BOOK REVIEW: The Redemption of Time, by Baoshu

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Translator: Ken Liu

Publisher: Head of Zeus

Genre: Space Opera

Series: Remembrance of Earth’s Past (4)

Pages: 339

Publication Date: 16/07/2019 (this translation)

Rating: 4/5

 

When Earth sent the brain of Yun Tianming into space, they had no idea what the result would be. Tortured and brutalised by the Trisolarans, Yun Tianming eventually found peace in a remote corner of the universe. But now he finds himself recruited into a new war, one that has as its stakes nothing less than the totality of creation . . .

I don’t read fan fiction. There are two reasons for this. The first being that I prefer a single, cohesive vision of characters. While a good story is a good story regardless of any attempt at canon, I’d rather stories that came from the original source. Even the sprawling Star Wars Expanded Universe had a team working behind the scenes to make sure it stayed true to some kind of creative vision. The second reason is a more practical one. I only read physical books, not webseries or even ebooks, and very few fan fiction works make it to print. None of this is to say there is anything wrong with fan fiction, it’s just not for me. yet here I am, about to review a book that is absolutely a piece of fan fiction. Why? because it is in print. Because it has the same translator as (most of) the series that inspired it. because it is printed by the same publisher with the blessing of the original author. That alone is enough to get my attention. The fact that it’s an expansion of possibly the best SF series this side of the millennium is all it takes to persuade me that reading¬†The Redemption of Time is worth the investment.

The Redemption of Time begins with two people sitting in an artificial bubble reality, long after our solar system was rendered two-dimensional by an attack from unknown forces. That’s a strong opener by any means, and Baoshu’s work is just as mind-bogglingly inventive as the series that spawned it. It’s a work of dazzling imagination, with alien races, pre-time entities and post-humans all waging war on an impossible scale. The opening act is a flashback to the events of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, serving largely to chronicle Yun Tianming’s role in those events. It also provides an insight into the world(s) of the Trisolarans, including a first look at their physical appearance. This is undoubtedly the strongest part of the novel, and with Ken Liu back at translation duty, it’s difficult to imagine is was not written by Cixin Liu himself.

Unfortunately, the rest of the novel is not quite as strong. The second two acts take the action across multiple universes, taking on a more mythic nature than the series already had. At points it becomes not so much science fiction as an epic fantasy set in space. Yet there remains a scientific underpinning. As with Liu’s novels beforehand, the science escapes me, but it remains enthralling throughout. However, the plot soon escaped me, and by the end of the novel I confess I was no longer entirely sure what I was reading. Perhaps there is some aspect lost in translation, some cultural reference that would explain the whole affair, but if so it eluded me. The coda takes us along a rapid-fire exploration of the fates of various characters, even tying in Ball Lightning, and it’s a satisfying if unusual ending to the book.

A last hurrah for one of the greatest SF series I’ve ever read, even if it never quite equals the original works.

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