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Liu Cixin's collection "The Wandering Earth"

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message 1: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3670 comments The opening story 'The Wandering Earth' portrays how Earth's civilization anticipates the future situation of its Sun becoming a Red Giant. It fosters a plan to escape its orbit through several cycles of increasingly elliptical acceleration to reach escape velocity eventually with the assistance of Jupiter's gravitational pull. The journey will take several generations to reach Alpha Centauri where the Earth will become a satellite of the sun(s) there. Hard science mixes with emotional, factional conflict during periods of uncertainty, and there's a beautiful poem, too.

message 2: by Betty (last edited Aug 06, 2018 02:52AM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3670 comments The story above about wandering through space for the survival of humanity is followed by one about a community who dwell in the core of a planet exploring the science of gravity and density by excavating the surrounding dense rock of its 'bubble' community. After thousands of years and miles have passed and the discovery of liquid sea water, its explorer spaceship Needle Point continues to investigate another new thing the gas of outer space. It appears as an incoming star, raising a 30,000 feet cyclonic cone of ocean water and encountering earth's Fan Feng, who equates the intensity of loving life with mountaineering, particularly swimming to the crest of this gigantic wave. It's the interchange between the People of the Core and Feng by which the reader learns about that strange history of a civilization and that of the main character.

message 3: by Betty (last edited Aug 08, 2018 03:18AM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3670 comments The story's title "Sun of China" contains at least two meanings. A highly educated inventor/entrepreneur Zhuang Yu promotes his nanomaterial in the shape of a gigantic, reflecting, silver umbrella with the idea of its practicality as a mirror put in geosynchronous orbit with Earth. Its purpose is to amend the parched environment of northwestern China to a fertile one of green fields and fresh water by adjusting the climate there. Zhuang meets Shui Wah, the son of an impoverished farmer family who sets out from the village to the larger mining town, then to larger cities and the jobs of Beijing high-rise window washer and later of 'reflector cleaning.' Zhuang's search for the 'golden birds' of opportunities and Shui's fearless adventuring spirit and toleration of hardship bring together those two characters in the successful renewal of land and climate with the China Sun Project and, finally, in the refocus on interstellar travel by spacecraft.

message 4: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3670 comments "For the Benefit of Mankind" starts with a hitman, the main character called Smoothbore, with whom the Council for Liquidation of Social Wealth contracts for the murders of selected poor people (tramp, starving artist, junkman) on fourth Earth planet. The reason for killing comes to the fore as starships from the first planet Earth orbit fourth Earth and land. Smoothbore links the reader with the rationale of the Council and that of the invaders' history and life issues to immigrate en masse and displace inhabitants of fourth Earth.

message 5: by James (new)

James F | 150 comments I like your descriptions of the stories. I just finished the collection last night; here is my review.

Wandering Earth is a collection of eleven science fiction stories by Liu Cixin, the author of the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy. I would say that all the stories in this collection are well worth reading; they offer a representative sample of his science fiction ranging from "hard" technology-based stories to more humorous and allegorical writing.

Two of the stories, the first, title story "The Wandering Earth" and the seventh, "The Micro-Age", deal with humanity's attempts to survive a cosmic disaster, the explosion of the sun. The first is hard science fiction, though with a human angle, while the second is less realistic.

The second story, "Mountain", was perhaps my favorite; it starts from the simple idea of a "hollow earth", not as the cranks who think the Earth is hollow with people living on the inner surface conceive it but (as we all proved in first year physics) with no gravity in the interior, and proceeds to ask how physics would have developed in such a world. This is combined with a frame story set on Earth.

The third story, "Of Ants and Dinosaurs", is an obvious allegory of "Mutual Assured Destruction" and at first seemed somewhat too blatently didactic, until I realized that it was also an homage to Isaac Asimov who wrote a similar story about dinosaurs back in the "golden age". The eighth story, "Devourer" is a sort of sequel to this; the basic premise was reminiscent of a certain Doctor Who episode but that may be coincidence. It also fits in with the "dark forest" hypothesis of the trilogy but with a difference.

The fourth story, "Sun of China", has a technological device in common with one episode in the trilogy, and is also somewhat outdated, having an appearance by a hundred-year-old Stephen Hawking; one slight problem with Liu Cixin's science fiction in general is that many of his stories, and the first book of the trilogy, take place or at least begin in the present or recent past with events which have obviously not occurred and technology which doesn't yet exist. I liked the way he points out that space exploration will not be real until the working class goes into space. Number five, "The Wages of Humanity" (apparently in a different edition this is titled "For the Benefit of Mankind"), is a social satire, which reminded me of a story by Stanislaw Lem (of course) but this might also be coincidence. These two stories seemed the most specifically "Chinese".

Number six, "Curse 5.0" is obviously related to an incident in the second book of his trilogy, the virus which targets specific individuals (and perhaps the danger of viruses taking control of internet-linked appliances should be given more thought in the real world), but is also a sort of self-parody of his fascination with disasters, with Liu Cixin himself as one of the characters.

Number nine, "Taking Care of Gods" was included in the anthology edited by Ken Liu that I read a couple months back.

The last two stories, "With Her Eyes", and "The Longest Fall" are also related to one another, with the first story referred to in the second, although I'm not sure they are entirely compatible. They also go back to the ideas of first year physics.

message 6: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3670 comments James wrote: "..."Curse 5.0"...the virus which targets specific individuals (and perhaps the danger of viruses taking control of internet-linked appliances..."

