The Three-Body Problem: Cixin Liu

Three-Body-Problem

For over a year, I have been hearing praises of this Chinese sci-fi saga, and after a couple of false starts, I picked this up over a weekend, and finished it too. It was gratifying to do this, given that I have struggled to find time, or mental energy, to devote to reading novels, over the last few months.

The story follows two threads, one of Ye Wenjie, an ostracised scholar whose father was killed in Mao’s Cultural Revolution, who ends up at Red Coast, a radio telescope observatory that serves as a Chinese version of SETI looking for extra-terrestrial life. The other thread follows Wang Miao, a nanotechnology professor who gets hooked onto a cerebral VR game called Three Body, set on an Earth-like planet which flips unpredictably between Stable and Chaotic Eras, times of calm and violent weather phenomena respectively.

The book contains a lot of ‘hard science’, by which I mean less of hyperdrives and warp travel faster than light, and more of extrapolating technical concepts to provide the scientific leaps that the story demands. The science part of the science fiction, though a bit too technical at times, was the part that engrossed me. The Three Body world-building was interesting, but the language and the narrative style throughout the book felt flat. Maybe it’s an issue of being lost in translation (the original novel was written in Chinese), but it was noticeable enough to be distracting at times. Nevertheless, I would want to pick up the other books in the trilogy sometime soon, to see where the story goes.

 

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