Death’s End

Death’s End by Cixin Liu

With Death’s End, 3BP becomes the first (?) book series I’ve ever finished other than the legendary A Series of Unfortunate Events. With all the great books and distractions out there, it’s a high bar to invest in a trilogy – but 3BP was definitely worth it. In this third installment, Ken Liu returns as translator, and it’s immediately obvious. It’s so much more readable than Dark Forest. This book also features some of the best (fairytales) and worst (ending) of the whole trilogy.

1) “Life and the world were perhaps ugly, but at the limits of the micro and macro scales, everything was harmonious and beautiful.”

The best way to increase the (life is beautiful) / (life is hard) thought ratio is to think big and think small.

2) “Do you wish to terminate your life? This is your last prompt. For yes, select 4. For no, select 0.”

I can’t even choose between “Save As” and “Don’t Save” when exiting Excel.

3) “‘In my opinion, aesthetics matters the most when you’re buying a star. It’s much better to possess a faraway star that you can see than a nearby star that you can’t.'” – Dr. He

Are stars the next crypto coins? Perfect bubble conditions.

4) “All this was based on a single idea: Tomorrow will be better. This was a relatively new faith, a product of the last few centuries before the Crisis.”

Related: earnings growth, 401K

5) “Cloning raised moral questions, but they mostly troubled those with a moral view influenced by Christianity. The troubles brought about by hibernation, on the other hand, were practical, and affected the entire human race. Once the technology was successfully commercialized, those who could afford it would use it to skip to paradise, while the rest of humanity would have to stay behind in the comparatively depressing present to construct that paradise for them.”

I don’t agree with the premise that cloning is only problematic in the context of Christianity. This line is super out of place, and Christianity never really comes up again. There’s also nothing about gene editing – or maybe I missed something in the books? Anyway, hibernation is an interesting concept. If you could, why wouldn’t you not want to skip to the future if you believed tomorrow would be better?

6) “Life reached an evolutionary milestone when it climbed onto land from the ocean, but those first fish that climbed onto land ceased to be fish. Similarly, when humans truly enter space and are freed from the Earth, they cease to be human.”

I’ve never considered the concept of “Galactic humans” before.

7) “This probability, or degree of deterrence, is an important parameter in deterrence game theory. The degree of deterrence must exceed 80 percent for the deterrer to succeed. But people soon discovered a discouraging fact: If the authority to carry out the threat in the dark forest deterrence is held by humanity as a whole, then the degree of deterrence is close to zero.”

I loved the excerpts from A Past Outside of Time. This one in particular read like a textbook chapter on game theory. Also: get enough people in the room and the only possible outcome is inaction.

8) “Luo Ji stood tall and straight. He looked at the white wall, which he had stared at for more than half a century, for a few more seconds. Then he bowed slightly.”

LOL. Wallfacing needs to be a meme.

9) “‘Food? Everyone, look around: You are surrounded by food, living food.'” – Sophon

Sophon is such a weird character. Why is she portrayed as a tea-serving yet heartlessly lethal Japanese warrior who’s really a robot?! inb4 spinoff.

10) “A cosmopolitan space church was built in near-Earth orbit. Though it was called a church, there was no physical building other than a gigantic cross.” 

I take back what I said above about the lack of references to Christianity. This cross-in-the-sky idea is actually really cool.

There are probably 100 more worthy quotes in this book, but I’ll stop here. One of the most underrated parts of the 3BP series is its social commentary. Yes the science is amazing, but the best parts are about how humanity will react to potential annihilation. Most of the tactics and decisions sound dumb yet completely realistic. How will countries actually work together to fight off an alien attack? I’m highly doubtful that humans can get on the same page. Prestige, power, and saving face will always lead to globally (i.e. for Earth) suboptimal decisions. There’s also a lot of moral commentary. What happens when only the rich can escape Earth? Will you wait for other people at the launchpad or will you take off, killing other people with the engine heat? The value commentary is also great. Do people actually want to live if it means Earth no longer exists? Is it worth anything to be able to explore the universe or should we just stay on Earth and call it a day?

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