This near-future trilogy is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple-award-winning phenomenon from Cixin Liu, China's most beloved science fiction author.
In The Dark Forest, Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion-in just four centuries' time. The aliens' human collaborators may have been defeated, but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access to all human information, means that Earth's defense plans are totally exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret. This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies, hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists, but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he's the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead.
The Remembrance of Earth's Past Trilogy
The Three-Body Problem
The Dark Forest
Ball Lightning (forthcoming)
About the Author
CIXIN LIU is a prolific and popular science fiction writer in the People's Republic of China. Liu is a winner of the Hugo Award and a multiple winner of the Galaxy Award (the Chinese Hugo) and the Xing Yun Award (the Chinese Nebula). He lives with his family in Yangquan, Shanxi.
JOEL MARTINSEN (translator) is research director for a media intelligence company. His translations have appeared in Words Without Borders, Chutzpah!, and Pathlight. He lives in Beijing.
Read an Excerpt
The Dark Forest
By Cixin Liu, Joel Martinsen
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2008 Liu Cixin
All rights reserved.
Year 3, Crisis Era
Distance of the Trisolaran Fleet from the Solar System: 4.21 light-years
It looks so old. ...
This was Wu Yue's first thought as he faced Tang, the massive ship under construction in front of him, bathed in the flickering of electric arcs. Of course, this impression was simply the result of countless inconsequential smudges on the manganese steel plates of the ship's nearly completed body, left behind by the advanced gas-shield welding used on the hull. He tried unsuccessfully to imagine how sturdy and new Tang would look with a fresh coat of gray paint.
Tang's fourth offshore fleet training session had just concluded. During that two-month session, Tang's commanders, Wu Yue and Zhang Beihai, who was standing just beside Wu Yue, had occupied an uncomfortable role. Formations of destroyers, submarines, and supply ships were directed by battle group commanders, but Tang was still under construction in the dock, so the carrier's position was either occupied by the training ship Zheng He or simply left empty. During the sessions, Wu Yue often stared vacantly at an empty patch of sea where the surface of the water, disturbed by crisscrossing trails left by passing ships, undulated uneasily, much like his mood. Would the empty spot ever be filled? he asked himself more than once.
Looking now at the unfinished Tang, what he saw was not just age but the passage of time itself. It seemed like an ancient, giant, discarded fortress, its mottled body a stone wall, the shower of welding sparks falling from the scaffolding like plants covering the stones ... like it was less construction than archeology.
Afraid of pursuing these thoughts, Wu Yue turned his attention to Zhang Beihai next to him. "Is your father any better?" he asked.
Zhang Beihai gently shook his head. "No. He's just holding on."
"Ask for leave."
"I did when he first went to the hospital. Given the situation, I'll deal with it when the time comes."
Then they went silent. Every social interaction between the two of them was like this. Where work was concerned they had more to say, of course, but something always lay between them.
"Beihai, work isn't going to be like it was. Since we're sharing this position now, I think we ought to communicate more."
"We've communicated just fine in the past. Our superiors put us together on Tang, no doubt thanks to our successful cooperation aboard Chang'an." Zhang Beihai laughed as he said this, but it was the sort of laugh that Wu Yue couldn't read. Zhang Beihai's eyes could easily read deep into the heart of everyone aboard the ship, be they captain or sailor. Wu Yue was entirely transparent to him. But Wu Yue could not read what was inside Zhang. He was certain that the man's smile came from within him, but had no hope of understanding him. Successful cooperation does not equate to successful understanding. There was no question that Zhang Beihai was the most capable political commissar on the ship, and he was forthright in his work, exploring every last issue with complete precision. But his internal world was a bottomless gray to Wu Yue, who always felt like Zhang Beihai was saying: Just do it this way. This way's best, or most correct. But it's not what I really want. It began as an indistinct feeling that grew increasingly obvious. Of course, whatever Zhang Beihai did was always the best or most correct, but Wu Yue had no idea what he actually wanted.
Wu Yue adhered to one article of faith: Command of a warship was a dangerous position, so the two commanders must understand each other's minds. This presented Wu Yue with a knotty problem. At first, he thought that Zhang Beihai was somehow on guard, which offended Wu. In the tough post of captain of a destroyer, was anyone more forthright and guileless than he was? What do I have worth guarding against?
