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Added by 1 of our members. I've never seen the night, nor seen a star; I've seen neither spring, nor fall, nor winter. I was born at the end of the Reining Age, just as the Earth's rotation was coming to a final halt. The Sun is about to unleash a helium flash, threatening to swallow all terrestrial planets in the solar system. With them it plans to propel our planet out of the solar system, setting it on a journey into outer space in search of a new sun The above depiction was chosen from this anthology of short stories by Liu Cixin, Hugo Award winner of , China's most acclaimed contemporary science-fiction author.

One scene is told from the perspective of an ant. The first book is set on Earth, though some of its scenes take place in virtual reality; by the end of the third book, the scope of the action is interstellar and annihilation unfolds across several dimensions. At every turn, the characters are forced to make brutal calculations in which moral absolutism is pitted against the greater good. In their pursuit of survival, men and women employ Machiavellian game theory and adopt a bleak consequentialism.

The drinks had warmed him, and the heat of Sichuanese peppercorns seemed to stir him from his usual reticence. I decided to inch the conversation toward politics, a topic he prefers to avoid. His views turned out to be staunch and unequivocal. There were reports of elderly people committing suicide in order to be buried before the ban went into effect. If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty.

Not democracy. I looked at him, studying his face. The society of resettled populations transformed in profound ways. People realized that, on this crowded, hungry continent, democracy was more terrifying than despotism. Everyone yearned for order and a strong government. Gradually, the society of the resettled succumbed to the seduction of totalitarianism, like the surface of a lake caught in a cold spell.

It was an opinion entirely consistent with his systems-level view of human societies, just as mine reflected a belief in democracy and individualism as principles to be upheld regardless of outcomes. Reality brands each of us with its indelible mark.

Every era puts invisible shackles on those who have lived through it, and I can only dance in my chains. But at the Clarke Foundation award ceremony, at the Harman Center for the Arts, on his final night in Washington, he was in adult, professional mode. Yet, at the same time, he seemed ill at ease and looked like the person who least belonged at the party, even though it was in his honor. He was doing a specific job and enduring the situation with stoic discipline. His acceptance speech came at the end of the evening, after a dinner, and he made a point of reading it in English.

His pronunciation hovered on the boundary of comprehensibility, but the text had been distributed to the audience, which listened attentively. The changes they had seen were so huge that they now inhabited a world entirely different from that of their childhood. The next morning, Liu and I did some more sightseeing, accompanied by a translator his publisher had provided.

The sky was cement-colored and heavy and we soon had to duck into a pharmacy to buy umbrellas. We made our way down Constitution Avenue, past the National Archives and the colonnades of the Smithsonian.

The Wandering Earth by Cixin Liu

Liu set a surprisingly brisk pace and remarked that he had not exercised since being on the road, whereas he was used to working out an hour or two a day. I asked if he was planning to be a space tourist. We paused by the World War II Memorial, and looked at the names of various countries carved in clusters around the lip of its fountain. Liu squinted, displeased with the peripheral placement of China, which had been put with India and Burma.

Like a man unsatisfied with a photograph of himself, Liu balled up his hands and placed them on his hips. Surely, China had contributed to the war far more than Burma had, he muttered. As we walked on, Liu noticed the sunken sliver of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Up close, the names of veterans emerged, some fifty-eight thousand of them, etched in rows that felt as unending as the grief they evoked. Pale-pink carnations and notes written on cardboard punctuated the black granite.

In an afterword to the forthcoming English translation, he writes: On the night of June 4 I listened in my hotel to the chaotic noise outside, and the muffled sounds of gunfire. Recommended Stories. Sign in. Get the best of The New Yorker in your in-box every day. Privacy Policy. My preferred theory at the moment is they all end up getting turned into paperclips.

For example? A solid, game-theoretic explanation for the Fermi paradox based on assumptions of no FTL and technological growth being sudden and rapid, both seemingly applicable to our universe. I couldn't help but read that with historical-political overtones, which in light of 19th century Chinese history and the modern CCP seemed terrifying. I also took issue with the implicit assumption that two civilizations cooperating would develop no faster than a single civilization. Or, another way, that all civilizations would climb the same technology ladder the same way.

On Earth, historical competition between nation-states has suggested a very different reality. I don't remember that assumption; I felt the implicit assumption was that development of any civilization can experience unpredictable rapid acceleration, so even if two civilizations cooperated, it doesn't help them much against others out there.

