The Most Horrifying Science Fiction Series of All | The Three-Body Problem Series

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Recently I had the pleasure of reading what is likely the most terrifying science fiction book series I’ve ever read. I’ve always enjoyed scary stories. As a kid, I read anthologies like goosebumps or scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. But I didn’t know true fear until I encountered the works of Stephen King, and H.P. Lovecraft in my teenage years. Lovecraft’s works opened up such terrifying vistas of thought that I would while reading them become transfixed and filled with ultimate existential dread. The cosmic terrors he wrote about in his stories struck me as somehow realer than the monsters and ghost of goosebumps and that is probably because in truth Lovecraft, being the flawed man he was, was expressing a very simple fear, fear of the unknown. And what is more unknown than the blackness of space. I must admit that not since my early teenage years have I felt such poignant terror while reading as I did when first encountering the work of Lovecraft. That Is until I read the Remembrance of Earth’s past trilogy.

There are three books in this series, The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Deaths End, there is also an additional book not written by Cixin Liu himself, called Redemption of Time. The first books in the series The Three-Body Problems start off as a mystery. As the story unfolds it starts to feel as though we are reading the unfolding of some grand conspiracy, a conspiracy written into the fabric of the universe itself. Early on in the story, you find out that scientists around the world have been killing themselves. A note left behind by one of the late scientists, Yang Dong ominously added to the mysteries, saying only:

All the evidence points to a single conclusion: Physics has never existed, and will never exist. I know what I’m doing is irresponsible. But I have no choice.

We base so much of our own perception of what we consider to be reality on what we can observe. We look upon the universe as it is and extrapolate from that point. But what if we will never be able to know the truth about the universe. What if the universal constants are not constant. What if the laws of physics are not laws, what if reality isn’t real. Before we get any further into the video I have to give a spoiler warning. If you have not read the series I highly recommend you stop this video and do so. If you’ve read the series, or just don’t care about spoilers then continue forth. Now we won’t be getting into all of the details of the series, I’ll be giving context to why exactly I think this series is so unnerving.

Cover art: The Fourth Dimension by Marc Simonetti

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Comments

Quinn's Ideas says:

The Cover Art to this video is by Marc Simonetti. The wrong attribution is given in the video, my apologies.

TheScaleless says:

"Opened up such terrifying vistas of thought". Yup…that's Lovecraft alright lol. Call of Cthulhu paragraph one.

Aaron X says:

I'd argue that there's a more unnerving novel that explores similar (not identical) themes:

Blindsight. Peter Watts.

You gotta have half an undergrad in neuroscience and a smattering of physics to really follow it, but holy FUCK dude.

T SK says:

You look like a pop star

John Melcher says:

I watched the first 3 minutes and decided to order the books.

slicedpage says:

these look really good have they been dramatised in film?

Wise Ole Geezer Circa 1941 says:

The reason I don't care for King's writing is that his philosophy is "Why use three words to tell a story when ten words will do,.

Ram Krishan Charan says:

Naah Goose Bumps is still scarier 🤣

dalellll says:

Quinn – have you read Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson? It's a completely different answer to the Fermi Paradox, but it is somehow just as terrifying and cold. It's like a different sort of cosmic horror – the realisation that we staked everything on being able to expand outwards, and then the discovery that it might not even be possible.

Clayton Wise says:

I want to watch this video, but from the intro alone.. I've already decided to read the books. So unfortunately I'll need to save this video until then lol. I mean you already convinced me to read the dune series.

James Davenport says:

Nothing about this trilogy synopsis scares me at all. Frankly, I find it hilarious. Probably because I'm a selfish individualist who doesn't do social consciousness or climate issues, as poltically antisocialist, greed head capitalist as one can get. But I do find the dark forest concept interesting. Stalking other civilizations and completely consuming them in a gulp like so much delicious meat to grow stronger for a season. That sounds totes fun. So The whole Universe is the Cell stage in Spore? Kewl. I am the Grox! Lol

Nerobyrne says:

I think one of the greatest tools Lovecraft used was his dedication to his pseudo-first-person narration.
Pseudo because he does write in third person a lot, unless it's an account written by the protagonist.
But, we only know what the protagonist knows, which really helps the reader get that sense of foreboding and fear of the unknown.