When Zhang Beihai's father had briefly been their superior officer, Wu Yue had spoken with him about his difficulties talking to his commissar. "Isn't it enough for the work to be done well? Why do you need to know how he thinks?" the general had said, gently, then added, perhaps involuntarily, "Actually, I don't know either."
"Let's get a closer look," Zhang Beihai said, pointing to Tang through the sparks. Then both their phones chirped at the same time: a text message recalling them back to their car. This usually meant an emergency, since secured communications equipment was only available in the vehicle. Wu Yue opened the car door and picked up the receiver. It was a call from an advisor at battle group HQ.
"Captain Wu, Fleet Command have issued you and Commissar Zhang emergency orders. The two of you are to report to General Staff immediately."
"General Staff? What about the fifth fleet training exercise? Half the battle group is at sea, and the rest of the ships will join them tomorrow."
"I'm not aware of that. The order is simple. Just that one command. You can look at the specifics when you get back."
The captain and commissar of the still-unlaunched Tang glanced at each other, then had one of the rare moments throughout the years where their thoughts aligned: Looks like that patch of water will remain empty.
* * *
Fort Greely, Alaska. Several fallow deer ambling along the snowy plain grew alert, sensing vibrations in the earth beneath the snow. Ahead of them, a white hemisphere opened. It had been placed there long ago, a giant egg half-buried beneath the ground, but the deer always felt it didn't belong to this frozen world. The egg split open and issued forth thick smoke and flames, then, with a roar, it hatched a cylinder that accelerated upward, spurting flames from its bottom. The surrounding snowdrifts were thrown by the fire into the air, where they fell again as rain. When the cylinder gained enough height, the explosions that had terrified the deer were again replaced by peace. The cylinder vanished into the sky trailing a long white tail behind it, as if the snowscape was a giant ball of yarn from which a giant invisible hand had pulled a strand skyward.
"Damn it! Just a few more seconds and I'd have confirmed a launch interrupt!" said Target Screening Officer Raeder as he tossed aside his mouse. Raeder was thousands of kilometers away in the Nuclear Missile Defense Control Room at the NORAD Command Center, three hundred meters beneath Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs.
"I figured it was nothing as soon as the system warning came up," Orbital Monitor Jones said, shaking his head.
"Then what's the system attacking?" asked General Fitzroy. Nuclear Missile Defense was just one of the duties of his new position, and he wasn't entirely familiar with it yet. Looking at the monitor-covered wall, the general attempted to locate the intuitive graphical displays they'd had at the NASA control center: a red line snaking across the world map, forming a sine wave atop the map's planar transformation. Novices found this inexplicable, but at least it let you know that something was shooting into space. But there was nothing so simple here. The lines on the screens were a complicated abstract jumble that was meaningless to him. Not to mention all the screens with swiftly scrolling numbers that had meaning only to the NMD duty officers.
"General, do you remember when they replaced the reflective film on the ISS multipurpose module last year? They lost the old film. That's what this was. It balls up and then unfurls in the solar wind."
"But ... it ought to be included in the target screening database."
"It is. Here." Raeder brought up a page with his mouse. Below piles of complicated text, data, and forms, there was an inconspicuous photograph, probably taken with an Earth telescope, of an irregular white patch against a black background. The strong reflection made it difficult to make out details.
"Major, since you've got this, why didn't you terminate the launch program?"
"The system ought to have searched the target database automatically. Human reaction times aren't quick enough. But data from the old system hasn't been reformatted for the new one, so it wasn't linked in with the recognition module," Raeder said. His tone was a little aggrieved, as if to say, I've demonstrated my proficiency by managing to pull this up so quickly in a manual search when the NMD supercomputer couldn't, but I still have to put up with your clueless questions.
"General, the order came to switch over to actual operational state after the NMD moved its intercept headings into space, but before software recalibration was completed," a duty officer said.
Fitzroy said nothing. The chatter of the control room annoyed him. Here in front of him was humanity's first planetary defense system, but it was nothing more than an existing NMD system whose intercepts had been redirected from various terrestrial continents and into space.
