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Liu Cixin's trilogy "Remembrance of Earth's Past" -- The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, "Death's End"

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message 1: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments "The three-body problem is the problem in physics of computing the trajectory of three bodies interacting with one another." Three-body problem (disambiguation) - Wikipedia.

Liu Cixin's The Three-body Problem initiates his renown trilogy Remembrance of Earth's Past on the theme of an alien invasion. It starts with a 'struggle session' in 1967 during China's Cultural Revolution to criticize Professor Ye for including Einstein's theory of relativity into his physics classes as well as the Big Bang explanation of the universe before which there was nothing.


message 2: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments "What would it mean for the human race to come in contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence?"--Jason Heller, 'Three-body problem' asks a classic sci-fi question, in chinese.

The plot dramatizes that scenario. An astrophysicist figures out a way to send a far-reaching beam, which makes contact with Trisolaris (an inhabited, unique, planetary body whose orbit is impacted by three suns). From her witnessing and experiencing horrors during and after the Cultural Revolution, she forms the opinion that no hope exists for humanity, thereby inviting an alien attack on earth. An interesting description might be that of the Trisolarians. A video game based on the three-body problem of interacting, unpredictable orbits takes the attention of a character.


message 3: by James (new)

James F | 137 comments I'm looking forward to this. I'm up to number 3 on the holds list for the e-book for the first two books, number 1 for the last book (it always seems to happen that way) so I'll read the whole trilogy as soon as I can get the first book.


message 4: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments Hi, James. Of the mind-opening situations in this book from a nonscientist's perspective, one is that the same physical laws applicable to the universe we know might differ somewhere else in space.


message 5: by James (new)

James F | 137 comments It finally came in today so hopefully I can read the first book over the weekend.


message 6: by James (new)

James F | 137 comments I finished this tonight; I'm still waiting for the second book. I was also interested in the non-invariance of the laws of physics at the highest energy levels, although the author drops the subject almost at once (and we find out later that it wasn't really true.)

I'll give my review here:

The first book in a science fiction trilogy originally published in China, dealing with "first contact" with an alien civilization, the Trisolarians. The novel is both similar and different from most American science fiction; the "action" plot is not all that unusual, but the author expects the reader to have more knowledge of math and science than is expected in most American science fiction, even of the "hard" science fiction genre (though it is not absolutely essential to understanding the action). Having been written in 2007, the science is more up to date than most of the science fiction novels I have read lately, which gave it a certain realism.

The book opens with a chapter called "The Age of Madness" set during the height of the "Cultural Revolution", and Chinese history, both ancient and recent, form the background of the action; the pessimism of many of the characters with regards to human civilization and the possibility of rational reform, which is central to the plotline, is very understandable in the context of the goals and hopes of the Chinese Revolution and its degeneration into irrational violence and tyranny under Mao (although recent American politics don't exactly give much reason for optimism either.) I was reminded of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, one of the best recent science fiction novels I have read, in that both trilogies combine reasonably accurate "hard" science with an interest in politics, which are usually separated in different subgenres. In addition, Liu Cixin's book has a very modernist literary structure, with several subplots that at first seem totally unconnected. I will be interested in seeing whether the quality of this first novel is kept up in the sequels.


message 7: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments The first book of the series is an evocative story about the vicissitudes of scientists and academicians during the late 1960s Cultural Revolution and afterward, following the lives of several main characters. The intolerance for theory, experiment, and innovation leads a character to question society's ability to self-monitor without the guidance of a more technologically (and supposedly more morally) advanced one. At an opportunistic moment, she sends a transmission towards the sun which amplifies the distance it can reach. Another theme is the destruction of nature posed by the radiation-emitting SETI-type monitor of radio-wave transmission from outer space. The title applies to a haptic video game in which the Trisolaris planet in Alpha Centauri undergoes successive deaths from uninhabitable cold or heat then eventually rebirths as the gravitational effects of three suns align in unpredictable ways. Having not figured out a pattern for the three suns' motions, the Trisolarians seek to inhabit a planet with a stable environment like Earth.


message 8: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments James wrote: "...I will be interested in seeing whether the quality of this first novel is kept up in the sequels."

James,
I enjoyed most of this first book in the series. Reviews from YouTube and in print indicate that the reviewers found the second and, in particular, the third more excellent. I'm wondering whether the same characters will appear in the sequences and whether the Trisolarians, lightyears away, will reach Earth.


message 9: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments These are some highlighted quotes from the first book The Three-Body Problem:
"in the face of madness, rationality was powerless."

"Sophons can create miracles?"
"For humans, yes."

