What We’re Reading: The Dark Forest
TDW: Let me start by saying that The Dark Forest, next instalment by Liu Cixin, represents everything I love about sci-fi, and why sci-fi is the greatest. Specifically, it has intrigue, great technology, serious ‘oh fuck’ moments and, most importantly, teaches us about love and humanity. It was a riveting read, and a perfect sequel to The Three Body Problem (Hugo winner for Best Novel 2015). This series is ramping up like nothing else.
However, while I loved reading The Dark Forest I can also point out its apparent flaws. The plot seemed convoluted at times, with a bit of padding at the beginning, though this resolved itself. There are a lot of characters (pretty much entirely male) and it got a little confusing. And the writing is translated so at times feels stilted (a pitfall I am well aware of).
And yet there is a flipside to all of these.
The love story at the beginning is actually super critical by the conclusion. I like that the Wallfacers – people who are chosen to defend Earth – must keep their plans secret to only themselves in order to beat the oncoming alien invasion, which lets the book trick you into thinking that it will take a certain trajectory before turning your expectations on their head. Everything ties together and it is masterfully plotted in my opinion. While there are no female protagonists, unlike in the first book, there is still a tenderness. It is not a book about man, woman or alien, but about humanity as a universal concept. And finally, while translation is difficult, there are some absolutely gorgeous lines in The Dark Forest, and an array of pertinent paragraphs that speak to the soul of philosophy.
So yes, there are some faults, but this is a strong book, possibly even stronger than the first. There is far more action and intrigue, with a very exciting climax and conclusion that is like a one-two punch of despair then hope. Unlike most trilogies it seems like the link between each book will not be related to consistent characters, and this second book is a story in its own right, a sci-fi epic saga through the centuries. Right up until Earth is invaded by aliens. Considering that at the end of The Dark Forest the Trisolarians are still two light years are way, I’m sure Liu Cixin still has plenty more action to pack into the final book. I can’t wait.