cover image Death’s End

Death’s End

Cixin Liu, trans. from the Chinese by Ken Liu. Tor, $26.99 (592p) ISBN 978-0-7653-7710-4

Liu’s conclusion to his Three-Body trilogy (following 2015’s The Dark Forest) is an ambitious millennia-spanning space opera with enough ideas for a dozen books, but those well-thought-out concepts are more memorable than his characters. Despite the complex events of the prior two books, Liu makes the gloomy framework of his imagined future, in which humans have “finally learned that the universe was a dark forest in which everyone hunted everyone else,” accessible. The bulk of the plot focuses on humankind’s efforts to survive after first contact with the alien TriSolarans in the 21st century. The author makes suspension of disbelief easy with his nuanced and plausible portrayals of people’s reactions to apocalyptic threats, including efforts by the military-industrial complex to make the global crisis a business opportunity. The time scale is an obstacle to emotional engagement, but there are emotionally moving moments that ground the intriguing speculations about science and human nature. (Sept.)