"I say we should take a photo for a memento!" Jones said. "This has got to be Earth's first strike at a common enemy."
"Cameras are prohibited," Raeder said coldly.
"Captain, what are you talking about?" Fitzroy said, angry all of a sudden. "The system didn't detect an enemy target at all. It's not a first strike."
After an uncomfortable silence, someone said, "The interceptors carry nuclear warheads."
"Yeah, one point five megatons. So what?"
"It's nearly dark outside. Given the target location, we ought to be able to see the flash!"
"You can see it on the monitor."
"It's more fun from outside," Raeder said.
Jones stood up nervously. "General, I ... my shift's over."
"Mine too, General," Raeder said. This was just a courtesy. Fitzroy was a high-level coordinator with the Planetary Defense Council and had no command over NORAD and the NMDs.
Fitzroy waved his hand: "I'm not your commanding officer. Do as you please. But let me remind all of you that in the future, we may be spending a lot of time working together."
Raeder and Jones headed topside at a run. After passing through the multi-ton antiradiation door, they were out on the peak of Cheyenne Mountain. It was dusk and the sky was clear, but they didn't see the flash of a nuclear blast in outer space.
"It should be right there," Jones said, gesturing skyward.
"Maybe we've missed it," Raeder said. He didn't look upward. Then, with an ironic smile, he said, "Do they really believe the sophon will unfold in lower dimensions?"
"Unlikely. It's intelligent. It won't give us that chance," Jones said.
"NMD's eyes are pointed upward. Is there really nothing to defend against on Earth? Even if the terrorist countries have all turned into saints, there's still the ETO, right?" He snorted. "And the PDC. Those military guys clearly want to chalk up a quick accomplishment. Fitzroy's one of them. Now they can declare that the first stage of the Planetary Defense System is complete, even though they've done practically nothing to the hardware. The system's sole purpose is to stop her from unfolding in lower dimensions near to Earth's orbit. The technology's even simpler than what's needed for intercepting guided missiles, because if the target really does appear, it'll cover an immense area. ... Captain, that's why I've asked you up here. Why were you acting like a child, what with that first-strike photograph business? You've upset the general, you know. Can't you see he's a petty man?"
"But ... wasn't that a compliment?"
"He's one of the best hype artists in the military. He's not going to announce at the press conference that this was a system error. Like the rest of them, he'll say it was a successful maneuver. Wait and see. That's how it's gonna be." As he was speaking, Raeder sat down and leaned back on the ground, looking up with a face full of yearning at the sky, where the stars had already emerged. "You know, Jones, if the sophon really does unfold again, she'll give us a chance to destroy her. Wouldn't that be something!"
"What's the use? The fact is that they're streaming toward the Solar System right now. Who knows how many of them. ... Hey, why did you say 'she' rather than 'it' or 'he'?"
The expression on Raeder's upturned face turned dreamy: "Yesterday, a Chinese colonel who just arrived at the center told me that in his language, she has the name of a Japanese woman, Tomoko."
* * *
The day before, Zhang Yuanchao filed his retirement papers and left the chemical plant where he had worked for more than four decades. In the words of his neighbor Lao Yang, today was the start of his second childhood. Lao Yang told him that sixty, like sixteen, was the best time in life, an age where the burdens of one's forties and fifties had been laid down, but the slowdown and illness of the seventies and eighties had not yet arrived. An age to enjoy life. Zhang Yuanchao's son and daughter-in-law had steady jobs, and although his son had married late, he would be holding a grandson before long. He and his wife wouldn't have been able to afford their current house except that they had been bought out when their old place had been demolished. They had been living in the new place for a year now. ...
When Zhang Yuanchao thought about it, everything was completely satisfactory. He had to admit that as far as affairs of state were concerned, Lao Yang was right. Still, as he looked out from his eighth-story window at the clear sky over the city, he felt like there was no sunlight in his heart, much less a second childhood.
