Cixin Liu’s newest novel Supernova Era was absolutely fantastic! I was immediately pulled into this story and completely captivated by the unfolding events as the author described the Dead Star and its journey through space and time. The introductory statement- “In those days, the earth was a planet in space. In those days, Beijing was a city on Earth.” sent chills down my spine as the author sets the stage for this amazing, emotionally charged, and spectacularly imaginative science fiction journey.
Supernova Era was originally written in Chinese in 2004 and was wonderfully translated into English by Joel Martinsen. I totally enjoyed this book and the author’s descriptive, often poetic, writing style. His many philosophical statements and ideas were very thought provoking and brilliant. The characters in this story were all really well developed and the plot was extremely well thought out and detailed. I appreciated how the author not only told the story but also incorporated the science behind the Dead Star, historical events, interviews, communications and witness statements to take the reader on a unique journey to the Supernova Era.
Supernova Era begins in Beijing, China. On this night Ms. Zheng and her forty-three students are having a middle school graduation party. As they look into the night’s sky the Dead Star appears suddenly and showers the Earth with deadly levels of radiation. Soon it is determined that within one year everyone over the age of thirteen will die from the fallout. China quickly comes up with a plan to establish new leaders and to pass on as much knowledge as possible to the children with the hopes that the children will succeed in keeping the world running. Three children from Ms. Zheng’s class are tasked with running the government but is it possible to properly prepare the children to run the world? Can children learn the many important jobs from their parents in under a year? Will the children be able to work all day and still be able to continue their studies? Despite all the best efforts to prepare the children, is it possible to predict what their world will be like?
The three students tasked with running the government take their responsibilities seriously. Initially, chaos takes over but using the resources left to them (Big Quantum) they quickly calm down the distraught children. For the first couple of months things seem to be running smoothly. However, having to work at adult jobs all day and then taking classes at night soon becomes overwhelming. The children become tired, bored and decide to stop going to work. The children desire to create a more fun based world than the one left to them by their parents. This desire to play is a worldwide one which leads the children to come up with a global war game that takes place in Antarctica. These games become the most violent and bizarre games the world has ever experienced. “In the children’s world, play and national politics were inseparable, two sides of the same coin.”
I really enjoyed reading this book. The children’s response to their new responsibilities was authentic and believable. The idea that the children’s mindset could be very different from what the adults anticipated was realistic. I appreciated how the author continued to follow Ms. Zheng’s students throughout the story and although the story primarily focuses on the Chinese children, it also incorporated children from other major world powers, in particular the American leaders. The first half of this book was outstanding and I devoured it! However, the second half was overly detailed and bizarre. The second global game was somewhat disturbing and confusing and then the book abruptly ended. Although I enjoyed the overall experience, the ending and the Epilogue left a lot of unanswered and frustrating questions. Despite the ending, I found myself thoroughly pulled into this story and completely invested in the outcome. The feelings and emotions it stirred up in me stayed with me for days. If you enjoy a well crafted, futuristic science fiction book then this is definitely a must read!