I finally got around to reading The Dark Forest, the sequel to The Three Body Problem.
Before I go on I will say that I am going to be spoiling the hell out of The Three Body Problem and will be give some light spoilers of The Dark Forest (only the very start of the book though).
The Three Body Problem was set in the current day, or at most in a few years in the future. It very much resembles exploration sci-fi, or a good mystery. You get hints about what is going on, and the truth is revealed only slowly.
The Dark Forest is different, it is set first in the near future, then a little bit in the future then centuries from now. We see the results, both social and technological, of what happened at the end of the last book.
I feel the best science fiction is defined by the problems it presents. In The Dark Forest we have a society that has almost all of its scientific progress blocked, we can make things bigger and more efficient but can’t make any real basic advances thanks to the sophons. We know that an alien invasion is about four hundred years away, they have a fleet of a thousand ships and are much more advanced then we are or can become.
The central problem is that again thanks to the sophons we can’t have any secrecy, they can literaly see anywhere and can decode anything we can encrypt. Our only advantage is that we can use deception, they can’t (they read each other minds, so keeping secrets is just not in their nature). But how to use that advantage? The U.N.’s answer is the wallfacer project.
The wallfacer project uses the one place we CAN still keep secrets, the human mind. They give four people almost unlimited power and authority, and immunity to all laws. They are then asked to come up with a way to win the war, the only restriction that they can’t tell anyone.
I won’t go into more detail, you really should read it yourself, but I will say that Cixin very much does not neglect the social aspect. What kids of stresses we would be put under, what that would do to us as a people ect.
In some ways it resembles older scifi that explores consequences more and uses action less.