Lao Yang, first name Jinwen, was a retired middle school teacher who frequently advised Zhang Yuanchao that if he wanted to enjoy his waning years, he ought to be learning new things. For example: "The Internet. Even babies can learn it, so why don't you?" He even pointed out that Zhang Yuanchao's biggest failing was that he had absolutely no interest in the outside world: "Your old lady can at least brush aside her tears while sitting in front of the TV watching those trashy soaps. But you, you don't even watch TV. You should pay attention to national and world affairs. That's part of a full life." Zhang Yuanchao may have been an old Beijinger, but he didn't seem like one. A taxi driver could hold forth with cogent analyses of domestic and world situations, but even if Zhang Yuanchao knew the current president's name, he certainly didn't know the premier's. This was actually a point of pride for him. He lived the steady-going life of a commoner, he said, and couldn't be bothered to care about such irrelevant things. They had nothing to do with him, and ignoring them rid him of a significant number of headaches in life. Yang Jinwen paid attention to affairs of state and made a point of watching the evening news every day, arguing with online commenters till he was red in the face over national economic policy and the tide of international nuclear proliferation, but what had it gotten him? The government hadn't increased his pension by even a cent. He said, "You're being ridiculous. You think it's irrelevant? That it's got nothing to do with you? Listen, Lao Zhang. Every major national and international issue, every major national policy, and every UN resolution is connected to your life, through both direct and indirect channels. You think the US invasion of Venezuela is none of your concern? I say it's got more than a penny's worth of lasting implications for your pension." At the time, Zhang had merely laughed at Lao Yang's wonkish outburst. But now he knew that his neighbor was right.
Zhang Yuanchao rang Yang Jinwen's doorbell, and Yang answered, looking like he had just gotten back home. He seemed particularly relaxed. Zhang Yuanchao looked at him like a man in the desert who has encountered a fellow traveler and won't let him go.
"I was just looking for you. Where did you go off to?"
"I took a trip to the market. I saw your old lady shopping for food."
"Why is our building so empty? It's like a ... mausoleum."
"It's not a holiday today. That's all." He laughed. "Your first day of retirement. That feeling is totally normal. At least you weren't a leader. They've got it worse when they retire. You'll soon get used to it. Come on, let's check out the neighborhood activity center and see what we can do for fun."
"No, no. It's not because I've retired. It's because ... how should I put it? Because of the country, or rather, the world situation."
Yang Jinwen pointed at him and laughed. "The world situation? I never thought I'd hear those words come out of your mouth. ..."
"That's right, I didn't use to care about the big issues, but they've gotten too huge. I never thought anything could get so big!"
"Lao Zhang, it's actually really funny, but I've started to come around to your way of thinking. I don't care about those irrelevant issues anymore. Believe it or not, I haven't watched the news in two weeks. I used to care about the big issues because people matter. We could have an effect on the outcome of current events. But no one has the power to overcome this. What's the point of troubling yourself about it?"
"But you can't simply not care. Humanity will be gone in four hundred years!"
"Hmph. You and I will be gone in forty-odd years."
Excerpted from The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu, Joel Martinsen. Copyright © 2008 Liu Cixin. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I: The Wallfacers,
Year 3, Crisis Era,
Part II: The Spell,
Year 8, Crisis Era,
Year 12, Crisis Era,
Year 20, Crisis Era,
Part III: The Dark Forest,
Year 205, Crisis Era,
Year 208, Crisis Era,
Five Years Later,
About the Author,
About the Translator,
Tor Books by Cixin Liu,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
To make it short, good hard core concepts kept rolling in, and they were organized as how real good stories being told. And the best for reader, easy to understand, it describe deep into a space war and its rules between different civilizations in a sharp and simple way, without forging much fake concepts, keeping all in a reasonable range within what science had discoveried already. Start with sth we are familiar with, like the UN cousil and nuke lab, then into alien fancy tec, surprised and you won't feel strange. Another good reason is, it surprised you orderly, there is a constant shift of your expecting of the ends, it doesn't end in the way you expect. And all the plots still make sense. When finished, you will say, asymmetric dominance, complicated strategy, and this is how space war should be like, you lose before you fight, you win after enemy claims victory, and the rules under those fancy weapons are the real masterpiece. The only shortage might be, a lack of more humour. That scene when the general found out lab stuff using NASA space telescope for selfie could be more humor. But, after all, dark forest theory is indeed a rule of a cold universe. A good story about survival in universe, and I think it's a must read of this category in SF.
