Thursday, October 1, 2020

Review of "The Redemption of Time: A Three-Body Problem Novel" by Baoshu


This is a fan fiction continuation of Cixin Liu's trilogy, Remembrance of Earth's Past, which includes the books: The Three-Body ProblemThe Dark Forest; and Death's End.

The book can be read as a standalone, but will make more sense to people familiar with the original stories.


In his prolog to this novel, the author Baoshu explains that he was one of many Chinese science fiction fans who ardently read and discussed Cixin Liu's trilogy. When Liu wrapped up his saga, many devotees were bereft, and continued the stories with fan fiction. Baoshu was lucky enough to have his book published, and this is it. 

Cixin Liu's original trilogy is EXTREMELY complex, but the basic premise is this:  alien beings called  Trisolarans - from the planet Trisolaris- learn of the existence of intelligent life on Earth. They then head for the little blue planet, determined to wipe humans out. Earthlings become aware of the danger and try to take countermeasures. Complicated maneuvers are undertaken by each side, and there's an epic struggle....and disaster. 

Baoshu picks up from there, with a narrative that consists almost entirely of beings talking to each other - so the book 'tells' rather than 'shows.' The lack of action robs the novel of excitement, which is a sharp contrast to the original trilogy, which was action packed. Moreover, Baoshu's 'plot' (such as it is) is murky and confused. Still, I found the book interesting from the point of view of catching up with a few of the original characters, and getting their take on what happened. 

As Baoshu's story opens, a human couple - Tianming and his wife AA - are the only two humans living on a remnant of matter configured to look something like Earth. The duo spend their days walking, talking, lounging, sleeping, etc. Tianming has a high-tech ring that lets him conjure up most anything he needs, so the couple's lives are fairly comfortable (if lonely). 

Tianming and AA share stories about themselves and discuss folktales popular in their culture. Over time, Tianming tells his wife about his tragic interaction with the Trisolarans. He explains that the Trisolarans captured his brain (it's a long story) and studied it for decades to discover how humans think. The aliens - who are incapable of lying - needed to learn how to be 'deceptive' so they could defeat humankind.

The Trisolarans weren't able to plumb the depths of human cogitation, so they tortured Tianming (with hallucinations and dreams) until he agreed to help them destroy Earth's inhabitants. Tianming tried to trick his captors, but one thing led to another and bad things happened. Cixin Liu didn't describe the Trisolarans in his trilogy, but Baoshu gives us a word picture of their appearance, which isn't impressive. 😏

After many decades in their Earth-like environment, Tianming and AA grow old.....and AA dies. Tianming then enters a mini-universe where a 'voice' - which calls itself the Spirit of the Master - explains a few things to him. 

The Spirit informs Tianming that there are two immensely powerful entities in the universe, namely the 'Master' (think female God) and the 'Lurker' (her rebellious son). The Spirit goes on to say that the universe originally had ten dimensions, but the Lurker's attacks reduced the number of dimensions one by one, which resulted in changes in the nature of time and alterations in the speed of light. The Lurker seems determined to reduce the universe to rubble (so to speak) for his own purposes.

The Master wants to destroy the Lurker so she can start the universe again from scratch. There's a great deal of pseudo-scientific chit chat to explain all this, and it's all a bit muddled. 

After the Spirit tells Tianming about the Master and the Lurker, she asks him to become a 'Seeker' - a being that searches for the Lurker so the Master can destroy him. To accomplish this, Tianming's mind is filled with 'ideabstractions' (knowledge) and he's given an indestructible brawny, athletic body. Tianming then goes off to look for other Seekers, in hopes they can join forces to locate the Lurker.

Tianming's quest spans billions of years, during which the Lurker's minions are busy destroying intelligent life in the universe.

As things play out, there's a great deal of trickery and deception - and things aren't always as they seem. After the book's climax, the author has some fun with 'alternative history', and this part is rather entertaining. 

In addition to talking about the 'science of the universe', entities in the book often discuss myths, songs, and fairy tales popular in their culture. These, it turns out, pass vital information down through the generations.....which is an interesting idea.

I applaud Baoshu for the effort he put into writing this narrative, but - in the end - it lacks Cixin Liu's soaring imagination and inventiveness. In addition, it's confusing and hard to comprehend. Still, the book might fill a hole for some readers. 

TThanks to Netgalley, Baoshu, and Head of Zeus publishers for a copy of the book.

Rating: 3 stars

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