Jan 20 2015

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The protagonist of The Three-Body Problem is a Chinese woman named Ye Wenjie. She barely survived the Cultural Revolution in China, and is so disillusioned by her experiences that she takes the opportunity as a governmental scientist to hijack an official program that’s attempting to make contact with aliens. She succeeds in making this contact, and encourages the extraterrestrials to invade Earth. Space being what it is (mainly large, very, very large), this takes a very long time to actually occur, and in the meanwhile a secret society in favor of the aliens is set up, which catches the attention of another scientist and a police detective, who work to figure out exactly what’s going on and why.

That’s the short breakdown of this book. The even shorter version goes something like this: PHYSSSSSSICSSSS! LOTS AND LOTS OF PHYSICS! OMG MATH!

This was fine for me, because I love science fiction when it’s using hard science. That doesn’t mean I found it an easy read, though, because it wasn’t. The character development left a little something to be desired. It wasn’t so much that the characters weren’t interesting because they were, but they kept getting interrupted by long expositions on science-y stuff. I had to drag out Wikipedia a few times to get through certain sections because I truly wanted to understand it, and it wasn’t necessarily always written on a layman’s level, which is actually kinda bad for a book that’s trying to attract leisure readers and not people who want to devour a textbook. Think of Isaac Asimov on a really good tear and not noticing that he’s leaving people behind.

The sections of the book that focused on the Cultural Revolution and its impact on intellectuals and society overall, etc., were far more accessible, but of course not at all science fiction-y. Furthermore, Ken Liu, who translated the book into English, worked very hard on footnotes and such to help people understand things on a cultural and political level, so that was immensely helpful.

I liked the book. I’m not sure I have the stamina to read it again, but I’m not sorry that I put in the time I did, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to get the next two books when they come out in English, because I do want to know what happens next, and really that’s what a book is supposed to do, yeah?

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  1. […] For Laura’s review, click here. […]

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