Staying alive is not enough to guarantee survival. Development is the best way to ensure survival.Luo Ji
This trilogy was introduced to me by my friend who is reading the original Chinese version for class and frankly speaking, I was sold the instant my friend finishes describing it; the plans to counter the Trisolaran and the greater universe were so mysterious and dangerous yet the picture of the universe painted by Liu Cixin was also beautiful.
Also called the Remembrance of the Earth’s Past trilogy – I prefer calling it Three Body Problem for simplicity and to avoid spilling spoilers – this science-fiction recalls the history of the earth and the universe as we know it before its gradual reset by the other alien species in the universe. Carefully divided into three books, the first, The Three-body Problem, sets the problem faced by Earth and the Trisolaran race for the next four centuries, before zooming in to the actual strategies taken by each race to counter the other in the second book The Dark Forest. The trilogy comes to an end with Death’s End when the universe eventually resets after billion of years of galactic warfare.
I very much enjoyed the story and finished the trilogy in days. The plot was rather simple, primarily based on the MAD doctrine but Liu Cixin managed to expand on this simple doctrine and apply it to the entire universe. The Three-body Problem was exciting at the start but provided few supporting details to solve the mystery. I wished we know more about Wang Miao, and I actually thought that he will remain our lead for the other two books. Guess Liu Cixin just didn’t want to ruin his character anymore and just start afresh with Luo Ji.
The first book ended on a rather anti-climatic manner; no solution was eventually made. After all, it is the first book but it does its job and sets the setting right. And I believe that I am not alone when I say this but The Dark Forest probably is the best one in the trilogy because of its continuous suspense on what is going to happen to the Wallfacers and their plans. I find the story very hard to comprehend in the third book as it becomes more scientific and physic-ish, but the few excerpts from the A Past Outside of Time, an in-story book chronicled by Cheng Xin for future universe to reference, really helped summarise the key moments happening at that time.
The description of humanity’s reactions to the many projects implemented were rather spot-on too. More often than not, humans were foolish enough to believe that peace can truly co-exist in the universe and they let their guards down too easily. Was humanity truly too optimistic or too naive to believe that peace can happen?
My thoughts on the Swordholders
The hatred humanity gave towards important public figures, who failed in their missions, were so intense and I feel very sorry for Luo Ji. The man has sacrificed his time and his family to crack the code for the universe only to have his family leave him and the world despising and fearing him in the Death’s End timeline. Contrary to what his name suggest, Luo Ji (which means logic in Chinese) is a man driven by emotions and he rarely submit to logic, a polar opposite to the second Swordholder Cheng Xin. He started off wasting resources and time with Zhuang Yan, all under the claim that it is “part of the plan” and only acting seriously when his family was captured and put into hibernation by the authorities. When he was appointed the first Sworldholder, the world feared him and was afraid that his eccentric behaviour would put an end to the Solar System and Trisolaran system. Probably fueled by despair and hatred after his family left him, Luo Ji was resolute in his showdown with the Trisolaran and did not waver. Even Sophon agreed that Luo Ji was a worthy opponent.
The second Swordholder though was very much driven by logic. It is interesting to note here that both Cheng Xin and Luo Ji originate from the same era. They should be of similar age when the Crisis Era happened but as the lady hibernated so frequently, at the end of the story Cheng Xin was only in her early 30s while Luo Ji a centenarian. It seems to me that Cheng Xin is someone driven by logic. From her first failure of sending Yun Tianming’s brain to the space to her inability to press the button stuck with her throughout these years, Cheng Xin’s life was full of enormous mistakes and it sure seems that hibernation is the only logical way to escape her troubles. Perhaps to Cheng Xin, choosing to live in the current times is a bother and a waste time when there is nothing left to explore. To Cheng Xin, finding out the truth behind the universe and its secrets are more compelling.
As Armageddon comes approaching, it was a bittersweet moment when Luo Ji came to terms with his fate and chose to die with the Solar System on Pluto than to escape to DX3906 with 艾AA and Cheng Xin. After all, this man has protected Earth for so long and has developed an attachment for it.
The Three-body Problem trilogy is a real must-read especially for those into books about critical thinking, logic, and existential problems. One need not be a physics and astronomy student to even understand the major terms but a good understanding of simple concepts like light speed, galaxies and planets will aid in your reading. To me, this book is about inevitable fate, the struggles humanity faced, selfishness and selflessness, foolish and the wise, and of course regrets.