaste for his philosophical positions palatable. I don't need to agree with you to appreciate you, so long as you can back your shit up. Well said and a great review.

The one thing I didn't get in this one was how the Constantinople/age of magic bit at the start tied into the rest of thr story? Can you explain that one to me please?


message 3: by Lata (new)

Lata Warning noted for the series.


Gary Stevie wrote: "The scope of Liu's imagination and the weight of his intellectual enterprise makes my distaste for his philosophical positions palatable. I don't need to agree with you to appreciate you, so long a..."

I don't see any way of hiding spoilers on comments so

SPOILER ALERT

if you haven't read Death's End yet.

The fall of Constantinople as a historical event has no bearing in and of itself on anything that follows in the novel; the significance of the chapter is solely to canonize the existence of the High-Dimensional Fragment (and what humans are capable of doing with it) before it is encountered by Gravity and Blue Space at the end of the Deterrence Era. I think if the Blue Space mutineers had reprogrammed the droplets and removed Hunter's heart using the HDF without that possibility having been established earlier in the book, it would have come across as a cheat. This way, as soon as we realize that Hunter's heart has been removed without breaking the skin, we a) know exactly what happened and b) recognize that it is believable within the rules established for this novel. Otherwise, it would have been a deus ex machina, the author blatantly conjuring a "magical space thingy" to save them from the droplets just in the nick of time.


Stevie Kincade Ah yes of course thanks. And you can use (view spoiler) in comments


John Armstrong I was interested in your phrase conservative Marxism. When all is said and done the trilogy is about China and reflects the author's views on his home country. Key ideas are: (1) government by a constellation of technocratic committees basically works and people naturally accept it; (2) it is immune to corruption in the literal sense (i.e. the power- and money-based corruption that is very real in China as it is everywhere); (3) yet there is a form of corruption that it is susceptible to and that has the power to destroy it and with it the people whose welfare it is responsible for, and that is sentimentality; (4) the antidote to sentimentality is hard, clear-eyed pragmatism. Expressed in terms of key characters in the story, the message is that for China to survive and fulfil its destiny it must be led by Wades, not Cheng Xins.l


Gary John wrote: "I was interested in your phrase conservative Marxism. When all is said and done the trilogy is about China and reflects the author's views on his home country. Key ideas are: (1) government by a co..."

Those are some excellent points, John, but I disagree with your fourth assertion - that Wade represents the "hard, clear-eyed pragmatism" that you are championing. To me, Wade seemed more like the author's caricature of extreme Emersonian self-reliance; or, the ultimate "ugly American." Memory eludes me at the moment so I would have to double check the text, but I think it is Luo Ji who points out some reasons why Wade's scheme was likely due to fail anyway. I think the true pragmatists of the novel are Luo Ji and Yun Tianming: both men present viable and effective solutions to humankind's predicaments, yet both are cast aside, exiled, and ignored - their words are clear and practical but go unheeded until it is basically too late. Neither men are willing to wholly reject the sentimentality Cheng Xin perpetuates, but they take a wider perspective that allows them to see the importance of human connection as a small part of the greater whole.


message 8: by William (new) - added it

William Amazing review, Thank you. I’ve pushed this up to my top-to-read list.


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