Death’s End, by Cixin Liu: Mindblowing scope

The final book in the Three Body Trilogy does not disappoint. Once again my mind is reeling from the barrage of amazing ideas and concepts that blasted me one after the other after the other as I listened to this book.

I don’t even know where to begin. If you’ve read the first two,  you might wonder how much bigger the ideas could get. Well, they get bigger. The end of the book left me stunned, sitting and thinking about it for quite some time. Yes I’m being vague, because you just have to read it to see.

I’m not even going to go over the plot, or the characters because they don’t matter. That might sound strange, but they really don’t that much. The focus is on all the mind-boggling stuff that happens. There were times when I thought ‘but what is the character feeling about all this? How does it affect them?’ but you know what? If he spent time to describe all that in detail, that would be one less eye-widening idea that would fit into the book.

The only disappointment for me was not ever getting to see what the Tri-Solarans looked like. We learned a lot about them, but no human character ever saw one face to face. It seemed that after dealing with them for the past two books, we should have got at least a glimpse.

Other than that, this was a very satisfying end to a very enjoyable series, and I look forward to the next book of Mr. Liu’s to be translated to English.


Inside Out: unsettling, sad, and damn good

It’s been a long while since I watched a kids movie, and it seems they’ve improved quite a bit during that time. Not only was the animation amazing and lovely to look at, but the ideas were thought provoking, interesting, and somewhat unsettling, even for me seeing it as an adult.

The story follows Riley, an 11 year old girl who recently moved from Minnesota to San Francisco, but the story focuses on the points of view of various characters representing emotions in her head. Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust and Sadness (strange that only one of them is a positive emotion) all work together in order to try to get Riley through each day.

The story focuses a lot on memories, and the creation of memories and how important they are, especially during childhood. Memories at that time of life really shape you and stick with you for the rest of your days. In the movie, certain ‘core memories’ create ‘islands’ in Riley’s mind, that are her personality traits. Later in the movie, as Riley becomes depressed about the move, we watch those islands crumble and crash into the ‘Memory Dump’, an abyss of forgetfulness. It’s really sad, and poignant, and true, how at such a young age, events that seem inconsequential to an adult can have huge effects on who  a young person is.

Eventually some of the characters fall into the Memory Dump, and down there are endless dunes of memories (usually characterized as glowing orbs, the ones in the memory dump are dim and grey). The characters pick up some of the memories to look at them–happy, childhood memories that decay to dust in their hands. Another sad moment of the film, and one that gave me an unsettling feeling, wondering what memories I’ve lost over time. Mountains and heaps of them to be sure.

Throughout the movie, Joy is constantly trying to keep Sadness from touching any of the memories, because when she does, she turns them sad. But at the end of the movie, not everything is happy. Riley’s core memories are tinted with sadness, because, that’s how life is. Things change and good memories become flavored with melancholy, and the movie seems to say that it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to cry and miss home and be unhappy sometimes. No one can be happy all the time. It’s part of growing up, it seems, to have your life upturned and messed up, and things you love tainted or taken away from you.

Anyway, I found this movie very insightful, interesting, and touching–for any movie, not just a kids movie. And I recommend it to anyone with feelings.

Imagine no possessions…

Ursula K. Le Guin did, in The Dispossessed, which I just finished listening to.

This book was described to me as the anti Atlas Shrugged, which made me instantly buy it without hearing anything else. It holds up to this description by being of reasonable length, by having realistic, likable characters, and by describing ideas from opposing viewpoints in a way that is not a ridiculously transparent straw-man.

Also the protagonists are anarchist/socialist/communists(? )

The Dispossessed does not look at the world with the child-like, black and white simplicity of Atlas Shrugged. Each society described in the story has its own problems and downsides, because people have problems, no matter what type of society they live in.

This novel gives you an outsider’s look at the capitalist world you take for granted. Even things as basic as the idea of ownership itself are called into question. It was quite a thoughtful experience, listening to this book, and made me wish there was a way to try out an Anarresti society here on Earth.

Though not much exciting happened, the book was terribly interesting for the worlds it described and the alternate view of society and other ways of life.



Pre-ordering a book?

I just pre-ordered Death’s End by Cixin Liu on audible. I can’t remember the last time I was so excited for a book, and I have never pre-ordered a book before!

It seems I’m always finding a series years after it’s been completed. But this one has made me wait painfully long for the conclusion, and I am chewing my nails waiting for it to finally get here on the 20th!

What I love so much about this series is the endless flow of ideas. Maybe the characters are thin, but damn does it make you think. Every chapter has some amazing new concept I’ve never even considered, and I love that feeling of having a new thought, of making a discovery. It’s quite an addicting feeling, and it’s been a long time since any book has given me the fix that these books have.

Just thinking about it is making me jones for that feeling… soon, soon!

The endless slog through the morass of procrastination

I have reached 20,000 words on the novella I’ve been writing since November of last year. Yeah, that’s like, 2000 words per month. But despite the inchworm-like pace I’ve been maintaining on it, I still feel like reaching this milestone deserves some kind of cheering.


