The reason that I didn’t really want to sign myself up to read a minimum number of books in 2018 –even though I’m kinda aiming for 20 — is that I knew exactly this sort of thing would happen. I’d pick my first novel, I’d really get into it, but it would turn into this long, epic read that I didn’t want to rush, couldn’t rush because it was so densely packed with ideas, and then suddenly it would be almost February and I’d still be writing…
Brad’s Book Club 2018 (Book: 1 / 20)
The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu
To recap, my first novel of the year is an English translation of a Chinese novel by Cixin Liu called The Dark Forest. It is the second book in a trilogy that reminded me stylistically and tonally of Asimov’s Foundation series.
I highlight this aspect because while the book was not completely devoid of action, for the most part it was contained to a kinda of analytical reporting of how events played out strategically for the characters. The book spanned over two hundred years, and in that time we follow the meticulous, secretive plans of a select chosen few “Wallfacers” who have been tasked by humanity to play a game of (not literally) intergalactic chess with a superior opponent, an opponent who humanity cannot outdo technologically, an opponent who has instant access to espionage across the stars even as it’s fleet pushes towards Earth. The only hope is to out think them… literally. As they aliens cannot read our minds, a single person must orchestrate a defense plan by manipulating government and military resources towards a secret goal without ever revealing the goal.
I finished reading the novel and found that the ending both caught me off guard and was satisfying in the same sort of way that a mystery book is satisfying after you find out who the killer was and the evidence suddenly comes into focus… which is why I compare it to Asimov’s Foundation: an intergalactic game of strategic politics played across centuries.
The translation was a little rigid in parts, and the dialog had an uncanny valley-ness to it that may be a cultural thing or it may be a translation thing. But this second in the trilogy was a solid piece of storytelling that is worth your time and likely destined for a place among the classics of science fiction.
For book 2? I’m still deciding but I think I may be in the mood for something a little less science fictiony.