Today I’ll continue with my look at the second book in the Remembrance of Earth Chinese science fiction series by Cixin Liu, which was translated into English as The Dark Forest (刘慈欣的”地球往事:黑暗森林). The second part of book two is only about 100 pages and is titled “Incantation” or “Curse.” We’ll see which it is when we get deeper into the story. Like part 1, this part is split into many sections only set off by a double space, but this time they have three headings referencing the year and the distance of the Three Bodies fleet from the solar system.
The first date given is Crisis Year 8 with the Three Bodies fleet 4.20 light years from the solar system. They have only moved 0.01 light year in the five years since part 1 took place, and most of this part of the book focuses on Wall Facer Luoji. The story kicks off with Wall Facer Frederick Taylor in an underground storehouse or repository where certain scientific projects are underway. He returns home, reflecting on how he has served as a Wall Facer for five years and is able to live like a “normal” person for the first time now. The Wall Facers attracted a lot of attention in the community since they have taken on the role of saviors of humanity, so the response has been bordering on worship. The Wall Facers are like some kind of science fiction hero. Luoji was the only one of the Wall Facers to live differently during that time. He maintained a low profile, living in seclusion, so no one knew where he was or what he was doing.
Taylor goes to visit another Wall Facer soon after this and finds their house on alert and heavily guarded. Guests must undergo strict security examinations. Once inside, someone startles Taylor by calling himself a Wall Breaker. In the next scene, Taylor gets out of a car and takes in the sunset landscape that looks like something out of a painting with its snowy mountains, forest and lake. This is where Luoji lives with his wife Zhuangyan and their daughter. The Wall Facers had not really cultivated a personal relationship with each other, and Taylor had only talked with Luoji before now on the phone. Zhuangyan greets him in strangely accented English and invites him for dinner, but he begs off, saying he only can stay a little while. Once she leaves with the child, Luoji comments on how upset Taylor looks and asks if he wants a drink or food. Taylor tells Luoji about his encounter with the Wall Breaker four days earlier.
The next scene picks up with a flashback using the a repetition of the same line Luoji said in response to this revelation, “So quickly?” That mirroring of the end of the first scene with the beginning of the next scene actually has a rather nice effect. In the flashback, Taylor is sitting with the Wall Breaker, who is very polite, and they discuss the war strategy for establishing an independent earth fleet and space weaponry development. The Wall Breaker thinks the earth force fleet will not stand a chance against Three Bodies and will be annihilated, which saps Taylor of all hope. The Wall Breaker also suggests that Taylor will also become a Wall Breaker once he realizes how strong the enemy is and how difficult it will be for the earth force to regain their strength.
Taylor seems despondent talking with Luoji about the Wall Breaker, even accusing himself of being the enemy of humanity and wanting to kill everyone with this weapon. He says Luoji should kill him. Later in the section, Luoji talks with his wife about being Wall Facer.
Next, we see the UN and the Planetary Defense Council having their 89th Wall Facer Project Hearing. Among the items on the agenda is the appearance of the first Wall Breaker and Wall Facer Frederick Taylor’s suicide! They also hear from two of the Wall Breakers, Bill Haynes and Manuer Leidiyazi (he speaks Spanish in this part of the book, so maybe his name is Manuel, but I still can’t figure out what the last name actually is), who give the main speeches. Bill Haynes speaks first about his own strategic plan researching brain science, while Leidiyazi introduces his own strategic plan on some sort of star type nuclear warhead mathematical model. They want to create a new leadership system for humanity, something that has never been seen before in human history. A few days after the meeting, they enter a top secret underground facility to enter hibernation.
Luoji has also entered a dream world. As he is sleeping and tossing in bed, he realizes Zhuangyan and their daughter are not there. He sees the words, “Beloved, we will wait for you on judgment day,” on a note that they left behind. He goes into the parlor, but no one is there. Sayi appears instead of his family, and he asks her where they are. She repeats they will wait for him on judgment day. He asks why. She explains it was a Planetary Defense Council resolution that the family be separated. Luoji accuses them of kidnapping and calls it criminal, but he isn’t allowed to look for them. He can only wait to be with them again on this “last day,” which is necessary due to the crisis time.
There is a suggestion that his daughter will hibernate when she is mature so she won’t be harmed by the hibernation process, but they will awaken after 400 years. Sayi reminds him of his role as a Wall Facer, their loss of Taylor and the emergence of the Wall Breaker. Humanity needs Luoji. She presents him with a scenario of the consequences for his wife and child if he doesn’t succeed in his role against Three Bodies, describing for him what the world will be like then. She refers to some evidence from the Hubble Two telescope, then warns him that Three Bodies wants him dead, though Luoji wonders why. Sayi suggests Mike Evans might have known the reason, but he’s also dead. Three Bodies has ordered a hit on Luoji, just like they had on Mike Evans.
In the next scene where we see Luoji, he is out walking around. It’s very cold and starts to snow. The lake has a layer of ice, and winter has become a season for Luoji to ponder his life. He misses his wife and child and flashes back to his earlier years. One of the main memories he examines is the comments Ye Wenjie made to him when she first suggested he study cosmic societies. Now, Ye Wenjie isn’t in the human world, but this seems to be some kind of secret. He also thinks Sayi is wrong that Three Bodies has ordered a hit on him because of his research, partly because she doesn’t know about Ye Wenjie’s discussion with him. He spends a number of days thinking about this discussion, even sleeping during the day and staying up to think at night.
