Finale fitting of the imaginative Chinese sci-fi trilogy

Death's End is a spectacular conclusion to the acclaimed Chinese sci-fi trilogy, Remembrance Of Earth's Past, by Liu Cixin.

There have been instances where finales have been disappointments after a long and compelling build-up. Not in this case. All the pieces come together and Death's End is the appropriate culmination to an incredibly inventive and brilliantly imaginative series.

In Death's End, the aliens from Trisolaris are living in peaceful co-existence with Earth. The Trisolarans were first introduced in the first book, The Three-Body Problem (published in English in 2014). There, the peculiarities of their world, which had three suns, were sketched out.

In the next instalment, The Dark Forest (published in English in 2015), they were charging towards Earth bent on destruction.

  • SCI-FI

  • DEATH'S END

    By Liu Cixin

    Head of Zeus/ Paperback/ 592 pages/ $33.95/Books Kinokuniya/5/5 stars

In Death's End, the apparent peace both races enjoy lulls Earth into a false sense of security. But the death of a key character from book two sets in motion a chain of events that leaves humanity in crisis and facing the prospect of colonisation.

The sheer scope of this novel is astounding. In terms of timeline, it stretches from the present era to 17 billion years from the beginning of time. The story takes place on Earth and in the furthest reaches of space.

Such an expanse of time and space is daunting, but Liu gives us a single protagonist to guide us through it all.

New character Chinese aerospace engineer Cheng Xin is the heart of this epic tale as she hops from era to era, barely ageing, thanks to the wonders of hibernation technology.

A decision she makes plunges Earth into peril and the guilt almost crushes her, but she also turns out to be a pivotal figure whose choices the plot hinges on.

The twists and turns of her relationship with her long-time admirer Yun Tianming also have far-ranging consequences for the destiny of humanity.

The pacing is crisp, given the amount of ground the story covers. The reader is hooked on wanting to know the fates of Cheng and Yun, and, well, humankind.

Along the way, one is confronted with intriguing ideas about four-dimensional space and light-speed travel, abstract concepts which Liu makes relevant and urgent in the context of the story.

Impressively, Liu even works in three highly symbolic fairy tales in which clues for Earth's survival are hidden in plain sight.

This is a rich work packed with ideas and one that continually manages to surprise the reader. On top of which, there are characters here that one grows to care for, people who are flawed and have needs and desires and yet must shoulder the burden of Earth's survival.

It is the rare writer who can combine hardcore science, memorable characters and compelling storytelling together into such a satisfying whole.

For someone who has read sci-fi exclusively from a Western point of view, Liu's Asia- and China-centric stories are a breath of fresh air, as is his ability to create strong and complex female characters, such as astrophysicist Ye Wenjie, who initiates contact with Trisolaris in The Three-Body Problem, and Cheng in Death's End.

His achievement has been recognised with a prestigious Hugo Award for the first book, making him the first Asian to win that accolade. Come August, he could possibly be the first Asian to win that award twice.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2017, with the headline 'Finale fitting of the imaginative Chinese sci-fi trilogy'. Print Edition | Subscribe