"The study of the deep structure of matter is the foundation of the foundations of all other sciences."

"The Trisolarans who deemed the humans bugs seemed to have forgotten one fact: The bugs have never been truly defeated."

"light could traverse a distance equal to seven and a half trips around the Earth in a single second"

"Science fiction often describes a day when humanity will form a harmonious whole, and I believe the arrival of such a day need not wait for the appearance of extraterrestrials."

"Scales and existences that far exceeded the bounds of human sensory perception--both macro and micro--and that seemed to be only abstract numbers to others, could take on concrete forms in my mind. I could touch them and feel them, much like others could touch and feel trees and rocks."
And the following is the Wikipedia coverage of its plot and characters. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thr...


message 10: by James (new)

James F | 137 comments While I wait for the second volume (hoping that I will get it before I have to return the third volume) I'll make a few more random comments on The Three-Body Problem.

I could relate to Ye Wenjie and the ETO hoping that the Trisolarans would be a highly moral civilization that would solve our problems for us. As I get older I become more pessimistic about our ability to solve them ourselves, after seeing the very movements that set out to solve them become part of the problem (from the Russian and Chinese revolutions to the sectarianism of some organizations I used to belong to.) It's hard not to fantasize some outside help, some good and powerful alien culture -- maybe that's why Doctor Who is so popular among people like me who don't otherwise like television. And on a larger scale, why people turn to religion in times of political and social reaction, which creates a kind of negative feedback as the religions support the reaction. Actually, I could have named Christianity -- and most religions possibly -- as examples of movements that started out to solve problems and ended up creating them.

I was impressed by the way Cixin Liu uses patterns in the novel. The most obvious of course was the way the reception of the message by Ye and by her Trisolaran counterpart are described in almost the exact same language, which lets us know that for all the differences in the two cultures, the Trisolarans are not so different after all; they face the same dilemmas we do, between efficiency and freedom. The other pattern I noticed was between Ye and her mother; her mother helps kill her father and essentially abandons Ye out of a combination of fear and ideology; and Ye later kills her husband for the same sort of reason, and possibly betrays her daughter (although that's left ambiguous.)


message 11: by Betty (last edited Jun 28, 2018 12:46AM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments James,
Trisolaris also once had a democratic, highly cultured society, which long ago ended. Why that change occurred didn't explicitly come to light in the story. It seemed that the unstable, planetary environment in the universe, suddenly abolishing hundreds of successive Trisolaran civilizations without warning proved too traumatizing. A parallel between that hopelessly situated planet in the seemingly unpatterned gravitational field of three suns compared to the Earth's loss of faith in humankind led by groups of individuals seeking a new way either in a strong leader or in an advanced, neighboring society to solve problems. At least in this first book of the Trilogy, those dreams are stirring but mistaken to sell one's soul.

The second volume The Dark Forest carries over some plot plus(!) adds new characters and storylines. Whether that strange feeling is a fleeting first impression or one that bears out must wait.


message 12: by 未知生焉知死 (last edited Jul 01, 2018 01:06AM) (new)

未知生焉知死 Anvil | 16 comments Is it only me who noticed the striking similarity between the madness and folly of the Chinese Red guards' Politically Correct interpretation of Einsteins's theory of relativity and the modern western feminism's PC interpretation and critique of science?


"Relativity is part of the fundamental theories of physics," Ye answered. "How can a basic survey course not teach it?"

"You lie" a female Red Guard by his side shouted. "Einstein is a reactionary academic authority. He would serve any master who dangled money in front of him. He even went to the American Imperialists and helped them build the atom bomb! To develop a revolutionary science, we must overthrow theblack banner of capitalism represented by the theory of relativity!"

(....)

She turned to face the crowd. "Comrades, revolutionary youths, revolutionary faculty and staff, we must clearly understand the reactionary nature of Einstein's theory of relativity. This is most apparent in general relativity. Its static model of the universe negates the dynamic nature of matter. It is anti-dialectical. It treats the universe as limited, which is asolutely a form of reactionary idealism....."

- chapter 1, The madness years -



And here is Laura Parson - a Feminist PhD candidate -, her discovery of the hidden hostility to women and minorities in eight science class syllabi at a “Midwest public university”.


Initial exploration of the STEM syllabi in this study did not reveal overt references to gender, such as through the use of gendered pronouns. However, upon deeper review, language used in the syllabi reflects institutionalized STEM teaching practices and views about knowledge that are inherently discriminatory to women and minorities by promoting a view of knowledge as static and unchanging, a view of teaching that promotes the idea of a passive student, and by promoting a chilly climate that marginalizes women.

link




And feminist methodologies of science course offered by Havard University.


