Cixin Li and the ‘Three Body Problem’

I really enjoyed Cixin Li’s Three Body Problem. Since then I’ve smashed through the other two parts of the trilogy. Both were enjoyable – if you liked the first, definitely keep reading.

The third particularly, Death’s End, feels like a step up in terms of his writing. Perhaps it’s just that he gives himself more room to breathe, rather than racing through it all. It’s a particularly bleak vision that he has of the universe, and the end of it. But he tells it well.

Particularly good throughout Li’s writing is the idea of what happens if the floor falls out from under us; if the basic laws and experimental findings turn out to have been manipulated, or falsified.

Here are some quotes (from all parts of the trilogy):

It was impossible to expect a moral awakening from humankind itself, just like it was impossible to expect humans to lift off the earth by pulling up on their own hair. To achieve moral awakening required a force outside the human race …

The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost, gently pushing aside branches that block the path and trying to tread without sound. Even breathing is done with care. The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him… In this forest, hell is other people. An eternal threat that any life that exposes its own existence will be swiftly wiped out. This is the picture of cosmic civilization. It’s the explanation for the Fermi Paradox …

… the universe is not a fairy tale …

… at some point, humanity began to develop the illusion that they’re entitled to life, that life can be taken for granted …

Stories meant twists and catastrophes …

“I also thank every member of the human race,” said … Ice. “Once, we lived together in the Solar System.” …

Civilization was like a mad dash that lasted five thousand years. Progress begot more progress; countless miracles gave birth to more miracles; humankind seemed to possess the power of gods; but in the end, the real power was wielded by time. Leaving behind a mark was tougher than creating a world …

A museum was built for visitors; a tombstone was built for the builders …

… she was but a mote of dust in a grand wind, a small leaf drifting over a broad river …

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