I haven't lost myself in a series this good in a very long time.
The second book of "The Three-Body Problem" is a long discussion of the Fermi Paradox (in short, "Where are the aliens?"). Given the vastness of the universe and the possibility of numerous earth-like planets, why haven't we been visited by anyone? Have they not evolved enough to attempt space travel, have they not gotten past what Robin Hanson calls "The Great Filter"? Or, have they just not found us...yet? As was pointed out in the first book, two assumptions apply to all civilizations: 1) survival is the primary need and 2) while civilization expands, the total matter of the universe is constant. Thus, civilizations proceed to wage war on those from whom they can procure the necessary resources to continue to survive. This underlying principle has been a part of many science fiction stories, but has never been so eloquently expressed. On earth, most civilizations are relatively on par with each other. However, what happens when this principle is turned towards the heavens? It begs the question, do we even WANT to be found? In the first book, Dr. Ye Wenjie communicates with Trisolaris after being instructed by a pacifist in their fleet not to. She is disgusted with humanity and desires to have the aliens function as our saviors. Now that the Trisolarians are coming and have sophons in place to limit human development, humanity struggles to put up any kind of defense. The Wallfacers - one of whom is Luo Ji - are tasked with coming up with a strategy to mask the plans for a defense of earth without the Trisolarans finding out because they can hear all conversations, read all e-mail, etc. To the extent that the Fermi Paradox drives the story, the deeper question for me is the matter of should we be seeking alien life? Luo Ji outlines the problem to his friend Da Shi in Year 205 of the Crisis Era. He talks about the "chain of suspicion" - the idea that two civilizations in space cannot determine with certainty that the other is a benevolent civilization; further, there is no way for certain to know what that other civilization thinks about YOU. On earth, this is eventually resolved by communication. In space, there is no Star Trek Universal Translator. Beyond that, there is the idea of technological explosions resulting from perceived threats from the outside. These technological explosions can tip the balance of power between civilizations. This tipping could alter the chain of suspicion between the civilizations and make conflict more likely. Luo Ji eventually goes into a discourse regarding what is the title of the book which won't be discussed so as to not spoil the ending. However, being the last Wallfacer gives Luo Ji one last shot at trying to head off the Trisolaran fleet. After working seemingly to a fruitless end, Luo Ji is disgraced and kicked out his community where he prepares to take his life, which sets up the final confrontation with the Trisolaran empire. The book ever so slightly suffers because of the long time frame means new characters are brought in while others like Da Shi and Luo Ji spend the novel in hibernation. The end of this book as written by Liu Cixin would make a perfect ending for the story; in my opinion a third novel really isn't necessary because you have all the loose ends tied up. However, I'm willing to admit that this is a western bias and the third novel may add a dimension to the story. BOTTOM LINE: Excellence in science fiction, part 2.
Great plot utilizing familiar methods and materials to produce an A+ science fiction novel. Volume I and II of the trilogy have been equally good.
This review is for the entire trilogy (The Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death's End). Despite starting the series with great anticipation, on the recommendation of a trusted science, and science fiction, fan/friend, only determination, not desire, allowed me to complete it. Admittedly, it's been some months since I finished the third installment, as my reluctance to give a poor review has delayed this writing, and so some details are fuzzy. In general, I found the characters difficult to connect with, and I don't recall a single strong character who is present throughout the telling, around whom the reader can organize the story arc. The writing overall is often more science than fiction; as an avid reader of science non-fiction, I could follow the story as the physics moved into extra dimensions, but the fiction part, the story being told, was not engaging enough to hold my interest. While I can understand how these books could be very appealing to a reader, I guess this time, I am not that reader.
First book is hard to get into but its well worth the efforr. A fantastic and original idea very well written. Highly recommend!
One of the best series I've read. Very satisfying
Runs through the forest, mud streaking her face. "Flamelight, come back. If we do fight, Adder needs you to be strong. If you leave now, you may not see a lot of us again, including her."
Pads near a far away lake. He splashed some water on his face.
Definitely my favorite