Book Review

Review: The Dark Forest (4/5 stars)

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.

On Goodreads

REVIEW: ALL THESE WORLDS (5/5 stars)

All These Worlds by  Dennis E. Taylor

I finished the book less then twelve hours after getting it (and about half of that time was working) It is quite good.

It does conclude all the major plot lines of the previous two books, the others, the Deltan’s, the Pav, the Brazilian probe, and the humans on the earth. It does this with grace and without feeling rushed. And of course it also does not resort to technology that resembles magic or similar easy outs.

The book explores further on the idea of clone divergence and how the various Bob’s will be spending eternity.

It would be interesting if the next book picks up a couple centuries down the line, to see how far the Bobs will have gotten and what they will be doing.

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REVIEW: A FALL OF MOON DUST (5/5 STARS)

A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

I normally review new books but I am making an exception for this classic by one of the grandmasters of science fiction himself, Sir Arthur C Clark.
I am doing this partly because the book is similar to both Passengers and in some ways to the Martian. Reading it, its amazing to think it was published in 1961, before Apollo was even on the drawing board. While there are a few things that show it’s age, the science is amazingly good overall.

One thing I very much like about it is that its a very human disaster story, in this way it reminds me of Passengers. There really are no bad guys, no earth shattering consequences of failure, just the lives of twenty-two people.
In the story the moon has a small but notable number of tourists every year. Its costly but affordable for thousands of people (I get the impression you need to have six figures income). One of the spots that tourists go is called the Sea of Thirst. The Sea of Thirst if a large set of interconnected craters that are full of dust. Dust that in most places of the moon is less then an inch thick, but in the sea it can be more then a hundred feet thick. This dust flows like water, and is as dense as rock.
The Selene is a craft the size of large bus that goes over the sea in a way similar to a jetski. They are several hours out when a large bubble of gas from below them erupts and causes the normally stable surface to open up and swallow them.

The book follows two main threads, first the people on the Selene. The tensions of the people are written realistically. The significant problem of how to stay keep everyone calm when you have a week of air left and nothing whatsoever you can do to help yourself.
The second thread centers on Chief Engineer of Earthside Lawrence. When he first has to find out what happened when the Selene went missing, then how to get them back. Remember that the dust may act like a liquid but it is still rock. The Selene can’t even transmit through it. Then how do you get to them and get them out?
There is even a much shorter third thread about a rather prickly astronomer who helps early on, and how it changes him.

This book is a good example of how science can help tell good stories, rather then hold them back by placing limits on what you can do. Many of the problems the Selene has are logical and predictable but so outside what anyone has dealt with that they fail to see the problem until almost too late.

If you like science fiction disaster stories you will like this book, or for that matter if you want a good hard science fiction.

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REVIEW: Earthcent series (4/5 stars)

 

Date Night on Union Station (EarthCent Ambassador #1)Date Night on Union Station by E.M. Foner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I originally read Date Night (First in the earthcent series) because I read a few good reviews and it was both short and cheap.
As of now there are 12 stories that are more long novellas then novels. I normally don’t go for stories of this length but for Earthcent it works.

Roughly two generations before the start of Date Night some very powerful AI’s saw that earth was on the brink of an economic collapse that could have taken centuries to recover from so they stepped up to make us a protectorate.
Earthcent is the diplomatic and quasi governmental arm that the AI’s created.

The stories are the opposite of what you expect. They are about the mostly normal problems that a growing list of characters have. It is sort of a slice of life with sci-fi problems, like how to attract alien businesses to earth (so we can be taught how to make some advanced tech) and how to deal with counterfeit earth exports. All this is done without violence. It is nice to see sci-fi stories which could not double as action movies. In place of the action, it has humor. And while not Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy it has made me laugh out loud more then once.

I will say though that there is a large cast of characters that grows with each story so its best to read them close together.

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