In a seminal article, she worries that “if researchers fail to explore how their personal, professional, and structural positions frame social scientific investigations, researchers inevitably reproduce dominant gender, race, and class biases.”

link



And lastly, a renowned french feminist philosopher, Luce Irigaray's critique of physics (In all likelihood, it's no coincidence as she embraced Maoism when she was young as with many french radical feminists).

Youtube link

So the insanity of progressives's critique of science motivated by their self-righteous political cause depicted in the opening of the novel is not something tragicomic which happened long time ago in some far away culturally, scientifically underdeveloped third world communist country, but now dead and gone forever. It still lives well in the west. A hugh relief that my country does not have such a toxic PC culture.

To be fair, It's somehow understandable that progressives, including feminists, hate science and try to denigrate it because overwhelmingly majority of great scientists and groundbreaking scientific achievements have been of petite bourgeoisie and men, even in case of ancient and medieval sciences (achieved by non-European civilizations before the rise of the modern science). Relatively quite few from proletariat and/or women. But bullshit is still bullshit no matter what.


message 13: by James (new)

James F | 137 comments Moot --

I'm always glad to see a post I (partially) disagree with, because that can lead to a real discussion (at the risk of getting too far away from the book we are discussing). Let me say first that I have no more use for "liberalism" than "conservatism", and none at all for Stalinism (including its Maoist variety.) At first I was inclined to limit my disagreement with you and emphasize what I thought we were in agreement on. However, when I followed your links to find out the context of the quotations, and instead of going to their actual writings as I expected, they went to conservative sites which were attacking the authors with selected quotations, that changed my view of your comments.

Perhaps, not being from the US, you don't realize that here the "hatred of science" comes mostly from those very conservatives: creationists and "intellectual design advocates" who attack evolution as "only a theory, but the Bible is the Bible"; deniers of climate change (although the Democrats, who specialize in "liberal" rhetoric, have distorted the science as well); and generally the whole claim of a "leftist" bias in academia which is a convenient excuse to reject scientific argument whenever it conflicts with their religious-right ideology. This is not just a matter of ideas; they also have tried for a century or more to ban evolutionary biology from the schools, have tried under Trump to purge legitimate climate scientists from federal agencies, etc. In the social sciences, of course, all Marxists and most real liberals (as opposed to Democratic Party opportunists) were purged from academia by the right during the McCarthyist witch-hunt. This is the real parallel with the Maoists.

As for your quotations, it is hard to tell from the selected and interpreted quoting what points they were actually making, but I would say that investigating bias in scientific TEACHING is perfectly legitimate; if by "static and unchanging" they mean the kind of courses I had in grade school through high school which presented some results of science as dogmas (many of which have since already been proven wrong) instead of emphasizing the dynamic of scientific research as methodology, and fallibility as the essence of all scientific theory (read Karl Popper who was certainly a conservative politically) I would have to agree that it is a problem (though I don't really see the link with women and minorities, but then I haven't read the dissertation). Likewise, I think all scientists, especially in the Social Sciences, ought to "explore how their personal, professional, and structural positions frame social scientific investigations"; the history of science has shown how often factors like these have delayed scientific progress, and being aware of it is necessary to being objective.

There is, however, a kind of anti-scientific bias on the part of many academic feminists and "progressives" (a pretty meaningless Schimpfwort anyway), which has nothing to do with "Political correctness" (a term I personally despise, because at least as originally used is just a way of refusing to be civil and polite in discussion; whenever I hear it I mentally translate, "Why can't we call them n*gg*rs anymore?" because that is what it basically boils down to, unless it just means any argument that the conservatives can't answer.) The real origin of anti-scientific bias on the part of academics of any political stripe is the postmodernist philosophy that maintains that there are no facts and no evidence-based theories, but everything is equally "ideology" and should be evaluated as ideology rather than by logic and experiment. This is the part I would agree with you on, and I think it is not just similar to the Stalinists but at least in part was derived from them and their influence on certain "Western Marxists" like the Frankfort School, which in turn influenced the postmodernists.


message 14: by 未知生焉知死 (last edited Jul 06, 2018 05:07AM) (new)

未知生焉知死 Anvil | 16 comments Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Here are some clarification on my thought and response to your reply.

