The Dark Forest – Book Review

I just finished reading The Dark Forest which is a sequel to The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu today. This series has been translated from Chinese and The Three-Body Problem won Hugo award.

The Three-Body Problem:

I did like The Three-Body Problem but for the most part, I found it little boring. The novel starts with Chinese cultural revolution and then moves on to this online game called Three-Body Problem. You have no idea what is happening in this game or why people are even trying to play or win this game. So first two-thirds of the novel was little boring to read. Only in the last one-third of the book do you understand what this game is all about. And then a lot happens in the last few chapters of the book. It is extremely fast paced compared to the first two-thirds of the book. Also the characters are pretty boring and uninteresting. I gave the first book 3.5 stars mostly for the last portion which had proton unfolding concepts from string theory.

The Dark Forest:

I was reluctant to pick up the second book and asked a friend who has read the series for advice. He said the scientific concepts of The Dark Forest were interesting and I then ended up buying the other two books in the series.

I am so glad I thought of giving the second book a chance, because it was mind-blowing. I gave The Dark Forest 4.5 5 stars and it is definitely one of the best science fiction books I have ever read. I discussed some of the ideas from the book with my husband for a long time. I googled and read some of these concepts online as they were mind boggling and scary as well to some extent.

So what made this book my favorite?

I love books which make me think. I don’t read books just for entertainment, which is why I don’t read light chick-lit or romance books. I can get much more entertainment with less effort by watching TV. I read books because they educate me, open my eyes towards concepts and ideas that I had no idea existed. They give me alternate perspectives towards humans, events and the world. I love hard science fiction even more than any other genre because it is full of big ideas. This is a hard science fiction novel that talks about humanity and future of humanity as a whole. There are so many cool concepts and ideas that we would have never even thought of. At the core, it is an alien first contact story but there is so much more to it than just that.

Characters are pretty boring and the writing isn’t great either since it has been translated. There were some boring sections about a romance which you can safely skip and even forget that they were there. These sections could have been edited out. A lot of people seem to be giving this book less ratings because of these reasons. But characters and writing shouldn’t even matter here. Not in this novel which is all about concepts and ideas. How these ideas are conveyed isn’t as important as the ideas themselves. The author envisions humanity’s future in a very believable manner.

The main character Luo Ji is a selfish person who always thinks about his own comforts as opposed to what is happening in the world. I was initially furious with this character’s behavior and found the whole plot line to be misogynist to some extent. But after finishing the book, I took a step back and saw what happened in the entire book and found his actions to be more realistic. When you have limited time left and you know you are fighting a lost cause, you always try to make the most out of the time that you are left with. It is just basic human nature. Nobody wants to fight for a lost cause. I was pleasantly surprised by his role after he revealed his ideas later in the book.

I loved the book from beginning to end. It reminded me a lot of Foundation series by Isaac Asimov and in some parts, resembled Arthur C Clarke’s novels. I read it slowly, rereading some passages. At no point during this novel did I feel like putting it down like I felt with the first book. I was curious to know what humans were going to do and to see how everything was going to end. That curiosity kept me turning pages even when writing was bad. I am not sure what the premise of the third book is going to be. This book ends on a very happy note so I am now even more curious to see what’s in store for humanity in the next book.

Spoilers:

Some cool concepts that I loved reading in this book –

  1. I am still unsure how proton unfolding to higher dimensions and sophons exactly work. I am planning to reread the last section of the first book and do some research to understand how they work.
  2. Escapism and defeatism were interesting to read about.
  3. “Inequality of survival is the worst sort of inequality” – completely agree with this.
  4. “The question of who goes and who stays behind.” It is so difficult to decide that.
  5. “Techno-triumphalism and the ‘weapons decide everything’ theory” – a discussion on why these result in defeatism.
  6. Wallfacer project and Wallbreakers for each Wallfacer. Wallfacers and their ideas.
  7. Tyler’s ideas about technological progress. “Advantages of a large country were only truly advantageous in low-technology eras and would untimately be weakened by the swift pace of technological progress”. One of the central ideas of this book.
  8. How human civilization has five thousand years of history but modern technological civilization is just two hundred. It’s hard to believe how much advancement has happened in just last 200 years.
  9. Another interesting fact that I never knew. Biological evolution requires at least 20,000 years to manifest itself (according to the author) so the study of modern science is being done by the brain of primitive man. So cool!
  10. “Annihilation. That’s the highest respect a civilization can receive. They would only feel threatened by a civilization they truly respect.”
  11. Genetic weapon – genetic guided missile
  12. Space elevators, controlled fusion technology
  13. Meteorite bullets
  14. Resolving Imager and mental seal, the imprinted
  15. Nuclear stars using hydrogen bombs
  16. Humans living underground in trees in the future
  17. Wireless power supply, everything powered by microwaves in the future
  18. Display screens everywhere in the future. Everything is a computer. I feel this is really going to happen in the future.
  19. Flying cars in the future
  20. Trisolarian probe which was unlike anything I had expected
  21. Large-scale food production using genetic engineering
  22. Deep-sea state for Ahead Four throttle on spaceships
  23. Dust cloud from fog umbrella project using oil film from Neptune’s rings
  24. Humanity’s (over)confidence that they will win the war against Trisolarians and Project Sunshine about providing shelter to the defeated aliens
  25. Battle of Darkness
  26. Chains of suspicion and the technological explosion – the two important concepts on which the Dark Forest theory is based on.
  27. And the ultimate concept – blocking the sun with dust clouds to send an interstellar message
  28. I think it is not a good idea for us to send signals out in the space. Stephen Hawking had warned that we should not try to contact aliens.
  29. The Dark Forest and Fermi paradox. Watch this youtube video if you want to learn more –

Now on to the third book in the series. They have announced a fourth book recently.

5 thoughts on “The Dark Forest – Book Review

Add yours

  1. Ooh! That was fast! I haven’t even started blogging about the book! Lovely review, and agree with you on all the points. Only thing is I preferred The Three Body Problem to this book.

    Like

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