That I think was explicitly denied in the basic axioms of Dark Forest theory - again, civilization's technological level can jump unpredictably. On the scale of our planet, that never applied. Communications between civilizations that knew about each other were on the order of months, and technological developments tended to make that delay shorter. Dark Forest translated to Earth would be as if I noticed your sail ships, sent you a hello from my steam civilization, only to get preemptively hit by an ICBM you've managed to build in years it took for my message to reach you.

I'd love to learn more, if that is so. Furthermore, this provides a disincentive where 3BP notes none to wipe out other civilizations, as you're giving up their potential benefits. Culminating in both the British and Japanese invading with radically advanced military hardware and imposing their will. It's hard not to see parallels, but a bit terrifying that the 3BP take-away is 'you should launch a first strike on your enemies the second you can obliterate them without retribution.

Gatsky 8 months ago. I think it works well, almost like the whole thing is an official report of what happened, lending it a 'stranger than fiction' quality. Mind you I listened to the audio version which tends to introduce a bit more colour to the characters by virtue of the voice acting. As others have said, the second book is by far the highlight of the series, although I did like the first, in part because of the cultural differences.

I hated the third though, if anyone is struggling with the characters decision making process in the first then they will be completely lost on the third. The whole thing felt like it was trying to cover way too many directions for one book, especially in the last part, even without that I think it was a poor book. I think the cultural differences wouldn't have been as apparent if they had anglicized names though, I had a hard time tracking the characters, was assigning some of the thoughts to the wrong people and things like that.

A leading sci-fi writer takes stock of China’s global rise.

I struggle with games set in Asia like Shogun Total War for the same reason. Same for me. You also get that in some English language fiction, but not so much in sci-fi, so the average English culture sci-fi reader is going to going to get frustrated with Chinese language sci.

C1sc0cat 8 months ago. It's the same in films a lot of slower long shots. I felt the translator of the first book was better by a lot. I have a guess that's why the Warcraft movie did so well in China. The characters are so thin, and life is cheap in that film. I think it depends on what you want out of it.

In western sci-fi, the story exists to make the reader feel good about themselves. At least, the successful ones are like this. It makes for good movies, and good story telling. Think about that for a moment. All these stories are not really science fiction, but rather, science fantasy. It goes through the normal story telling, of establishing a good guy and a bad guy.

And it tries to pull you in, to empathize with the challenges of the good guy, so that you can experience his trials and tribulations. And then, at the end, the good guy always wins. He always succeeds, in some way or other. And you're left with feeling a sense of joy. But, Cixin Lui's stories, threw all that aside. He presented you with the cold hard reality, of survival in the jungle. That there are not really any good or bad sides. Just different perspectives. And everyone is just trying to survive. And the jungle is the galaxy. Western sci-fi is all about being human-centric, as if we are the only species in the universe that matters.

Whereas Cixin, presented us with a reality, where humanity is only one of billions of intelligent species.

Those that had survived the jungle, or those that hide from the rest, or those that evolved into another form, or those that end up hunting, to maintain their probability of survival. So, if you want to continue to feel good about yourself, then stick with what you know. Keep reading western sci-fi. If you want to expand your mind, then try out Cixin's novel. Admittedly, I think something was lost in translation. The translated text was overly wordy. But the concepts behind it, was still incredible. I especially loved the story about the human computer system, the Qin 1.

That was quite creative. PurpleRamen 8 months ago. I'm not sure how much Wetern Science Fiction you know, but those are all Cinematic Franchises, not western science fiction-books. That popcorn-movies have a specific angle for being successful is not a surprise. If you wanna compare Cixin Lui's stories with modern western writers then be more honest, and take recent books from modern western writers. JetSetWilly 8 months ago.

I think you are confusing the terms "western" and "american". Certainly lots of UK science fiction is not about optimism and making the reader feel good. I have read a few Cixin Lui books and just didn't find them particularly good. The characters are dull and the plots are bad. His proponents tend to go on about him being not being optimistic and him being introspective as though that is a new thing and I just need to open my mind to this new radical way of thinking, but it just isn't new - people like Brian Aldis just did it so much better for me many decades ago.

I don't think the cliche Hollywood ending that presents the feel good about yourself, happy resolution, complete with positive family messages at the end of absolutely sodding everything is anything to do with good story telling. It's just the very tired Hollywood cliche that's proven time and again can draw an American family audience. Books are often much, much darker than Hollywood adaptations. Why is a US programme such as Breaking Bad considered ground breaking and hugely refreshing? For the first time in decades the USA has produced something where the hero is also the bad guy.

You end up with some sympathy, and conflicted, for a complex main character, with many shades of grey and black. Something like Stross's Merchant Princes can finish with a horrible ending and still be a fabulous series and story telling without many reasons to feel good to be found. Global family audience. They're doing something right. As big as China is getting and will get in the future, I wonder if their movie industry will ever become a global draw. They seem to be awfully local right now.