Perhaps, not being from the US, you don't realize that here the "hatred of science" comes mostly from those very conservatives: creationists and "intellectual design advocates" who attack evolution as "only a theory, but the Bible is the Bible"

I'm well aware of those American creationists who attack evolution. If my memory serves correctly, it was Bush who said the remark "it's only a theory", right? So yes, I agree that conservatives and Christian fundamentalists are, perhaps, more serious threats on science in the U.S. The reason that I solely focused on (western) progressives in my previous comment come from differences in cultural and socio-political situations between S. Korea and America. While there are a bunch of Korean christian fundamentalists and their organizations who push creationist pseudo science agenda here, they are hardly serious threat on science (more specifically, a theory of evolution and climate science) here, being more like a bunch of hopelessly silly and annoying idiots.... like mosquitoes. For example, there is no S.Korean counterpart to Scopes trial. In short, I think proponents of science (including atheists like me) feel much less threatened by Christian fundamentalists and anti-climate science propagandists here in S. Korea than in the US.

In the social sciences, of course, all Marxists and most real liberals (as opposed to Democratic Party opportunists) were purged from academia by the right during the McCarthyist witch-hunt.

Wait. That happened decades ago (maybe 50s?), but not anymore nowadays there. right?

investigating bias in scientific TEACHING is perfectly legitimate

Sure. But do we really need feminist methodology of science to do that? What would you feel like if someone claim we need a Buddhist methodology of science to investigate bias in science and scientific teaching, or Confucian methodology, Nazi methodology, Shamanistic methodology? Will you honestly take them seriously? I don't think so.

if by "static and unchanging" they mean the kind of courses I had in grade school through high school which presented some results of science as dogmas (many of which have since already been proven wrong) instead of emphasizing the dynamic of scientific research as methodology, and fallibility as the essence of all scientific theory (read Karl Popper who was certainly a conservative politically) I would have to agree that it is a problem

I fully agree. In fact, Popper is one of my favorite writers (as a philosopher of science). However, none of feminist critiques of science I quoted has anything to do with a legitimate and constructive criticism. At least, that's what I think about them.

The real origin of anti-scientific bias on the part of academics of any political stripe is the postmodernist philosophy that maintains that there are no facts and no evidence-based theories, but everything is equally "ideology" and should be evaluated as ideology rather than by logic and experiment

Very true. In other words, in every post [insert some random ism, structuralism, modernism, Marxism etc...] everything is reduced to a matter of discourses or social construction or power, which makes no distinction between empirical scientific methods and the rest. An utter nonsense in my view.

However, I'm still inclined to think that the problem of "PC" is a real thing in the U.S (and increasingly problematic in S. Korea nowadays as well, especially in liberal-leaning camps), mainly because nowadays those PC guys are usually the same people who are heavily influenced by post-XX ish isms. I was shocked to see that a male google employee got fired for his suggesting a possibility that some biological difference between men and women (such as preferences) may play a role in gender gap in STEM. Yes, I know that idea would make most feminists very uncomfortable as they have the blank slate of model of human mind/nature. Thus an implication of this model of human mind is that whenever we see some group differences in mental traits (like preference) between men and women, no way biological/innate gender difference plays any meaningful role, but practically solely a result of different socialization and sexism. So the google employee's idea was an out-right heresy (at least from feminist's point of view). But his idea should have been treated as a matter of debate and discussion. It's a real shame that Gender equality guys in Google dealt with it by laying off him, instead of initiating open and constructive debates. In essence, no different from the madness of the Red Guards of the Chinese cultural revolution in 1960s (though in a much less extreme and violent way). This incident was one of last straws to break the camel's back, and I don't identify myself as politically liberal any longer as I don't want to see my country to be like that. I saw in my own eyes that at least some of my liberal-leaning Korean fellows reacted like "Well... what is a big deal about it? Maybe Google thought he created a bad work environment. That's all ".


message 15: by James (last edited Jul 07, 2018 12:10AM) (new)

James F | 137 comments Just got the second book and have started it (about a third of the way through). It seems very interesting.


message 16: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments Moot,
The rationale presented by the assembly of young student Red Guards in the gross opening scene seemed like a lot of jargon and indoctrination that substituted for argument and even fact. To conform necessarily to the ideological story such as those youths hearkens to tragic historical events, to false beliefs as premises for action, and to stifled attempts towards truth. Advancements in knowledge happened because of respectfully questioning accepted thought for better explanations about nature and science.

As for the courses which examine the division of scientific viewpoints into the theory of masculine and feminine versions, it seems that the study of actual science would bring more gain to the exact nature of space, environment, and technology.

Asmaa.


message 17: by James (last edited Jul 08, 2018 05:45AM) (new)

James F | 137 comments Moot -

I understand better what you meant from your clarifications, and I basically agree with you on most of it, especially the postmodern, poststructuralist, postMarxist, etc. Anything post- and anything neo-. Just a few points:

If my memory serves correctly, it was Bush who said the remark "it's only a theory", right?
Ronald Reagan, but there's not much difference.