I don't think he pioneered this writing style, but it's extremely common now. Probably because it's very effective.

Nerobyrne says:

notice me algorithm-senpai!

John Colley says:

I love Lovecraft and his works, Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh ngah'nagl fhtagn.

Noobsaibot says:

Gracias🙂

greedygilles says:

Brilliant video as always! Thank you for always being so eloquent, pedagogical and clear in your unpacking of Sci-Fi book series. I would love to hear your take on the XENOGENESIS/Lilith's Brood series too.

Weeaboo Baguette says:

The books have VERY weak starts, all three of them.
It doesn't last.
They're all a crescendo that just keep getting better and better, so go and plow through the boring start, because that's the only boring part.

Wade did nothing wrong.

benny Boom says:

Are those Babylon 5’s

d koz says:

The OP should read Christopher Rowley's The Vang Trilogy. The Starhammer, The Vang:The Military Form, The Vang: Battlemaster. Now that was trully horrifying sci-fi.

Marko Lubar says:

Now I want to read the book. Damn you, Quinn!

Phoenix X says:

hmm remove aliens and space and you have present day society

smakfu says:

Liu Cixin sure does combine philosophy, science, metaphysics.. and a whole bunch of carefully veiled CCP sanctioned propaganda. The primary allegory isn't centered around climate change, etc., it's a rebuke of liberal democracies, and a propagation of the CCP's faux "long-view of history" (which is anything but). And I quote Cixin: "If you were to loosen up the country a bit, the consequences would be terrifying.". Folks, you need to study the more subtle propaganda tactics of totalitarian regimes and know what you're reading. That doesn't mean it isn't good art, just understand that it exists (and CAN ONLY exist in a place like the PRoC) to serve the states "ideological" needs. Remember where this book series comes from: a nation that is currently pursuing genocidal policies against a significant minority group, that has implemented a social credit system, has actively lied and misrepresented its handling of a major pandemic that originated in its borders, and is a nation that so fears unfettered media access that it has erected a national firewall. Cixin, despite his comments that he is apolitical, can't possibly exist as a published author in the PRoC while being apolitical – that is literally not allowed in the PRoC (ask any political or human rights activist familiar with the CCP, and they'll confirm what I just said).

Interesting and inventive science fiction these books might be, but they are also carefully constructed ideological propaganda, right down to the entirely disingenuous statement "Human rights and equality have deep roots" as a reason why humans would fail an escape – he doesn't believe that, largely because he'd have to be an idiot to believe such a statement: human rights DON'T have deep roots at all (exhibit A: the PRoC). It's inverted psychology, designed to forward an ideological aim. Take the civilizational collapse and "human rights and equality" statements explaining failure and malaise in the book not as unfortunate events, but consider that they're intended to invoke that sense of dread (along with all other elements), with the all-knowing and incoming alien threat seemingly unstoppable (understand – that's the CCP). Then consider this statement from Mao, regarding so called "Ultra-Democracy": "Ultra-democracy consists in the petty bourgeoisie's individualistic aversion to discipline. When this characteristic is brought into the Party, it develops into ultra-democratic ideas politically and organizationally. These ideas are utterly incompatible with the fighting tasks of the proletariat.". Read Mao's writings, and you'll understand a lot more about the true philosophical underpinnings of these books: they're not remotely subversive towards the CCP, but they are deeply and intentionally subversive towards liberal democratic thought. Cixin is absolutely not a moderate or apolitical; again, know what you're reading.

Gorilla Disco says:

6:52 I won't be surprised if PRC bans this book.

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