The Redemption of Time
Written by: Baoshu
Translated by: Ken Liu
Reviewed by: Rob Leicht
Liu Cixin’s The Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy was completed with the release of Death’s End in 2016 and instantly became must read science fiction for the modern age. In the preface to this novel, Baoshu explains that he was a huge fan of Cixin’s work and was left bereft when the trilogy concluded. Like many others, Baoshu continued the series through fan fiction. When he posted his fan fiction, then called Three Body X, online for public consumption, it went viral. Baoshu wasn’t the only one desperate to spend more time in Liu Cixin’s invented universe. Eventually the book was published with Cixin’s approval under the name The Redemption of Time, and here we are.
The Redemption of Time picks up near the conclusion of Death’s End with two familiar characters, Yun Tianming and AA, on Planet Blue. The first section of the book is almost entirely Tianming retelling his story starting with his brain being sent into space until the point where he left the alien Trisolarans to reunite with Cheng Xin. This recounting starts off slowly and felt like a recap of events readers were already familiar with. However, Baoshu soon expands on Tianming’s time spent as a captive of the Trisolarans, adding significant context to the original trilogy, including previously unknown details on the culture and appearance of the Trisolarans. These new additions are welcome and mostly enhance the original trilogy. That being said, Part I is slowly paced and far too exposition heavy. The dialogue between Tianming and AA is supposed to serve, in part, to establish and build their relationship. Yet the love story between the two feels forced — even accepting that they are the only two humans on the planet — mostly because AA’s character is flat and seems unnecessary to the story.
When the scope begins to expand in Part II to include higher dimensions and the beings that inhabit them, the pace picks up, but The Redemption of Time finds other ways to miss the mark. In its latter half the story explores ideas of theology and divinity with a heavy God versus fallen angel vibe and features seemingly omnipotent 10 dimensional beings. The blending of religious and semi-fantastical elements felt off-tone when compared to the hard science fiction of Liu Cixin’s original. Many of the concepts put forth for both the past and future of the universe are fascinating and creative. I particularly enjoyed the further exploration and new perspectives on the Dark Forest state of the universe. However, The Redemption of Time does not reach the level of imaginative plotting contained within The Remembrance of Earth’s Past. Baoshu’s prose and style are similar to Cixin’s, and a consistent voice is maintained. I imagine that Ken Liu, translator of this book and 2 of 3 books from the original trilogy, played a large role in this.
The Redemption of Time is set in a world that I love and features characters with whom I have a history. I was always eager to turn the page and spend more time in this world, but the lack of action saps excitement from the story. If you are a fan of the original trilogy then The Redemption of Time, though flawed, is worth a read.