While there are a bunch of Korean christian fundamentalists and their organizations who push creationist pseudo science agenda here, they are hardly serious threat on science (more specifically, a theory of evolution and climate science) here, being more like a bunch of hopelessly silly and annoying idiots.... like mosquitoes.
Korea doesn't have the fundamentalist/right-wing Christian tradition that we unfortunately have here. And I remember you sent us most of your Christian nuts about fifty years ago with Sun Myung Moon . . .

Wait. That happened decades ago (maybe 50s?), but not anymore nowadays there. right?
Fifties and early sixties, but since academic departments tend to be based on seniority and the department chairs often appoint new faculty, the results lasted for a long time. I would say that American Universities in general (of course there is a lot of variation between them) are more conservative in the social sciences than most European Universities. The idea that there is a "liberal bias" in the Universities is a holdover of McCarthyist rhetoric; conservatives in the US are very anti-academic and anti-intellectual (not the same thing but related); it can only be supported by considering the Democratic Party as liberal, which it is not (It's an opportunist party which uses liberal rhetoric, just as the Republicans are opportunists who use conservative rhetoric; neither one has any real principles or coherent theory).

I was shocked to see that a male google employee got fired for his suggesting a possibility that some biological difference between men and women (such as preferences) may play a role in gender gap in STEM.
I haven't been following this (the James Damore case), but it seems that he was not just expressing an opinion about the gender gap in general, but attacking Google company policies on hiring women and minorities; also, another (liberal) employee has also filed suit claiming he was fired for disagreeing with Damore on the same bulletin board. Google is also being sued by women employees for paying women less than men, so the whole case is somewhat unclear. Corporations are not noted for respecting the rights of their employees, and Google is probably no exception. You might be getting a distorted view from the sort of websites you cited earlier. Personally I mistrust most political websites on the Internet; it seems they have gone from arguing about theories (which is legitimate) to twisting facts or reporting part of the facts to build up outrage on both sides. American politics is very polarized, divisive and uncivil at the moment, on both sides, due to the Trump election victory.

they have the blank slate of model of human mind/nature. Thus an implication of this model of human mind is that whenever we see some group differences in mental traits (like preference) between men and women, no way biological/innate gender difference plays any meaningful role, but practically solely a result of different socialization and sexism.
Obviously this is an exaggerated view, but given that for centuries the group differences were attributed solely to innate differences, with obvious effects on women and minorities, I see this as a natural reaction to bend the stick in the opposite direction. Hopefully we will eventually reach some sort of middle view. I haven't read anything by Pinker but some of his books have long been on my TBR list, so I may move them up a bit.


message 18: by James (new)

James F | 137 comments I finished the second book in the trilogy tonight; here is my review:

The second book in the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy. The Trisolarans are approaching Earth, the sophons have shut down basic research and monitor everything that happens on Earth, and the Earth government sets up the "Wallfacer" project, where four individuals are given vast powers and resources to think up and carry out strategies on their own without explanations to confuse the sophons. The idea was carried out a little contradictorily; the Wallfacers (except the major character of the book, Luo Ji) give reports on their strategies to the UN and they are discussed and argued about, in front of the sophons. Of course, the strategies they discuss are not their real strategies, but the sophons must know that, and it seems to be a contradiction to the nature of the project. On the other hand, it does give the necessary information to the reader. . .

The book struck me for most of the way as being a fast-paced science fiction adventure, with somewhat less serious content than the first book, although the bureaucractic infighting relates to the dilemma of the first book between the need for strong leadership and discipline to counteract the bureaucracy and the need for democracy and individualism to advance scientific and social progress. (Actually I think real democracy is the best antidote to bureaucracy, and perhaps ultimately that is what Liu is saying.) The mob mentality and the way it is manipulated by the bureaucrats, especially the Americans, is accurate and chilling. There is much ethical and political reflection in the novel, and some of the scientific/technological ideas were interesting.

The book I think only reached the level of the first book toward the end, with the revelation of the "dark forest" hypothesis as an explanation of the Fermi Paradox. Very frightening idea, which may not be wrong. I thought from the beginning Luo Ji's strategy would involve the sort of reasoning about other civilizations beyond Earth and Trisolaris that it did, but the details and the "dark forest" idea were a surprise.