Same goes for Japan or even India. Indeed, the GP ignores the whole Cyberpunk scifi movement and the effect it has had on almost all scifi writing since Gibson et al. How do you define science fantasy? For example, a few of their concepts are now real, e. There is no objective definition for a line between "science fiction" and "science fantasy," but I've come to view Star Trek as no less science fantasy than Star Wars. Replicators and transporters violate physical laws to such a degree that they might as well be magic.

The way the universe and tech are described subspace, particles of the week, negative space wedgies, etc. Beings with arbitrary, if not omnipotent, reality-warping powers like the Q, Trelane and Douwd exist, which are basically space gods. I mean, there is little real difference between "the Force did it," the Q did it" and "a wizard did it.

But more to the point, what makes Star Trek more science fantasy than fiction is that it isn't about science, or extrapolating a plausible future, but simply using a futuristic setting as a backdrop for drama, without regard for actual scientific plausibility. I'm not mocking Star Trek, I love the franchise and the original series, for what it was, was the first attempt at describing a persistent futuristic setting on television that I'm aware of also, it was the series with the least technobabble and "teching the tech" which always helps.

That also to me makes it the most "science fictional" of the series, maybe the only one that counts as science fiction. Fair point. Totally forgot about Q assuming we're not in a simulation, the feats that Q pulled off are most probably not realistic in the real world.


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As with most things, I think it's probably more on a spectrum. I probably should have said that Star Trek leans more towards science fiction than Star Wars - so yes - I agree with your points. Another one that's more 'science fictional' is the Expanse - worth checking out if you haven't yet. All the human originated technology seems fairly plausible in the Expanse. It is galling when people define sci-fi by its cinematic imitators, for sure. Your post is a bit dismissive given your familiarity with western sci-fi seems to extend only to incredibly popular film series.

Yes, but only if you count Star Wars or other American-style production "action movie but in space" movies or series like Stargate, Firefly, When you go into the things that don't get blockbuster movies, you end up with old-school scifi. Newer like The Expanse or Blindsight, older like The Culture or Hyperion, or proper old school stuff like In general, piece of unwanted and unrequested advice - whenever you make a huge sweeping statement about complex topic with many examples like "In western sci-fi, the story exists to make the reader feel good about themselves.

You may want to read Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space. I would also recommend David Brin's Uplift Series, set in a universe where the human race is just a very small and barely tolerated side-note. While sometimes being overly focused on the ecology angle - although not as much as his standalone book "Earth" - they're great reading. I agree with you, but I dont think the schema makes for "good story telling".

It more that we defined we defined "good storyleling" in a way that limits options and forcing us to be repetitive. It makes for predictable story telling we are used to. But I think it is changing slowly with new popular shows being bit different. Completely disagree. I don't want to spoil anything, of course, but you can pretty much decide the rest of the series based on what I've already written. Extremely disappointing. I'd disagree that the science was good, even for a pop audience. It reads very much like somebody got a bunch of random "cool" scientific concepts, and then proceeded to treat them as deus ex machina devices without much understanding of the underlying physics.

Just to give one example, at one point the first book features an integrated circuit somehow "etched" on the surface of a stretched-out elementary particle. And that's not just a random curiosity, but a key plot device, without which said plot collapses. I can't in good conscience call this hard sci-fi which is how the book is usually advertised. The sophons were basically deus ex machina particles for whatever the author needed them to do. They were omnipotent, undetectable, able to be everywhere at once, had unlimited energy, and apparently are no good at all for scouting out other uninhabited solar systems to colonize so they don't have the Dark Forest problem with Earth during their journey.

If the Trisolarians had sent them out in various directions to scout out solar systems they could have avoided so many headaches. If that's what you think then you seem to have a very narrow view of what constitutes hard scifi.

China’s Arthur C. Clarke

For example, the stretching as a recall is from the part about the elementary particles being folded into higher dimensions. Either you've dismissed that as fantasy or it seems your take on "hard" scifi is wholly unimaginative. My take on hard sci-fi is that it must either use science and technology that we already understand, in ways conforming to that understanding, or - if it presents new technology that is posited as something beyond our understanding - it must be consistent, including other "magic" as well as interactions with things we do know.

All of these components are lacking in the book, and it's not just the particles. It reads very much like someone subscribed to some popular science journal for a few years, and then just dumped every idea that sounded interesting into a book without much understanding of what it is about.


