My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Death’s End: Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #3 (2010 in China & 2016 for Ken Liu’s English translation) by Cixin Liu is the final book in the trilogy beginning with The Three Body–Problem & its sequel The Dark Forest.
Death’s End (a book within a book) is told by its principal character Cheng Xin, who wrote a book (called “A Past Outside of Time”) to become an artifact holding her story, which lasts millions of years (yes, millions of years), and to tell the story of how humanity and its Solar System finally came to an end by an interstellar attack which caused the star system to fold into two dimensional space.
Photos taken in Beijing, China
The Preface to Cheng Xin’s book (which also acts as a preface to Death’s End) provides clues as to what will happen to Cheng Xin in the final chapters of her story. Also, there can be no doubt that the author, Liu Cixin, wrote the “preface” last after completing the story because it is less than one page long and connects mainly to the last twenty pages of the book.
Photos taken in Beijing, China
Prior to Part 1 (there are a total of six parts in the 604-page book), the Preface begins:
“I suppose this ought to be called history; but since all I can rely on is my memory, it lacks the rigor of history” (p 11).
CG FEWSTON reading Death‘s End in Beijing, China
This line makes sense when connected to other lines found when Cheng Xin has decided to live with Guan Yifan, “a civilian astronomer” (p 548) who once flew on the spaceship known as Gravity from the preceding book called The Dark Forest.
Cheng Xin and Guan Yifan choose to live inside a constructed portal or “time vacuum” (p 582) called Universe 647, which was built by the Trisolarans (first introduced in The Three–Body Problem) because Universe 647 does not contain time and will allow them to live until the death of the universe. Therefore, by living inside Universe 647 Cheng Xin, Guan Yifan and Sophon (a Trisolaran AI robot) may escape the collapse of the old Universe and survive to see the new Universe born and established.
The “history” Cheng Xin mentions in the Preface becomes clear when the following lines are read:
“Time flowed by day after day like the smooth, placid water in that little brook. Cheng Xin began to write her memoir so that she could record the history she knew. She named the book A Past Outside of Time” (p 590).
Photo taken in Hong Kong on top of Noah’s Ark (Resort)
The “little brook” is found inside Universe 647, which is an endless loop containing a “pastoral scene,” an “unplanted field with black soil,” and “an exquisite white house” (p 582) where the two could live until the birth of the new Universe, which would take billions of years outside Universe 647 but would only take ten years inside the time vacuum.
Photo taken in Hong Kong on top of Noah’s Ark (Resort)
In the Preface, Cheng Xin also explains:
“It’s not even accurate to call it the past, for the events related in these pages didn’t occur in the past. The details that have been preserved are already abundant. Sealed in floating bottles, they will hopefully reach the new universe and endure there” (p 11).
Photos taken in Hong Kong at Noah’s Ark (Resort)
The “floating bottles” and the “new universe” are vague references which will later connect the reader to the end of the book.
Page 601: “Sophon held a metal box. This box would be left behind in the mini-universe, a message in a bottle for the new universe that would be born after the next big bang. The box contained a miniature computer whose quantum memory held all the information in the mini-universe’s computer—this was practically the entire memory of the Trisolaran and Earth civilizations.”
Photo taken in the Clubhouse at Discovery Bay, Hong Kong
Yes, by the end of the book humanity and the Trisolarans have all but become extinct with but a few survivors from each race scattered across a universe, millions and millions of years in the future, which is slowly dying. The death of the old Universe, however, will cause the “next big bang” thereby creating the “new universe” mentioned in the Preface.
The reference to the dying Universe can also be understood in the following line found in the Preface:
“I regret that day didn’t exist in the past, doesn’t exist in the present, and will not exist in the future” (p 11).
Cheng Xin can write this line because she knows once the old Universe is dead the Past, Present, and Future that all of humanity has ever known will no longer exist inside the new Universe.
Photo taken in Shenzhen, China
In addition to the “floating bottles” and the “new universe” the Preface offers a strange illusion which can be baffling (intentionally made so by the author, Cixin Liu) if not properly put into the context of the story’s end.
In the Preface, Cheng Xin states:
“I wave at the silhouette; the silhouette waves back. Looking at the shadow of myself, I feel young again. This is a lovely time, just right for remembering” (p 11).
What could Cheng Xin possibly mean by this?
The silhouette waving back is actually Cheng Xin seeing herself waving as time is being looped back upon itself instantaneously inside Universe 647 with its pastoral scene with farm and white house.
The reference to her waving is identical in nature to the actual scene when Cheng Xin and Guan Yifan first arrive to Universe 647 and he waves at the silhouettes without knowing it’s actually them:
“Under the blue sky, a pastoral scene slowly took shape. There was an unplanted field with black soil; next to it was an exquisite white house. There were also a few trees that brought a hint of the exotic with their broad, strangely shaped leaves. As the sun continued to brighten, the peaceful scene appeared like a welcoming embrace.
“‘There are people here!’ Guan Yifan pointed at the distance.
“They could see the backs of two figures standing on the horizon: a man and a woman. The man had just put down his uplifted arm.
“‘That’s us,’ said Cheng Xin.
“In front of those two figures, they could see a distant white house and trees, exact duplicates of the ones nearby. They couldn’t see what was at the feet of those figures due to the distance, but they could guess that it was another black field. At the end of the world was a duplicate of it, or maybe a projection.
