Supernova Era ハードカバー – 2019/10/22
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From science fiction legend Cixin Liu, the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of The Three-Body Problem, comes a vision of the future that reads like Ursula K Le Guin rewriting The Lord of the Flies for the quantum age. (NPR).
In those days, Earth was a planet in space.
In those days, Beijing was a city on Earth.
On this night, history as known to humanity came to an end.
Eight light years away, a star has died, creating a supernova event that showers Earth in deadly levels of radiation. Within a year, everyone over the age of thirteen will die.
And so the countdown begins. Parents apprentice their children and try to pass on the knowledge needed to keep the world running.
But when the world is theirs, the last generation may not want to continue the legacy left to them. And in shaping the future however they want, will the children usher in an era of bright beginnings or final mistakes?
"This audacious and ultimately optimistic early work will give Liu's English-reading fans a glimpse at his evolution as a writer and give any speculative fiction reader food for deep thought." -- Shelf Awareness
"Stunning concepts and a contemplative tone that provides vital insight into the formative years of one of the genre's masters. In Liu's hands, 'the children are our future' becomes far more than a cozy cliché; it's a springboard for the kind of agile and relevant thought experiment that science fiction, at its best, manifests."--NPR
"This audacious and ultimately optimistic early work will give Liu's English-reading fans a glimpse at his evolution as a writer and give any speculative fiction reader food for deep thought."--Shelf Awareness
Praise for the Three-Body trilogy
"Wildly imaginative."--President Barack Obama
"The War of the Worlds for the twenty-first century . . . Packed with a sense of wonder."--The Wall Street Journal
"A breakthrough book . . . A unique blend of scientific and philosophical speculation, politics and history, conspiracy theory and cosmology."--George R. R. Martin
"Tackles politics, philosophy, and virtual reality in a story that moves at a thriller's pace."--The Washington Post
"Evokes the thrill of exploration and the beauty of scale."--The New Yorker
"Stunning, elegant . . . A science fiction epic of the most profound kind."--NPR商品の説明をすべて表示する
Back in 1933, Lao She published _Cat Country_ as a science fiction satire and allegory of what was then contemporary China. Lao She was a cat owner, but if he was a cat lover, he was the kind of cat lover that understood his cats' flaws. He depicted a spaceman's journey to Mars, inhabited by cat people who were used to satirize the Chinese of the time. The choice of cat, evidently, was to emphasize the inability of his compatriots to cooperate and coordinate; the expression "herding cats" come to mind. He depicted a decadent society that was predicated on the ruthless exploitation of other cats and could not come together to fend off external threats. Liu Cixin's _Supernova Era_, similarly, draws upon the same technique, postulating a world populated only by children.
A big mistake of many readers, however, is their failure to understand the child metaphor. In Jiayang Fan's _New Yorker_ piece, Liu Cixin relates that his inspiration for _Supernova Era_ came after the failure of the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989. Jiayang Fan herself didn't understand how it worked, and that contributes to her characterization of Liu Cixin as an authoritarian propagandist of the Chinese regime. But by understanding _Supernova Era_'s child metaphor, we get a more nuanced picture.
What is a child, beyond an immature form of an adult? A human child is someone who is lacking in knowledge, wisdom, and judgment. What else is lacking in knowledge, wisdom, and judgment? It may pain democratic liberals to hear this, but the answer is the citizen-subject of an authoritarian/totalitarian regime. An award-winning Harvard student essay (which I can't find) discusses the imposition of childishness in Orwell's _1984_. The dictatorial regimes, by stripping political rights and responsibilities from their citizen-subjects, impose a state of childishness on their population. The dictatorship or oligarchy takes on the role of the parent, making decisions for their children and stripping from them the valuable experience of choosing and being responsible for their choices. They tell their subjects that they lack the expertise to make such choices on their own, like choose leaders, vote on laws, and so on. And due to enforced childishness, the regime is not entirely wrong. For instance, in Taiwan, the former President Chen Shui-bian was arrested for embezzlement after he left office, the President having been a human rights lawyer during the period of KMT dictatorship. But this is a feedback loop dictatorships cherish; the more infantilized their population, the less potent their opposition.