One small point I liked: when the author uses some idea from previous science fiction classics, he actually has a character mention them (e.g. Isaac Asimov) as a sort of in the text "footnote"; I've noticed similar things in some postmodernist literary novels [Moot -- I have to admit I like postmodernist literature even though I can't stand it in philosophy, history and the sciences. Sort of the same thing as Romanticism in the nineteenth century, some good novels but a disaster when they applied the idea to science and history.] I didn't notice any references to Stanislaw Lem, however, and I did see similarities in the ideas to some of his books; I haven't seen him mentioned in connection with Chinese science fiction but I can't help but think he was an influence.

==================================
I started the last book; I doubt I will get through the whole 605 pages before I have to return it again, so unless I luck out and there is no one after me on hold I probably won't finish it for a while. The beginning goes back to before the second book starts, to Yang Dong (please forgive me if I misremember some of the Chinese names); it introduces a new theme I think will be very interesting, the two-way (or as a Marxist would say dialectical) interaction of life with the environment. I have read a few books which emphasize this and it is a very thought-provoking idea.


message 19: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments James wrote: "...I understand better what you meant from your clarifications, and I basically agree with you on most of it..."

James, the above comment succeeds in taking the objective and independent view of current, behind-the-scenes situations and is much appreciated.


message 20: by Betty (last edited Jul 09, 2018 11:34AM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments James wrote: "I finished the second book in the trilogy tonight; here is my review..."

The second book seems to have many layers and scene changes, as the review notes with the Wallfacers' confusing the Trisolarans' sophons with false strategies. Also is the idea of 'hibernation' that can last thousands of years and end in the middle of a catastrophe and can inspire a reader with awe. Instead of in linear time, historical characters can appear interwoven in one time and place. Finding out what is meant by the 'dark forest' is an incentive to keep reading.


message 21: by Betty (last edited Jul 09, 2018 01:31PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments Wikipedia's article for The Dark Forest includes this related video http://www.project-57.org/ Ren Wang. "Waterdrop." How might the film's title relate to the 'droplet' at the end of the story?


message 22: by 未知生焉知死 (last edited Jul 10, 2018 11:07AM) (new)

未知生焉知死 Anvil | 16 comments James wrote: The book I think only reached the level of the first book toward the end, with the revelation of the "dark forest" hypothesis as an explanation of the Fermi Paradox. Very frightening idea, which may not be wrong.

This! This is exactly what I thought when reading the book. By the way, my biggest issue with the second book is its cringe worthy depiction of the protagonist's pursuit for romance with his idealized woman, which reminded me of old-good fashioned Japanese Light novel romance written for romance (and sex) thirsty young male teens. I don't identify myself as a feminist (as I believe there is much more to it than agreeing to just a simple and plain idea of "no one should be discriminated unfairly just by his or her sex") and I'm not against male-centric narrative in general. However, the romance stuff in the second book is an example of "male-centric narrative done in a seriously wrong way".

I have to admit I like postmodernist ...

Nor do I have a distaste for postmorden literature in particular, though I sometimes feel like the whole business of listing some defining characteristics of postmodern lit is somewhat arbitrary and confusing.


message 23: by James (new)

James F | 137 comments I liked the third book up to when Chen Xin gets trapped on her planet. Then the story is just abandoned, as if Liu Cixin didn't know where to go so he uses a generic ending. It could have been a good ending for another kind of book, or even a powerful epilogue for this series AFTER he gave a real ending about how they did or didn't solve the problem of the dark forest.

The fairy tales in my opinion had far more content than was deciphered, and I kept expecting new understandings; for example, they go to the Tomb Island in the fairy tale to bring back the prince -- the place where the "tomb" ring was in the fourth dimension? The tomb mentioned by the creature that launched the dual vector? The tomb of the Trisolarans? But it's just dropped. The whole fourth dimensional theme is dropped. The vortex in Norway -- what did that mean? Obviously more important than just another hint of curvature, the name is so emphasized. Dropped again.

Here's my review, which basically just says the same thing. A disappointing ending to a great trilogy.