“Duplicates or projections of the world existed all around them. They looked to their sides and saw the same scene repeated. The two of them also existed in those worlds, but all they could see were the backs of those figures, who turned their heads away as Cheng Xin and Yifan turned to look at them” (pgs 582-583).
CG FEWSTON reading Death‘s End
in Hong Kong at Noah’s Ark (Resort)
And as the Preface ends with Cheng Xin writing in her book, A Past Outside of Time, “This is a lovely time, just right for remembering” (p 11), so it is.
Now that the beginning of Death’s End has been explained feel free to explore the sweeping epic that is Death’s End, a true science fiction masterpiece that will take you on a journey that any reader could never imagine nor thought likely.
Death’s End is also a fitting close to a spectacular trilogy which saw the rise of Trisolarans in The Three–Body Problem, the Doomsday Battle and the Swordholder & Wallfacer in The Dark Forest, and much more that cannot be easily described in a few sentences.
What can be said, however, is that any fan of sci-fi will not be disappointed with the overall trilogy, although the three books (The Three–Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End) total approximately 1,300 pages, which does take a good deal of time and energy to complete.
Meanwhile, keep reading and thinking and smiling…
CG FEWSTON, an American novelist based in Hong Kong, is a member of Club Med, AWP, Americans for the Arts, and a professional member and advocate of the PEN American Center, advocating for the freedom of expression around the world.
His novel, A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN, won GOLD for Literary Classics’ 2015 best book in the category under “Special Interest” for “Gender Specific – Female Audience” and has been called a “cerebral, fast-paced thriller” by Kirkus Reviews, where it gained over 10,000 shares.
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN was also nominated for (& lost) the following 2016 book contests: the PEN/Faulkner Award, the John Gardner Fiction Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Hammett Prize, and the Pushcart Prize. Heartbreaking, lyrical and eloquent, this remarkable novel confirms CG FEWSTON’s place among America’s finest novelists.
CG FEWSTON has travelled the world visiting Mexico, the island of Guam, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Taipei & Beitou in Taiwan, Bali in Indonesia, and in China: Guilin, Shenzhen, Sanya on Hainan Island, Zhuhai and Beijing. He also enjoys studying and learning French, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin.
CG FEWSTON earned a B.A. in English & American Literature from HPU in Texas, an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership and Administration (honors) from JIU in Colorado, an M.A. in Literature (honors) from Stony Brook University in New York, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University, where he had the chance to work with wonderful and talented novelists like Richard Adams Carey (author of In the Evil Day, October 2015; and, The Philosopher Fish, 2006) and Jessica Anthony (author of Chopsticks, 2012; and, The Convalescent, 2010) as well as New York Times Best-Selling novelists Matt Bondurant (author of The Night Swimmer, 2012; and, The Wettest County in the World, 2009, made famous in the movie Lawless, 2012) and Wiley Cash (author of A Land More Kind Than Home, 2013; and, This Dark Road to Mercy, 2014). While at SNHU, CG FEWSTON also participated in writing workshops ran by Mark Sundeen, Ann Garvin, Jo Knowles, Diane Les Becquets, and Benjamin Nugent (all brave, enthusiastic and talented writers).
Over the years, CG FEWSTON has had the pleasure of listening to and meeting best-selling novelists and poets such as Chris Bohjalian, Ravi Shankar, Justin Hill, Xu Xi, Madeleine Thien, Andre Dubus III, and Bob Shacochis.
Among many others, CG FEWSTON’S stories, photographs and essays have appeared in Sediments Literary–Arts Journal, Bohemia, Ginosko Literary Journal, GNU Journal (“Hills Like Giant Elephants”), Polychrome Ink Literary Magazine, Tendril Literary Magazine, Prachya Review (“The One Who Had It All”), Driftwood Press, The Missing Slate Literary Magazine (“Darwin Mother”), Gravel Literary Journal, Foliate Oak Magazine, The Writer’s Drawer, Moonlit Road, Nature Writing, and Travelmag: The Independent Spirit; and for several years he was a contributor to Vietnam’s national premier English newspaper, Tuoi Tre, “The Youth Newspaper.”
You can read more about CG FEWSTON and his writing at
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN won GOLD for Literary Classics’ 2015 best book in the category under ”Special Interest” for “Gender Specific – Female Audience”…
Finalist in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Romantic Fiction…
Finalist in the 2015 Mystery & Mayhem Novel Writing Contest…
Praise for A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN:
FEWSTON “delivers an atmospheric and evocative thriller in which an American government secret agent must navigate fluid allegiances and murky principles in 1970s Tehran… A cerebral, fast-paced thriller.”
“A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a thrilling adventure which takes place in pre-revolutionary Tehran. Author CG FEWSTON provides a unique glimpse into this important historical city and its rich culture during a pivotal time in its storied past. This book is so much more than a love story. Skillfully paired with a suspenseful tale of espionage, A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a riveting study of humanity. Replete with turns & twists and a powerful finish, FEWSTON has intimately woven a tale which creates vivid pictures of the people and places in this extraordinary novel.”
CG FEWSTON‘s new novel,
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN, was published on April 2, 2015 —
10 years to the day of the publication
of his first novella, A FATHER’S SON (April 2, 2005)
“Thus one skilled at giving rise to the extraordinary
is as boundless as Heaven and Earth,
as inexhaustible as the Yellow River and the ocean.
Ending and beginning again,
like the sun and moon. Dying and then being born,
like the four seasons.”
found in Sources of Chinese Tradition, p 5
CG FEWSTON and AXTON