All good things must come to an end, or at least so they say. And so does the trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past. This final installment is the most daring in terms of scale. Cixin Liu shows that imagination knows no limits. He deftly navigates between the infinitely small, only to propel us to the endlessly huge scale, both in terms of time and our perception of life, Earth, and the universe. This freedom adds a very philosophical dimension.
It is almost like Cixin Liu through the three books is training our mind to be able to grasp what infinity means. The Three-Body Problem was easy to relate to (relatively), it was the story that took place in the 20th and 21st century, os the only challenge was in terms of accepting the existence of other intelligent life in space. Which is exactly what sci-fi typically deals with. That said already there the imagery was stunning. Then with The Dark Forest we were asked to consider the sociology of the civilizations living in space. To understand the rules that drive their behaviors towards each other. This was already pushing us a bit, not to mention all the disputes about humanity’s behavior in the face of existential threat.
Death’s End takes all of this to the next level. This time Cixin Liu invites us to take an even bigger step back and consider the entire universe, and consider it from its origin all the way to the end. I have never encountered such a shift in perspective before, and maybe it is because I am not a regular sci-fi reader, but I must admit I was stunned. I had to constantly recheck the timeline to make sure I remember where we are because the time shifts are beyond what we can comfortably grasp with our minds.
I will not go into any details of the plot, for obvious reasons. But again we are dealing here with the fundamental questions of what does it mean to be human, who do we owe our allegiance to, where do our loyalties lie and where should they be. At the same time, like in the previous parts, we are presented with some very interesting technological solutions. Theoretical for now they are still based on deep research conducted by Liu.
While the plot of the book feels a bit slower the sheer scale is jaw-dropping. It really is no longer about the plot. It’s about making us think beyond all the limits we set ourselves. If you think thinking about climate disaster and the next century is long-term, think again. For Liu, this is a mere second. Earth is one of an endless number of planets. He manages to balance our sense of importance as a species, only to shatter it every few chapters, by showing us how infinitely small we are against the backdrop of the universe.
It was a joy to read, just like the rest of the trilogy. All good things must come to an end, but at least, in this case, it was a long and extremely enjoyable way, over 1500 pages across the three books. Pure pleasure to read.
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska