Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: The Dark Forest

Oh my god. What a car crash.
I really enjoyed The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin despite the plot being jumpy at times. As well as some of the very large leaps of faith you have to believe to like the book.Essentially, The Dark Forest was all the bad plot-holes in the first book coming home to roost. And then some. The author decided to add more ridiculous elements to the plot and subplots. They were too much for me. It took me so long to read the book because every 20 pages I got fucked off with something crazy happening. And of course, being a sequel, it was a lot longer than the first (the danger sign of all sequels).

And then there was the women. Or should I say, lack of women. There were basically three women in the book, all of them minor characters (so it completely fails the test). Ye Wenjie was an amazing character in the first book and we have no equivalent in this book. Instead we basically have a series of grumpy young and old men, who are largely interchangeable (they’re almost all military, or working with the military). You have a subplot which is old men discussing what is happening through the 200 year time span that story takes place. I think the entire point is to demonstrate what is happening to normal people, but as they mention a lot of that in passing, I don’t think this entire sub plot needed to exist.

Two of the women that were minor characters were interesting: one was head of the UN, the other a scientist. But the third was literally a manic pixie dream girl. And I mean in a literal sense. At one point, she is literally in the imagination of the main character but miraculously, she is found in real life. Like, WTF. And then if you had made Luo Ji less of a self-absorbed twat, you could have left out that subplot (I think). The ending of his story arc was also inconsistent, I think, with the arcs of all the other Wallfacers.

I think what really killed it for me was some of the central plot: the Wallfacer project. Because the sophons (the aliens observing all of humanity in real time) could see all of what humanity was doing, the UN decided that four people would be given tremendous powers but wouldn’t have to tell the UN or countries their ultimate aim. ALL THEIR ULTIMATE AIMS WERE RIDICULOUS. All the Wallbreakers (the humans who were operating on behalf of the sophons to discover the plan) WERE RIDICULOUS AND COULD HAVE NEVER FOUND OUT WHAT THEY DID.

I just fundamentally didn’t believe in the plot. I didn’t believe in the universe. I didn’t believe any of it. All the characters were either boring and interchangeable or absolutely ridiculous. There was no solid ground. There was nothing to tether you to a stable story arc that would tie it altogether in a way you could believe. Everything shifted all the time. Everything became more and more tenuous.

Basically, I’m not going to read the third. I can’t see how they can pull it back from the absurdness of this book. 0/5 stars for being too absurd and undermining what had been a great first book.

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