Death's End by Liu Cixin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
At this point, I think I may have fully and completely been wrong about The Three-Body Problem. That was a book I liked but found very flawed for a lot of reasons, but the sequel, The Dark Forest, blew my mind. Absolutely crazy, and Death's End became maybe my most anticipated read of the fall.
The good news is that the quality of this series doesn't drop. Following the craziness at the end of Forest, we have what ends up being another interesting narrative shift where we slide back and forth between the traditional narrative and some more "primary" references, whether they be writings or reports or stories from the universe. This really kind of helps with the universe building and does a surprisingly good job of fleshing out some of the more complicated ideas. Always a plus. Also, the sense of urgency and despair remains throughout, with some genuinely difficult passages throughout as we race to the end.
The downside? Well, if we want to call it one at all, and if we want to refer to the one thing that keeps this from being as amazing as Forest, it's the book's way out. I have some issues with the way it ended, and I feel like it has too much similarity to another recent series (even though I believe this predates it even though there wasn't an English translation), and it's an ending that sometimes feels a little overdone. Still, I give it credit for trying to have some scientific underpinnings for it, and that's ultimately good enough for me given the journey to the destination.
Still? I think this is ultimately one of the best science fiction series of the last decade. I almost want to go back to Three-Body and see what I ultimately missed from that book because of how great the final two were, and I'm just sad that I can't experience this for the first time again. Hopefully we get more Cixin fiction translated into English soon.
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