Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Sea of Dreams, by Cixin Liu

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(Epic SF) The Low-Temperature Artist arrives from outer space, with plans for a fantastic work of art made of ice. He won’t talk to any Earth people but ice sculptor Yan Dong, who struggles to get the alien not to use up all the water for his sculpture. (11,413 words; Time: 38m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Uneven

"Sea of Dreams," by (translated by John Chu, edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 01-02|18, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: The concept makes this story stand out, despite its flaws. The author (and translator) make the rape of the oceans seem very real. Touches like seeing dead sea life frozen in the ice really hammer home just what a catastrophe this is.

Con: The narration is intrusive and the dialogue is unnatural. Scenes like Yan trying to explain the idea of using solar energy to bring the ice blocks back are simply painful to read.

The strategy for returning the ice “cuboids” wouldn’t work because the atmosphere couldn’t absorb that much heat. We’re given the dimensions of each block of ice: 60 × 20 × 5 km or 6 trillion cubic meters which would weigh 6 quadrillion kg. Best case, these will hit the atmosphere at 7100 m/sec so the total energy that needs to be absorbed by the atmosphere is 1.5 × 10²³ joules, which is 1.5 times the energy of the impactor that killed the dinosaurs.  Doing that 100,000 times would fry the planet many times over.

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Cixin Liu Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Thanks for your post! I've just finished reading this story, and I agree that the technical sections were hard to parse. Sentences like, "the astronauts adjusted each waveguide so that its receiver coincided with the focal point of its reflector" slowed the story down a bit for me, but otherwise I really enjoyed Sea of Dreams.

    I wondered why the low-temperature artist asked Yan Dong if he still wished to pursue his art, and if he was satisfied with Dong's answer. The bringing down of the ice was a beautiful and seminal moment for the entire planet as well, so through his contributions to that dream Dong had helped to create another kind of art. "Art is the only reason for a civilization to exist!" someone else said.

    1. This is the sort of story that's really hard to rate. The plot, narration, and dialogue are all very "pulpy," but the ideas and descriptions are outstanding. I have similar mixed feelings about the authors novels.