=============

The last book in the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy. The protagonist is a woman named Chen Xin, who succeeds Luo Ji as the "Swordholder", maintaining the balance of deterrence. Like the second book, this is for most of its length a great faced-paced science fiction adventure with much technological and social speculation, ethical questions, as well as suspense, excitement, and problems to be solved. I was very disappointed at the end, however. Through most of the book, we are given clues, especially the fairy tales, and try to imagine how the problems facing humanity will be solved; as one possible solution after another fails or is ruled out, the reader's curiosity increases to a peak. At the end, as we expect to find the author's solutions, the whole plot is just left as loose ends and the ending is one which does not actually solve any of the problems (or tell us they cannot be solved); rather it suddenly jumps ahead to an ending that could with appropriate changes be added on to any science fiction novel ever written, as if the author simply couldn't figure out the answers so he just abandoned the storyline altogether. I felt I had wasted my time trying to work things out; it's as if you're reading an Agatha Christie mystery and just before the detective is going to reveal the murderer the world is hit by an asteroid destroying all life. The last chapter might be a good ending for another book, but for this trilogy it just leaves everything unresolved.


message 24: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments What's right about the second book The Dark Forest is grasping the ease of hibernating for a few hundred or a thousand years into the future until medicine finds a cure for a specific disease or another reason. Keeping track of many characters' stories and their particular importance to the plot continuing the main story of saving Earth's civilization from physical destruction or saving humanity with hundreds of a fleet escaping into space.


message 25: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments What's meant by the title The Dark Forest, the 'theory of a dark forest' in space in which it's best to remain incognito for safety? It's a known theory that suggests why the likelihood of extraterrestrial civilizations is not forthcoming in reality. The trilogy builds on the fantasy of establishing contact with another planet's inhabitants and what ensues and how conflict about it emerges from factions. Parallel to the hard science, human imagination defines the realities which create antagonisms. Besides those conflicts, imagining and dreams (maybe 'fairy tales' in Book 3) also engender love.

Two reviews followed by critical responses at https://www.thebooksmugglers.com/2015... define the Wallfacer Project and its antithesis, the Wallbreakers, that are basic to the plot and argue pro and con about the feminine roles in Books 1 and 2.


message 26: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments James wrote: "...Through most of the book, we are given clues, especially the fairy tales, and try to imagine how the problems facing humanity will be solved..."

James, that experience sounds very frustrating. The review is excellent, especially how reading Book 3 affected you. This suggestion might be too forward--is writing an alternative conclusion a possible choice?


message 27: by 未知生焉知死 (last edited Jul 27, 2018 07:00PM) (new)

未知生焉知死 Anvil | 16 comments I'm pretty sure that the sophon, the Katana wielding A.I Android girl, in Death's End is heavily inspired, in terms of appearance and personality, by a female character archetype frequently found in Japanese manga, video games and anime.

Saya of a 2012 Japanese Anime film, Blood-C The Last Dark - first 8 minutes preview.

Rougi Shiki of Kara no Kyoukai (空の境界, lit. "Boundary of Emptiness") - Paradox Spiral (2008)

or...

Mikasa from Shingeki no Kyojin 進撃の巨人(2013)


message 28: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments Moot wrote: "I'm pretty sure that the sophon, the Katana wielding A.I Android girl, in Death's End is heavily inspired, in terms of appearance and personality, by a female character archetype..."

Moot, the links successfully describe the plot and important mages in the trilogy. Yes, there seems a parallel between the sophon girl and a recurring film character.


message 29: by Betty (last edited Aug 19, 2018 08:45PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments James wrote: "...The book I think only reached the level of the first book toward the end, with the revelation of the "dark forest" hypothesis ..."

It seems that the 'dark forest' analogy in book two builds upon one of Ye Wenjie's 'cosmic axioms' from book one by which civilization must sustain itself (the other axiom being life's continual growth in contrast to the constant amount of matter in the universe). Her gravestone and her daughter Yang Dong's gravestone reappear in the final section of book two when Luo Ji explains the dark forest. It's the same part to which he adds that the dark forest of outer space prompts acts of 'malice' or 'love.' He exemplifies love with his remembered, visual communications with Yan Yan. He makes a further point about bursts of technological advancements. The use of those for quick solutions without the 'probe' of first understanding can lead to the misuse of them. An everyday example could be that three persons tase an octogenarian with a knife instead of overcoming him/her through skill in martial arts. Likewise, the use of superior technology to annihilate an unknown, strange civilization in outer space maliciously acts on a possible threat whether or not it is so. Luo Ji's adaptation of Ye Wenjie's fundamental idea goes by the name of 'cosmic sociology.'


message 30: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments Wikipedia's article about "Death's End" defines the different Eras conflict and cooperation between Trisolaris and Earth that occur over 'the vast swaths of time.' It also describes the characters' relationships and what happens.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death%2...

Personally speaking, the beginning of that novel during 1453 (The Fall of Constantinople) is terrific. How that segment fits into the twenty-first centuries and those later will be of interest. Also impressive is the author's idea of humanity's activities creating the earth's oceans and changing physics. How characters experience time in space and what discoveries hypothetically occur many light years away in the future is part of this book's appeal.


message 31: by Betty (last edited Sep 03, 2018 06:36PM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments James wrote: "...The fairy tales in my opinion had far more content than was deciphered, and I kept expecting new understandings o..."

