Review – “The Dark Forest”

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This is the second book in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, by scifi author Liu Cixin. I wrote about the first book, which I greatly enjoyed. Now, let’s talk about this second one.

Starting with the main character: Lou Ji. He is a difficult character to serve as the focal point. If you can’t tolerate him, you’ll hate him. He’s selfish, self-absorbed, and not really a great person. That, of course, makes him the perfect Wallfacer. So he makes sense in context, but some readers may easily be turned off by him.

Now, I have to say that I didn’t enjoy this translation as much. You can definitely tell that two different people worked on the two books. This one isn’t bad, but I kinda wish the translator had pulled back on some of the action descriptions, because those were not good. Spoiler: when the droplet attacks the fleet, oh man, get ready for dragging pacing, far too many details, and a sterile sense of anxiety and danger. I’m not sure if this is the result of direct translation or added flavor, but action is not the book’s strong suit.

Also, female characters didn’t have as much room as they did in the previous book. Those that appeared were either purely auxiliary characters that didn’t really need dialogue (which isn’t a problem unless there aren’t any main female characters, as happened this time), or short-lived. Literally. That was disappointing, though this problem permeates the beginning of the book more so than the end. It’s also more of a passive problem than an aggressive one, meaning it felt as though there wasn’t any specific reason for there being fewer female characters than any malicious intent. (Also, the third book in the series looks like it has a female lead, so I’m looking forward to that.)

The novel shines when it comes to character interactions and application of concepts, and the unraveling of the Wallfacer strategies is fascinating.

I wonder if the book ends too neatly, given that spoiler: Wallfacer Rey Diaz’s cradle was a fake, and it’s hard to imagine that Trisolaris wouldn’t have remembered that when Lou Ji threatened to broadcast the star map into space. But then again, Trisolarians cannot lie, and struggle to understand it, so perhaps this is the real key to their downfall.

(I put way more spoilers in here than I thought I had… whoops.)

I’m curious as to how the third book in the series plays out as this one ended on a very upbeat, hopeful note. I’m not used to seeing that from middle books. But the ending works so well, and while the book certainly starts slow, it’s worth getting past the beginning 1/3 to the real meat of the story.

I would give it 3.5 stars, but we’ll make it 4 on Goodreads.

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