Death's End
June 22, 2020 5:43 AM - by Liu, Cixin - Subscribe

Death's End is a science fiction novel by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin. It is the third & final novel in the trilogy titled Remembrance of Earth's Past, following the Hugo Award-winning novel The Three-Body Problem and its sequel, The Dark Forest. It was a 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel finalist and winner of 2017 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.
posted by LizBoBiz (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This entire trilogy astonished me. Really made me love science fiction. Has anyone read it in the original language— I'm curious about what the translation was like, and if there was anything in particular it didn't preserve well.

But yes, I think this was a fantastic end to a great trilogy. The scope of the entire trilogy seemed truly exponential, even doubling just in the last chapter or two.
posted by psappha at 10:54 AM on June 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

I agree that the focus was exponential. We start in the first book, which only covers a few years in comparison to the others, and end billions of years in the future. I had no idea what to expect really and was wondering what else could happen when I got to the part where humanity moves to Australia and my kindle said I still had like 3-4 hours left in the book (like that itself is a whole book on its own, actually that might have been a good cliff-hanger if he wanted to turn this into a 4 book series instead of 3).

There were two moments in the book that were absolute gut punches:
1) the proposed method for population reduction once everyone was moved to Australia (holy shit what a fucked up situation, it's hunger games for everyone, literally.

2) when they came out of the low-light-speed death line near Cheng Xin's solar system and it had been 18 million years. Like it should be that my brain can't really process that amount of time passing but I think the unable-to-process made it even more of a shock. Like just total dejection and there's nothing to be done to fix this.

I don't know if this was the intended meaning, but by the end, when the universe is supposed to collapse on itself, the big feeling I got was that nothing matters. Not the decisions Cheng Xin made, not any efforts made by the humans at all. On a cosmological scale, everyone dies. No one gets to keep their matter and keep living, everyone must die for the universe to be reborn.

Not that it gives me a license to be a dick, but maybe it means that the big picture doesn't really matter, all you can do it have an effect on your immediate surroundings. We really are just mass and energy moving through the universe, to eventually be turned to dust with everything else so the universe can start again.

Cheng Xin is an interesting choice of character to follow. She seems to always make the wrong decision and cause more suffering, and she really really feels everything (which is why she was elected Swordholder in the first place, I guess) but in the end it didn't matter. Everything tends toward entropy and the eventual heat death of the universe and there's nothing that could change that.

In conclusion, I was super impressed by this entire trilogy. Lots of really interesting ideas about space and the future of humanity as well as total realism on how humanity would react to these situations (translation: mostly not good). The idea of using the laws of physics to destroy worlds was also interesting, but now that I think about it, we also use the laws of physics to fight as well (even a gun uses physics to turn a bullet into a projectile).

A+ would probably not read again because of the length but happy to have read it and would definitely recommend to others.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:17 AM on June 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

The conceit that really stuck with me from the third book was the wonderfully horrifying idea that most all the physics of the universe? Lightspeed, the distribution of matter and energy in so much nothing, why only three spatial dimensions and not some other number entirely? All of it: not laws, but scars of a universe that actually started out teeming with life, and then was pure internecine slaughter at truly unimaginable scales of time, space, and being itself. Sci-fi meeting truly cosmic horror.

Very tangentially related, I'd recommend Greg Egan's "Quarantine" which has similar themes of just what the universe humanity perceives actually is, and how horrifying that is.
posted by Drastic at 3:15 PM on June 28, 2020 [5 favorites]

Is the fairy tale arc in the final volume? With the soap and Princess Dewdrop? I played that whole saga for my 8 year old and it's a solid fairy tale all on its own.

I loved these novels--the expanding scale felt like it opened up new room in my brain, and the freedom of possibilities plays with the inevitability of heat death and it just works for me.
posted by mmmbacon at 9:43 PM on January 17, 2023

I just went through the audiobook of this trilogy again, and I realized that if they left like 5kgs of matter with the story of humanity, what if that is preventing the final death and rebirth of the universe? What if Cheng Xin preventing the rebirth of the universe? After all the terrible decisions she made, it seems very in-character for her.
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:02 AM on February 16, 2023

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