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  5. To give another example, the author references string theory - great! Or take alien propulsion. It supposedly works by collecting antimatter from space - but where in space is there enough antimatter to collect like that, and why hasn't it annihilated from interaction with the much more prevalent hydrogen? The interesting thing about this example is that it's not insurmountable - hard sci-fi could explain it away in some convincingly sounding way - but the book doesn't even bother to, it's just presented as fact, without even pointing out the contradictions.

    It's not dismissive to call it fantasy. Do we have any scientific evidence that any of higher-dimensional antics in 3BP are possible? If not, then the author is making up his own world building rules completely acceptable. But that makes the story more akin to scientific fantasy than hard scientific fiction.

    And unless the English translation excised a LOT of technical details, there are some huge leaps of scientific faith in 3BP. There's a rule I remember, that in hard-ish sci-fi, the author gets to invent one unrealistic thing. I wouldn't put Cixin Liu's trilogy as hard hard sci-fi, as it invents a few more, but all in all, there aren't that many "fantasy devices" there. It definitely has a flavour of hardness. Even that much is being overly kind at least to the first book - I gave up after that. Hard SF introduces a small number of well-defined ideas and then works through their logical consequences.

    Science fantasy introduces magical devices with particular consequences as and when the plot demands. The magical VR system and magical particle computer - essentially all the SF elements of Three Body Problem - were examples of the latter. The second two books definitely approach it more closely. I guess the piercing of my suspension of hard sci-fi disbelief happened in the 2nd book? If you're going to take 1, pages English translation to lay out your series, and you can't spare a few for 'well, now we're building giant fusion-powered warship fleets'?

    That's not anything approaching hard sci-fi in my book. Yes, all the technologies used on the ships are extrapolated and believable, but the realignment of society, economics, and the organization of such a construction effort boggles the mind. And to say 'it just happens'? That's kind of like going from WWII to 'and so we landed on the moon' in a single page. The time jumps were a bit jarring, though I guess I got used to those after a similar one pulled in Seveneves. I wouldn't mind if Cixin Liu shortened some parts of his book and used the reclaimed space to fill in those time jumps a bit, though.

    They get to invent as many "impossible" things as they want, really. But they all need to have plausible-sounding explanations given our current level of scientific understanding , and they need to act in a consistent, predictable manner, including consistency with known laws of nature - e. On the one hand, one obviously needs some technological leeway to write a fun novel set in the future.

    On the other, if every roadblock is responded to by suspending scientific treatment, it doesn't seem like that's a good faith "hard" effort. I think Ringworld is instructive. The Wikipedia article specifically calls out technical inaccuracies in the original So the count of intentional lapses seems as decent a proxy for hardness as anything else. I would consider Ringworld to be borderline hard sci-fi, but precisely because it has some reasonably sounding explanation for his technomagic. Does that count as an intentional lapse?

    What are your thoughts on Diaspora? Greg Egan. JumpCrisscross 8 months ago. If you cast the various human masses, the Trisolarans and Sophon as characters, which they resemble, they—too—develop compellingly over the series. It does take a different view of character development to make things pop. Cheng Xin was not a pleasant perspective. If your tastes require solid character development then sure. But other people might enjoy a book more for its plot or ideas.

    There are books especially in science fiction , movies, and TV shows that are widely recognized as very good without a lot of character development. I'm on the "don't care about character development" side. But those books are atrociously slow. The whole "3 body problem" could be condensed to maybe 50 pages. I actually thought that there was some character development like the Swordholder woman, I forgot her name. It's not "good" development but I think it's there. I also think that other parts of the series make up for it. Ofc, to each their own, books are subjective.

    Interestingly I was thinking of her when I made the initial comment - I didn't mention her specifically, in order to avoid spoiling anything, but in my opinion she did not develop at all. Again, I don't want to talk specifically about any further events in the series, but to me, she didn't evolve at all as a character. I am a Chinese, I agree with you. This book is consist of many wonderful "ideas" and bad-portray characters.

    Travels with My Censor

    In fact, IMHO, the characters in this book are only used to introduce those "ideas". But, those "ideas" are really amazing. This why some people love it, some think it is bad. I accidentally read the third book in the trilogy first. I didn't notice until I finished it and looked for the second one. I was in camping mode on a kindle with a pirated copy. But I still remember the first chapter of that book, about buying the star, it was so beautiful I almost cried.

    I stayed awake all night reading. And I remember slowly learning about the Trisolarans and about the history of the wallfacers, and the centuries of conflict between earth and this other civilization. I thought it was just hard sci-fi and I loved it. I later picked up the first and second. They were great but never came close to how special my experience was of reading the third, and I'm even thankful for having read it first. Dude - spoilers! According to comments in this thread this book seems to be either at the top or the bottom of the pile.