Under the frightening surveillance of Trisolaris, Tianming tells Cheng Xin three fairy tales. They convey secretly strategic information about the universe for the benefit of humanity. To decode their symbolism requires decipherment. Of the several interpretations espoused by different factions, ascertaining the correct one is perplexing. Reading those fantasies of magic in a kingly realm parallels the imaginative science elsewhere in the book.


message 32: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments The chapter subtitled "Three Paths of Survival for Earth Civilization" summarizes the plans of different factions which concern the future of humanity. In 'The Bunker Project,' humans spread themselves to inhabit other planets in the sun's solar system. In 'The Black Domain Plan,' no extraterrestrials of the dark forest would want to make a first strike against the sun because the Solar System's lightspeed would be reduced to render it a black hole. Nothing could get out, so any life in the dark forest beyond need not fear a strike from Earth. Lastly, "Lightspeed Spaceflight Plan" advocates leaving the Solar System to travel at lightspeed in interstellar space. The book notes that "the only smart choice was to carry out all three plans simultaneously."


message 33: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments Space Elevator

"Cheng Xin also saw other space buildings appear around her. The dense cluster of buildings in this region was the result of engineers taking advantage of proximity to the space elevator terminal station for transportation of construction materials."--Cixin Liu

The reality of a space elevator may no longer be a prop in science fiction stories.
https://www.space.com/41278-japan-spa...


message 34: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments An exciting part toward the end shows that Wade's projection for future spaceships equipped with light-speed velocity might have been a better choice. Because that technology leaves behind visible trails in space, which could give away the location of the Solar System and its sun, other research projects (cities of the Bunker Project on the dark side of large planetary bodies; Earth's complete isolation in a black hole, Black Domain) take priority. The fear of a destructive strike from a silent, stellar civilization ('dark forest') laying in wait, similar to the Trisolarans' actions through invading it rather than destroying it, takes a twist in Death's End, which features the unknown, complex fabric of space itself. It's sort of like discovering life-threatening horrors in fantasies of undersea exploration. The author does foreshadow this denouement through the incompletely deciphered symbolism in the trio of fairy tales.


message 35: by Melaslithos (last edited Sep 21, 2018 04:22AM) (new)

Melaslithos | 40 comments I just finished the trilogy. It has been on my wishlist for a long long time, and I can't believe it took me so long to read it. I have only one word to describe these books, mindblowing.

Despite all the fantastic ideas going through it though, there was one point that made me quite uncomfortable, which has already been mentionned before, and it's the gender stereotypes and roles. Even though a lot of the women present are scientist, they are mostly still known for their delicate and sensitive views, incapable of taking "strong" decisions, but only ruled by love, even to the point of destruction. And there is also all the speach about Common Era men which are "really manly" and Deterrance Era men which are not really men anymore... I have to say that this really impacted my enjoyment of this trilogy.

Anyone else in this case?


message 36: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments Melaslithos, the best volume in the trilogy is Death's End. Memorable are the one-cubic-kilometer mini-universe with its permeable supermembrane, the algorithm of nature in multidimensional space, the eons of time and distance, and the advanced technology. At least one review noted stereotyped female characters. That persona was and wasn't present. Sophon's character crossed among gentle tea server and protector or hardened warrior. On one hand, Cheng See looked to Guan Yifan for knowledge, and Trisolarans anticipated her weak resolve as Swordholder. On another hand, her curiosity, rationality, and adventurousness prompted the scan under the surface of Planet Blue, and she remained rational to the news of an unsubstantiated photoid attack and initiated the return of mass from the mini-universe to the great universe to influence future events. The plot depicted actions and their results in highly unusual happenings and ended on an optimistic note for continued life in the future universe.


message 37: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3661 comments James wrote: "I liked the third book up to when Chen Xin gets trapped on her planet. Then the story is just abandoned..."

The last paragraph of Death's End felt like the novel ended midchapter. It was hard to believe that was all there was. What??

There's a lot about which to suspend belief with the technological advances, and the scenarios of a future in space seen from the perspective of this era. Daily events can seem petty by comparison. The situations over the three books proved creative, detailed, coherent, and exciting. The oddly themed chapter of DE which featured the lady magician and the Fall of Constantinople resonated better with the fantasy of the metaphorical fairy tales. Characters eventually deciphered most of the symbols therein, but an important one stayed unknown, possibly the effect of curvature propulsion trails or the reduced dimensionality of the solar system.


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