Review: Supernova Era

Supernova Era Supernova Era by Liu Cixin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I don't have a sense of how Cixin is judged within China, there's much about him that reminds me of Isaac Asimov in terms of thinking about big history--but he does it so much better than Asimov.  This book offers a fascinating glimpse into an Earth where a freak accident has lead to adults dying and children needing to steer human life on Earth.  While the adults were around, they did what they could do to prepare the youth but really couldn't anticipate all the ways it could go egregiously wrong.  After the demise of adults, children enter the Supernova Era (named for the supernova start that blasted radiation that had a catastrophic impact on adults), a time where they must figure out how to go forward.  What's fascinating about this tale is the ways it both reflects the worst and the best of humanity--evoking (and sometimes invoking) previous tales like Lord of the Flies but also showing that there are other possibilities.  In the end, the story is a fascinating thought experiment about how the future might be if we indeed tried to look at our problems through the eyes of children rather than adults. Yet, in that experiment, Cixin doesn't construct a naive or disingenuous narrative but one that feels compelling and insightful.  Where I think the book fails is in its limited scope and I say this knowing full well that I was spoiled by reading his Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy first. The book brings readers through the transition into and out of the Supernova Era but in doing so, it doesn't quench our thirst for wanting to know where this world goes next.

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