With this metaphor in sight, we can see what Liu Cixin is doing in _Supernova Era_. Liu postulates a China where the Tiananmen Square demonstrators had gotten their way and managed to depose the Chinese Communist Regime. What would have resulted would have been new democratic leaders with no experience and an electorate with no democratic habits. Likewise, the children's society in _Supernova Era_ is, at least initially, dysfunctional. Now that they no longer have adults / the Communist Party telling them what to do, the children of the _Supernova Era_ discover strange values, they choose to emphasize play and create a society oriented on play. Nationalism, as in the section discussing an international children's society, comes to the fore and creates uncouth situations with hundreds of thousands of lives being lost because the children think "war is fun". But Liu Cixin, contrary to Jiayang Fan's portrayal, is not simply an authoritarian propagandist. Like Burgess or Orwell, he ends on a positive note, with the now adult narrator recounting his history of the _Supernova Era_ on Mars. So Liu's views of democracy are more conditional, with the essential line being that an electorate cannot be like children.
More of interest, however, to the Western reader is the discussion of Western children. In _Supernova Era_, the sudden transition to a children's society is global, not merely one limited to China. But if Chinese children are reflections of the Chinese people at that time, how can electorate infantilization occur in the West? And why would that matter?
The important source to draw on is developmental economics, a key question of which, is why do democratic developing countries remain developing countries? Their answer is that democracy by itself is not key, but requires also institutions, including soft ones such as the mindset and education level of its electorate, the presence of a middle class, and a free press. These institutions can be eroded and can be demonstrably eroded in the West, as seen with the rise of populist leaders preying on the prejudices of electorates. And capitalism by itself is also an infantilizing force, reducing the citizen to merely a consumer, whose only politically important actions are what to buy and how to get the money to buy it.
That brings us to one of the most entertaining parts of _Supernova Era_. Toward the end of the work, Liu takes us to America as well as a show of Sino-American relations and international politics in a world of children. The American president is depicted as a pretty boy of somewhat above average intelligence controlled by a Kissinger / Cheney figure, and the implementation of the "play" society in America is an NRA fantasy come true. The United States devolves into a country where children are given guns to shoot each other for fun, a 105mm cannon is used to destroy the UN building in New York for fun, and New York exceeds dystopian visions such as the film _Escape From New York_. The implicit message here is that while Western electorates may be more "politically mature" than the Chinese people, it is not that hard, knowing what's happening in the West, for Western voters to degenerate into children as well.
When I had first touched _Supernova Era_, I found the text to be humdrum and somewhat embarrassing. But after having considered the key metaphor for a while, the novel came upon to me and I find it to be an entrancing addition to Western political discourse. It's much like Liu Cixin himself; he's a writer in an authoritarian / totalitarian state and must be subtle with his themes and ideas. I'm shocked that Supernova Era, with its ultimate approval of democracy (under circumstances), didn't get banned by Chinese censors. But it didn't get banned, and it survived into translation, and in an era where Western institutions are under attack, it deserves a close and discerning reading.
First, this is not really science fiction, which is okay. There is a galactic event which triggers the scenario of the story, but that’s about it. The basic gist is that a “nearby” supernova extinguishes all human life on Earth over the age of thirteen. Those over the age of thirteen only live for about a year and must prepare the children to live without adults.
Okay, that seems kind of random, but I can accept the premise. What I cannot accept is the absurd sequence of events that follow. The strategy for helping the children adapt and survive is irredeemably dumb. Without getting into plot specifics, time and time again, the most inane decisions are made and the most unbelievable results ensue. It is frankly embarrassing. Where Three Body Problem was beautifully crafted and artfully presented, full of nuance and well thought out plot twists, Supernova Era is ham-handed, jarringly simple and stunningly inept. As the age limit for the survivors of the supernova was thirteen, perhaps this is the age limit for the readers who might appreciate this book, as long as they weren’t bright thirteen year olds.
Within the Three Body Problem, there is a 50-75 page segment in the final book (Death’s End), that is so out of character with the remainder of the work as to be mystifying. At the time, I likened it to listening to a Mozart concerto, interrupted mid-stream by two minutes of unintelligible caterwauling. I wondered, “Where did this come from?” Now I know where it came from. It came from Supernova Era Cixin Liu. Here’s hoping that Supernova Era Cixin Liu is kept safely secured, away from pen and paper.
-the remaining children have to perform all tasks
-their main computer is millions of times more powerful than all the computers that currently exist
-they still burn coal
-80% of their population is gone
-they still try to produce the same amount of energy, food, etc.
-within a couple days, the whole country is on fire and all mechanical systems are failing