And today I make my triumphant return to book reviews with some exciting news! Completing this review means that I have closed out my time in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy and have accomplished one of my reading goals for the year. This series has been a really enjoyable ride so far, so let’s see how the final installment played out.
The child that was human civilization had opened the door to her home and glanced outside. The endless night terrified her so much that she shuddered against the expansive and profound darkness, and shut the door forever.
Spanning multiple eras from the present day, near-future, and way, way, beyond, this book serves to expand upon the Dark Forest hypothesis presented in the previous novel and look at how the unforgiving realities of such a universe affect not only the situation between Earth and Trisolaris, but the enigmatic game of universal geopolitics. It does this by following the life and rather eventful career of an aerospace engineer named Cheng Xin. Born in the early 21st century she, like many of the other characters we’ve encountered thus far, lives a life essentially outside of time by using her position and influence to spend many years in cryogenic hibernation, resurfacing only at potentially critical moments in human history to help steer certain events she sets in motion over the centuries.
I enjoyed this story in general, but upon looking back at the series as a whole this is probably the installment I connected with the least. A large part of that feeling is based on my impression that the characters were not as strongly written this time around. I liked Xin well enough, but I did not find her nearly as interesting as Luo Ji and thought many of her decisions were a bit suspect, or at the very least based on motives that were made insufficiently clear. Similarly, her associate 艾AA felt a bit hollow and did not have the same presence as her counterpart Da Shi from the previous novels or even many of the other minor characters encountered previously. Combined with the diminished presence of the usually rich cast of supporting characters as the story went on, these relatively minor issues stood out a bit more for me than they probably would have otherwise.
This somewhat lackluster showing by the main characters put a lot more emphasis on the story, which for both better and worse, had a tendency to get a bit out there at times. The numerous theoretical discussions regarding the interactions between various dimensions and the ways in which laws of physics could be weaponized were topics I found fascinating, but they also made my head spin a bit the longer they went on. That’s not necessarily a problem, mind you, but since there were some moments where I just couldn’t fully conceptualize what was going on I felt a bit lost in places (and yes, I do admit that is in part on me). One area in which I think the story excelled, however, was in its depiction of the changes in human society and culture across the centuries. I really enjoyed following the ebbs and flows of civilization and how people changed from the carefree naivety of the Deterrence Era hyper-information age (a future that despite its idealism still really creeps me out), the authoritarianism of the years surrounding the Trisolaran occupation, and the determination of the Jovian space colonists. I also found it fun to compare these visions to some of the others I’ve read recently to see where they overlap and contrast.
Looking back on the series as a whole, I do say that I quite enjoyed it despite its occasional faults. Not only did I find the main stories about the Trisolarian conflict and life in the Dark Forest quite interesting, but I also found many of the more personal interludes equally engaging. Wang Miao’s discovery of the Three Body game, the experiences of the Galactic Humans beginning with the Blue Space and Gravity, and the interplay of Luo Ji and Da Shi are some of the things that stick out the most in my mind. I also enjoyed how the author would have minor characters pop up in recurring roles to give the books a sense of continuity that otherwise might have been very hard to maintain.
So there you have it. I’m sorry to see my time in this universe come to an end, but on the other hand I am also happy that I am a bit more freed up to move on to new adventures! These books take the reader on a journey through time and space that I would highly recommend to fans of harder sci-fi.