Eventually, Luoji goes to the underground facility where Shi Qiang had taken him five years earlier, and he meets with Dr. Ringer about his observations of the Three Bodies fleet. At a PDC meeting which Luoji attends, international representatives discuss the possibility of cursing Three Bodies somehow as part of their war strategy experiment. They eventually hit the sun with electric waves, which penetrate the cloud layers and become amplified by them, bringing Luoji’s “curse.”
We do see in a single, brief segment that returns to the Three Bodies internet world that they are indeed planning to kill Luoji, but they think it won’t be easy compared to their successful hit on Mike Evans five years earlier. They just can’t see a way to successfully carry out their mission against Luoji at this time.
In another story thread, we see General Chang Weisi looking over a battle chart that shows the sun and solar system, which he discusses with Zhang Beihai among others. They discuss the ideology of defeatism again, too. In the past five years, the Planetary Defense Council and another organization haven’t made the expected technological strides, so they are concerned that they will never have the space war fleet that they had hoped.
In the other section of part 2 that follows these characters, Zhang Beihai admires the new space airplane called “The High Frontier,” comparing it with the “Tang” ship we were introduced to earlier. This section goes into a deeper comparison, and the text notes that the ship has only been around a little more than 5 years. He talks some with Chang Weisi about the war strategy and research plans. They, too, bring up this 400 year time frame that Sayi mentions to Luoji.
Another very brief storyline that only comes up rarely here is General Fa Ziluo with Dr. Ringer analyzing their photographs of the starry sky showing the Three Bodies world, which is in the middle of three stars and is very inconspicuous. Now it has been moving over the past five years, hitting an interstellar dust cloud that they call a snow field since it resembles snow. They observe it and discuss the distance it has moved versus how much further it needs to go to get to earth.
The second date given in part 2 is Crisis Year 12 with the Three Bodies fleet now 4.18 light years from the solar system. Most of this section follows the storyline of Zhang Beihai, that I’m not so interested in and will only very briefly touch on.
First, we see Dr. Ringer and Fei Ziluo watching the Three Bodies fleet through the Hubble 2 telescope. It is changing out of its “brush” formation into a different shape, and they discuss how it will accelerate over the next 9 years. They aren’t sure when it will arrive in their solar system but guess 50 years. They also talk a bit about god.
Then we return briefly to seventy-something Zhang Yuanchao and his elderly neighbors Yang Jinwen and Miao Fuquan who are watching TV. The broadcast is talking about the third space elevator, which had been constructed five years earlier and is based in the sea. Two other space elevators have been constructed at other locations. Zhang’s son Zhang Weiming and grandson Zhang Yan are also there, but the men tell them to stop trying to hold a conversation at the gathering and just watch TV. The men surmise that aliens will come to earth after they are all dead.
The rest of this section focuses on military man Zhang Beihai. It’s winter, and he goes to a site where there’s some sort of nuclear fusion experiment being conducted, someplace like a small geology museum with a meteorite storage center. They’ve been developing technology like the space elevators, space ships, and star weaponry that they want to have ready in the next century. After spending some time there, Zhang Beihai takes a car to the Space Military Bureau’s research division, where they have some sort of underground facility. There he prepares to go into space on the space elevator, which he takes in the next section.
There are some more minor details about the Three Bodies internet-based world, where they are still considering their problems with Luoji, but the text doesn’t linger on this aspect of the plot for very long.
The third subheading of part 2 gives the date of Crisis Year 20 with the Three Bodies fleet now 4.15 light years from the solar system. In this section, we see Leidiyazi and Haynes waking up from hibernation. Haynes meets his wife Keiko Yamasagi, who has also been in hibernation, and they talk awhile on a number of topics. They are working on research, and this whole section delves into philosophical and logical problems. Six topics are mentioned at one point with ideas like “Coal is Black” and “1 + 1 = 2”. They speak with a medical researcher about rabies and psychology, and one major section that even has a rare subheading discusses the weird topic of whether water is poisonous.
Then they hold some sort of meeting with international delegates, and they run through a long list of topics, mostly related to humanity’s loss of freedom and the upcoming space war. They are also concerned about what happened to Taylor.
Some sort of center that has recently opened has a statue of the goddess of freedom standing by its doors. The statue includes carved commentary about the Three Bodies War. Haynes and Keiko are in attendance in the center’s solemn hall shortly after its grand opening. The center displays information about space force members from each country. They meet Wu Yue from earlier and somehow get into a big discussion about theology. The words “God is Dead” even are boldfaced in the text. Six months later, Keiko returns to hibernation.
Leidiyazi and the PDC decide carry out a test on the planet Mercury, though the American delegate to the meeting objects, worrying this will be too distracting for a Wall Facer. The next section describes Mercury and the sun as well as how humanity is now exploring the solar system with the help of the three space elevators, including Mars and the satellites of Jupiter. Before Leidiyazi’s storyline is done, a Wall Breaker appears to have a talk with him, though. This part wraps up with more on the international delegates at the meeting where Leidiyazi speaks and his research on Mercury.
Part 2 of 3.