Review│The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #2)

the dark forestAuthor: Cixin Liu // First published:  May 2008 // Genre: Science Fiction
This edition: 512 pages, published in August 2015 by Tor Books // Get it @TheBookDepository

Read in January 2016

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

In Dark Forest, Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion—four centuries in the future. The aliens’ human collaborators 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 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.

My thoughts

I had such high expectations for this… They all came crashing down. Back in April ’15 I read the first instalment of this best selling Chinese science fiction trilogy, The Three-Body Problem. It was a little bit complicated, but really interesting. So much so that it made it onto my best list of 2015. Word on the street was that the sequels were even better than the first book. So I was prepared to get my mind blown.

It started with a rather peculiar chapter from the point of view of an ant. I wasn’t sure where this was going, but I went along. And then, it all went downhill for me. I couldn’t recognise any of the characters’ names, I was very foggy on what was actually going on, and it seemed like none of the things that were in the first book would be continuing in this one. Then we get introduced to the Wallfacer project, and it got even more confusing.

Needless to say, it was a struggle for me. So much so that it took me two months to read it through and through (I took breaks and read other things in between), and most of the time, I would read it but not register what I was reading. There were a lot of technical/scientific aspects that I did not understand at all, and the trouble is, it seems to me that the majority of this book is science; we do get to follow more closely —more or less—a guy named Luo Ji, but we don’t know much about him anyway, we don’t really get to see how the people —the citizens of the Earth if you will, or even Luo Ji for that matter— is dealing with the crisis that they have to deal with.

Now, I don’t know if this is all because they had to have a different translator for this book, but something just didn’t do it for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not bashing Joel Martinsen in any way! If anything, I think the guy had the very tough job of bringing a Chinese story and storytelling techniques to an English-speaking audience (Now I may be wrong, but I believe that storytelling differs from region to region. For example, I have heard that Asian cinema is very different in terms of structure, and how they choose to approach they stories is apparently very different from occidental filmmakers. So I’m guessing it’s the same thing when it comes to literature). But to me, it felt very “cold”, almost too precise, if that makes any sense… And there were little things that seemed peculiar to me, like the fact that the characters names are repeated over and over again within the same paragraph. There’s very little “he”, “him”, or other ways to talk about someone like “his friend” or things like that. And, if you’ll allow me, there’s one sentence I marked that sounded really weird to me: “So, Commander, the command authority for centrality commanded warships must be…”. That’s a lot of “command”, and I’d like to think that this sentence could maybe have been turned in a different way to avoid this repetition.
And let’s not forget that English is not my first language either, so maybe it created an additional difficulty for me.

My rating:

I really don’t want to hate this book, because I’m still curious to know what happens in the third one (though I might not pre-order the hardcover this time), I’ve seen a lot of other people having troubles with it and even DNFing it, so it can’t all come from me, but it was such a struggle to get through!

One thought on “Review│The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #2)

  1. Bonjour! My name is Willy, and I’m from a town offshore of Montréal, Canada.

    First, I just want to say I admire your book blog and am very surprised to see some of the choices you have pick to read. Very impressive!

    I found your wonderful reviews on the first two volumes of Cixin Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy from Google, because I’m always searching and very curious of reading other bibliophiles’ reviews of books I’ve read. Yours are one of the reviews more or less spot-on.

    I’m also not a smart person when it comes to scientific explanations, but Liu really understand the readers by trying to keep the story as simple and engaging. I do feel there are some plot holes in both Three-Body and Dark Forest, but for me to just keep on reading and follow the story and characters at a right pace, it’s an interesting adventure/journey. Yes, maybe the translations (especially this book) are a little off-put, but we always feel the curiosity of what happens next. I feel the same as you when you give the stars on both volumes.

    I’m now reading the last 200+ pages of the last volume Death’s End (with returning translator Ken Liu), and it’s a much greater scope. The latest protagonist is a female scientist, and she’s jumping era to era as she’s viewing the unbelievable progress of humanity’s scientific fields and projects. Anyways, it’s a lot to explain and in detail, but I hope you will enjoy it (or not) when you’ll get the latest copy (hardcover or paperback) and post your review here.

    Again, I enjoy your reviews! -W

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