"Curse 5.0" as James stated above uses the theme of AI's remote control for good or ill to affect every aspect of life.

message 7: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3670 comments That programmed computer virus mentioned above is found in the chapter 'Year 205, Crisis Era' of the second book, The Dark Forest. It began by the ETO, an Earth group loyal to the Trisolarans, and lain dormant during the term of Luo Ji's hibernation. After awakening in a later century, Luo Ji has the detective Da Shiang to thank for saving his life many times from the rampant killer virus 5.2.

message 8: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3670 comments In "The Micro-Era," human civilization managed to survive a catastrophe from a minor event, an 'energy flash' on the sun, and in consequence a slight distance further away in earth's orbit. According to a character, smallness, which requires fewer resources, enhances survival. The micro-humans came about through prior genetic engineering then safety a half-mile inside earth when the consequences of the solar hiccup happened. However, no life could live on the surface of the once green planet. Molten magma flowed, then steam returned water to the oceans followed with cold temperatures to freeze oceans. Maybe it's a thousand years later, a returning spaceship with a remaining crew of one individual from before that destruction witnesses for the first time the denuded rock. Dancing, micro-sized people peer at him through glass domes set in the striated surface. The history of what happened, the differences between the micro-humans' lives and the astronaut's macro-human one, and what might happen, given that the spaceman brings a seed bank and the billion of micro-people have explored the possibility of life on Venus offer 'optimism.'

message 9: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3670 comments "Devourer" uses the theme of environmental resources in balance with the demands of human civilization. The focus of that struggle is a longstanding dinosaur civilization's getting so big that it devises a strategy to traverse space to consume whole planets via a tire-shaped spaceship which slips itself over the host, maintaining geosynchronous orbit and axis alignment with it, while rendering it a balloon bereft of air. The successively stolen resources bulk the dinosaur spaceship into a 3000-mile diameter, called the Devourer Empire. Captured migrants of emptied planets are intended to become contented, well-cared-for livestock as food reserves. The Devourer reaches the solar system, having consumed some satellites on its way and reaches earth, after which a long war with the lizard Devourer ensues. An exciting part here is the 'lunar refuge' to devise nuclear bombs to propel the moon as a projectile to destroy the Devourer Empire ship. The finale is surprising, reiterating the theme of how much the continuation of plants and animals on earth is worth the sacrifice.

message 10: by Betty (last edited Aug 27, 2018 08:19AM) (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3670 comments James wrote: "..."Taking Care of Gods" was included in the anthology edited by Ken Liu that I read a couple months back..."

The inclusion of "Taking Care of God" in at least two story collections may deem it one of Cixin Liu's revered tales or one which fits the template for this book. The first reading of it in Ken Liu's sci-fi anthology Invisible Planets was a preview to appreciate the broad outline, and the second reading now affords more pleasure in the differences between the ancient God civilization and the young human one situated at Xicen on Earth#4. Points of opposition include the responsibility of 'filial piety,' the incomprehensibility of advanced science and technology for application in societies not that far along, and the relativity of time. Those themes had subplots concerning the family of Qiusheng, the Gods' transferral of all its knowledge to the people of Xicen, and the near light speed of interstellar travel to lengthen longevity and prolong communications. Similar to other writings of C.L. there are unprecedented happenings and recognizable habits of human characters.

message 11: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3670 comments "Through Her Eyes" refers to a pair of sensory glasses, literally the eyes of someone other. By another person donning the eyeglasses, the two persons experience the same real-life sights. The technology differs from the virtual reality of TV because of accompanying sensations (smell, touch, etc.). By taking along a pair of 'eyes' on vacation, the protagonist can provide one other with the same travel experience.

That social benefit the first half demonstrates. Having ignored nature, a man rediscovers its sounds and shadows wearing the 'eyes' of a woman in a spacecraft. She yearns to behold, sense, and bask in nature's various changes and beauty, suggesting that the bespeckled protagonist vacation in the Taklamakan (the current desert revived as verdant grassland), at which point he begins to enjoy natural surroundings.

The second half describes the identity of the sensory 'eyes,' which the vacationer wears. At this point, the story takes a bizarre shift into the science of earth's geology.

message 12: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) | 3670 comments The final story "Cannonball" with some surprise brings back the female character and her situation in the previous tale "Through Her Eyes." That one had begun with the contemplation of natural beauty. In this plot also a motif is the strain on the earth's resources to support all life. Recovery, in this instance of Antarctica, points to a similar restoration of the planet earth.

The title connects the cannonball with the details of the cannon and its casing to make the thing operable. The cannon's barrel reiterates in the tunnel blasted through the earth's core between China and Antarctica (taking into consideration earth's rotation) for optimizing rapid transport and economic development of the icy land. The technological vision becomes a reality and initially proves successful in transporting passengers. After a few disasters, its originator Shen Yuan receives blame. It's for the reader to decide the extent of his guilt as well as the guilt of his father from whom Yuan had first heard about such a tunnel. Years later, the highway, shielded from the core's liquid flow, receives a new purpose for earth's survival and humanity on it. Cixin Liu compares that shift of outlook about the passageway with the Great Wall and the Pyramids, both of which failed their intended purposes yet today symbolize wonders of the world and the 'human spirit.'

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