Book Review : Death's End by Liu Cixin
By Liu Cixin
Translated by Ken Liu
Published by Tor Books
Most of the crew aboard Bronze Age attributed the sudden cessation of all signals from the Earth to the complete conquest of the Solar System by Trisolaris. Bronze Age accelerated and headed for a star with terrestrial planets twenty-six light-years away.
But ten days later, Bronze Age received a radio transmission from Fleet Command. The transmission had been sent simultaneously to Bronze Age and Blue Space, which was at the other end of the Solar System. The transmission gave a brief account of what had happened on Earth and notified them of the successful creation of a deterrence system to defend against Trisolaris. The two ships were ordered to return to Earth immediately. Moreover, Earth had taken great risks to send out this message to the lost ships; it would not be repeated.
Things are actually pretty great for Earth when this novel opens. Defeating the alien invaders would have been preferable but forcing a Mexican standoff has worked out well. Earth has benefitted greatly from the advanced knowledge that the Trisolarans share and even the Trisolarans themselves seem to be adapting to the new status quo.
Like its predecessors, Death's End jumps around in point of view and time. But this time the action focuses mainly on Cheng Xin, a somewhat mopey woman who sets in motion a disastrous chain of events due to the Trisolarians correctly pegging her as an idiot.
Nevertheless, she succeeds in livingusing the now commonplace suspended animation technology through several eras of post invasion human history, seeing for herself how the humanity reacts and changes over the centuries.
Cheng Xin's journey through space and time is fascinating and once again invokes the spirit of mid-century scifi novels that makes this series worthwhile. Unfortunately, Xin is a very unlikeable and passive character who literally sets the plot in motion with her inaction. She is written like a bratty 12 year old, and I was actively annoyed when she becomes rich and famous through the actions of other peopleHer personal assistant/business partner, Ai AA, was much more interesting - the novel should have been about her.
The non-Xin parts of Death's End deliver some great scifi scenes, as humanity eventually starts preparing for the end of the solar system by building huge arks near Jupiter. And the scope of the novel gets bigger from there - nobody could accuse Liu Cixin of thinking small. But as the ideas get more impressive, the characters get more one note, and it isn't even a pleasant note. By the end I was actively cheering for the humanity-ending aliens.
I can only really recommend Death's End if you have read the previous novels and want to see how it ends. I imagine it would be completely opaque to a reader who wasn't already familiar with the story.
I have posts on all three books in the Remembrance of Earth's Past (地球往事) series: The Three-Body Problem The Dark Forest Death's End