If I keep up at this pace it won’t be done for probably another year, and that’s not even including the journey through the circles of hell that are rewriting, editing, editing, complaining to the editor about the edits, more edits, and finally formatting, losing the document, and formatting again.

So, how to step on the gas? How to focus on this thing above other shiny new things and just get it damn well finished?

Part of the problem is that I don’t think about the story enough. It’s got to be swimming around in my head constantly–bubbling, boiling–new ideas floating to the surface like bodies breaking away from their cinder blocks. I find that whenever I’ve been stuck or unmotivated for a while, taking a walk and really focusing on what I’m trying to do will knock stuff loose. It’s getting in the habit of doing it that’s the hard part.

If I spend more time thinking about it, the drive to write it will come. Even 1000 words a week would double the pace I’ve been keeping. God, that is depressing to type right there. I should be able to do 1000 words a day, that’s like, half an hour of typing right?

Here’s my plan. I’m going to think about the story every day, for at least a few minutes. About the characters–what are they doing? What are they feeling, thinking, eating, dreaming? About the world, the plot, and what’s to come. About what I’ve already done and what it might foreshadow or how I could use it or twist it to my needs. If I can keep stirring the pot of ideas in my head instead of hopping over to new, unrelated plans all the time, I hopefully won’t be able to keep from writing it. And if I can just keep typing words, a little each day, I might be able to finish this thing in like… five months.

Okay, that’s a worst case. But the worst case is now half what it used to be! Right? Right.

Anyway, thinking is important! I’m going to do more of it.




I just finished the Xenogenesis Trilogy by Octavia E. Butler, and am somewhat shocked that I’ve not heard of her before now. After reaching the last page and hearing the narrator say ‘first published in 1989’ I was even more startled. How have I gone most of my life without hearing about this series or author, and could some part of it be because she’s a she?

The story centers on a woman, Lilith, who wakes one day to find herself captive on an alien ship. We soon come to learn that the Earth has been mostly destroyed by a nuclear war. Aliens arrived some time afterward, and took what remaining humans they could find aboard their ship.

This is not your regular alien invasion story. The aliens are traders, but what they trade in are not material goods, but instead, genes. Every species they meet, they take a piece of to add to themselves in some way, adapting and changing themselves, then moving on.

There is much more to it than this, of course. The idea is very in depth and well thought out and intriguing. The one thing that continuously stood out to me though, was the lack of constant ‘fight, kill, destroy, win’ that is in so much sci-fi these days. Instead, in this series anyone who tries to solve a problem with violence is looked down on, and treated like one might treat a child throwing a fit. Those who resist and fight instead of compromise and adapt are portrayed as weak and foolish. I found it quite refreshing.

The series as a whole had a lot to say about the human condition, and how it handicaps us with a tendency to destroy ourselves. Our hierarchical ways combined with our intelligence, the books argue, are an inescapable disease waiting to kill us. The only cure is to change, genetically, in a way that most of the characters saw as losing their humanity.

In the end, there was no burst of violence to fight back and stay human, there was no brilliant solution that someone discovered and rushed to save the day. There was only a slow, peaceful acclimation and adaption to the new way of things.

I’ve never read a story quite like this, and it makes me wonder if the ever-prevalent ‘fight for what you believe in and never change or stop and somehow you’ll win’ is a male thing, and maybe I need to read more woman sci-fi writers. It seems in most adventure stories, the hero is glorified for never changing their opinion, never even considering any other ideas than what they began the story believing, and always holding true to their ideals, even to the death. Compromise is never smiled on, adaption and change is never given the credit it deserves, and is instead seen as a weakness. I never thought much of this before and took it kind of for granted. Now I bet it will irritate me in future novels I read.

I highly recommend this series, and look forward to reading more of Butler’s work.

Planets… Everywhere!

NASA just announced the discovery of over 1200 new planets, doubling the number of confirmed exo-planets. This number, I’m sure, will continue to grow at an exponential rate as our technology improves, until counting planets in exact numbers becomes as pointless as trying to count the exact number of stars.

It’s looking more likely every year that we’ll find evidence of extra terrestrial life in my lifetime, and I can’t wait! Intelligent life.. maybe not, but I am so excited to see how a whole other environment would evolve life differently, even at the single-cell level.

When writing, I try to think of strange worlds and life very different from our kind of life, but all we have for a reference point is ourselves and the world we know, so any imaginings are going to be influenced by that. Until we see other life for the first time, we won’t really know what to think. A completely alien ecology will likely be something totally unimagined.

Will life even still follow the basic rules of evolution? We just don’t know. We can say that we know how life evolves, and we can imagine what kind of life would evolve in different environments, but does all life evolve the same way? Follow the same rules? It’s really hard to make any judgments based on a sample size of 1.

So let’s hurry up and find some alien life already! Sci fi writers everywhere will be extremely grateful.