I’m going to quickly wrap up my summary of 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 first few sections of this part are very long, each running 30 pages or so.
The first section begins with a description of darkness and Luoji awakening from hibernation. A supervising doctor welcomes him to this new era and tells him his illness was cured during his hibernation phase. Luoji has been in hibernation for 185 years. He is now in a special room where people are brought to wake up from hibernation, and there’s an extended description of the doctors and nurses as well as a big discussion about old and new Chinese and English languages, which is ongoing at intervals throughout the next few segments.
One of the other young men in the room with Luoji asks to speak with the Three Bodies world. Apparently, there has been a war where both sides suffered a great number of casualties, and Three Bodies has or will have a probe coming for earth. They discuss the Wall Facers’ plan, though Luoji doesn’t appear to be recognized as part of the Wall Facers here.
The nurse brings him food, and someone mentions his star cursing 200 years before. Luoji goes back to sleep for a little bit and dreams of Zhuangyan and their daughter in the snow. After he wakes again, he talks with the nurse about the world in this time. The cities are mostly all underground, and he gets an update on the space fleet. They’re still trying to bridge the language barrier since Luoji is from so far in the past.
Next, he finds himself in a meeting hall, and the text goes into a big explanation about the political changes in the world over the past 200 years. Europe has become one country, while Canada has split into two countries, for example. The space fleets are not governed by any of the remaining countries but are politically and economically independent. However, there are three fleets: an Asian, European and a North American fleet. The current meeting is being held to discuss the Three Bodies’ and humanity’s space fleets as well as the Wall Facers.
Wall Facer Haynes and his wife Keiko are there to talk with Luoji. They review some past plans and issues with the other Wall Facers before they decide to move on briefly to Haynes’ special plan. Luoji asks about his wife and child at one point and is told they are doing well in hibernation. He also wonders about his safety since there was a plan that the ETO would kill him.
At this point, Shi Qiang appears, and they turn their attention to how 200 years of hibernation compares with their 5 year hibernation period as well as how they are now wearing 200 year old clothes. Weirdly, someone brings up that Keiko isn’t a Wall Facer like her husband, but she declares that she is her husband Bill Haynes’ Wall Breaker! The various regional fleet representatives are in attendance at the meeting and speak about her declaration, which Haynes confirms is true.
In the next really long segment, Luoji goes with Shi Qiang into one of the underground cities, and there is an extended description of the new society they have woken up to. At one point, Luoji is aware that a beautiful woman is calling him, and he notices she’s wearing a uniform. She’s some sort of bank consultant, and he asks Shi Qiang how she knew he was coming. Shi Qiang explains that he has had a chip implanted in him that is somehow traced through ads. The woman from the bank says that this chip helps her provide a banking system financial service. Shi Qiang jokes that Luoji is rich now after getting 200 years of interest on his bank deposits.
This section also delves into the ways in which technology has changed in the last 200 years. Another encounter with a modern citizen has them off on a tangent again about how policeman Shi Qiang is a cop who speaks in an old Chinese dialect. After leaving the police box, Da Shi decides they need to get to their new homes, but they stop off at a restaurant first. Shi Qiang reveals to Luoji he has a son who is still alive that he intends to go see the next day. The son was in jail a long time before going into hibernation, and he sought out Shi Qiang.
While the men talk, their restaurant server, a beautiful woman who is a robot, attempts to assassinate them with a dinner knife. Someone objects to their accusation, but an engineer tells them the robot’s actions might be due to faulty software. Someone else brings them their meal. They get caught up in a conversation about leaves from a garden as they move into another room and sit on a sofa. In this room, they check out a box of drugs called “dream river,” which Shi Qiang is interested in. A doctor in a white coat is there to explain that the drug is prescription only and is used by the hibernation center. The men are quite interested in this, but the drug is typically only used for short-term hibernation lasting ten days to a year. The doctor warns them that it’s suicide to use it even if they would die comfortably.
Among the other things that happen in this long scene is a discussion about internet virus killer 5.2 which spread from Three Bodies in the first century of the crisis era. Somehow this killer virus is able to control hardware and cause a lot of murders, including the murder of the nation’s head of state. Some call it a modern curse. This also is related to the Earth Three Bodies Organization’s software, too. However, the situation is difficult anyway for the men who just woke from hibernation since it’s difficult for them to adapt to the big changes that have taken place in the world while they were asleep.
The story then jumps to Zhang Beihai, who also has recently awoken from hibernation and is now staying with the Asian space fleet orbiting Jupiter. He has only been awake six days and was woken up for some specific purpose. As in nearly every part of the story now, everyone struggles to communicate between the modern and old versions of Chinese and English, and no one can understand that well. Zhang Beihai is looking out the window at a starfield, and he’s aware of how dangerous the situation is getting since the Three Bodies’ Probe is already closing in on the solar system. This section also goes into great detail about how the fleet is divided.
The next scene continues with Zhang Beihai’s storyline, which pops up less frequently between Luoji’s storyline, but it develops along parallel lines, showing him talking with another fleet member, a young woman named Dong Fangyan, about his family who died in the first crisis era century. Clearly, Luoji had reason to be concerned for his wife and daughter, because it wasn’t typical for whole families to go into hibernation but were typically split by the time gap between those hibernating and those living out their natural lifespans. Much of the discussion in this storyline refers to “natural selection (自然选择),” which is mentioned continually.
The scene with Luoji and Shi Qiang that comes between the scenes with Zhang Beihai also gets into this lost family history as Shi Qiang meets his forty-something son who also went into hibernation for some reason when the rest of the family died much earlier. His son, Shi Qiaoming, lives with his wife who also went into hibernation and was cured of a serious illness while sleeping, and his 4-year-old son with her.
Another major storyline in this section involves the Ringer-Fei Ziluo Telescope Control Center, which is monitoring the Three Bodies’ Probe as it enters the solar system’s airspace. However, the probe is put out of commission. Sections relating to this storyline get into the telescope’s astronomical observations.
Luoji wakes out of a dream at one point, realizing he hasn’t paid much attention to the news on TV but has been spending a lot of time thinking about his wife and daughter, who were being prepared according to government procedure to come out of hibernation in two months’ time. Luoji watches a report on the news about the Ringer-Fei Ziluo telescope on the Three Bodies Fleet’s progress though space. It’s brush formation does not indicate it’s the probe but is the fleet’s warship, which has already been observed for two centuries. Shi Qiaoming is watching the broadcast with him and comments on it. They consider the UN plan was for humanity to live in the defeated Three Bodies civilization after the war. A new news item comes on announcing that the combined fleet has set off from the Jupiter base. The scene ends with Bill Haynes finding him and telling him his wife Keiko has committed suicide!
The story continues along in this vein, and I’m going to skip most of those details and get to the ending. By the end of this volume, Luoji is reunited with his wife and child. A very short section of this part of the book shifts to Crisis Year 208, and the basicically two brief segments cover Luoji as he speaks with the Three Bodies about humanity, and by the ending scene five years later, we see Luoji and his wife and child still interacting with Three Bodies. It seems to be a much more philosophical ending with a lot of focus on Luoji’s nameless daughter who is just called the child and the sun, unlike volume 1 which I thought had a very dramatic, troubling ending.
Next year, we’ll finish the third book in the trilogy, Death’s End.
Part 3 of 3.
Next time: we return to Japan with Ryukishi Zeronana’s When the Cicadas Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Volume 2!