Wednesday 4 May 2016

Book Review - The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu

I loved this book, so much so that I think it's probably some of the finest science fiction I've read in some time. As I've said before, my love of the genre comes primarily from its exploration of big ideas and there are some fascinating concepts explored in this book. The most obvious of which is first contact, and although this is far from an original topic, it does have some novel nuances here. Beyond that we have the puzzle of why two protons are fired into the Solar System, and the discovery of why and how is truly fascinating.

There is clearly a wealth of research and knowledge in this story. And some of it I found quite challenging, and I love that it in a book. Some of the science is so esoteric that I had to pause my reading to contemplate an idea. There is considerable depth here, that some might find off-putting, but don't let it be. This is a wonderful exploration of complex concepts and philosophy, and is all the more rewarding because of it.

Of course a story isn't carried by grand ideas alone. There is a balanced cast of characters that allows for the tale to be told in a more comprehensible manner. There's also a curious transformation of the characters at play here as well. You start off with sympathies for some, and loathing for others, and their roles switch as you learn more of the truth. That in itself makes this an interesting read.

The Chinese history and perspective of the story also casts a layer of fascination, and some novelty - for me at least. The circumstances of the characters lives added an attraction to the story, and here as well there were discoveries to be made. The historical and cultural differences allowed the slow (but steady) build up to have an interest that might have otherwise be lacking.

Finally we come to the writing itself. It's always difficult with a translated work to determine whether the fault, or the praise is due to the original author, or the translator. For the reader I suppose it makes little difference, it is the end product that counts. The writing is quite dry which doesn't carry the emotion well, although there were a few exceptions. However this does carry the discovery in the story in a robust fashion.

As I said at the beginning I loved this book. It's not perfect (but what is?), but it is an incredible read, and a must read for those who enjoy science fiction with some depth.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion.

Click here to buy The Three Body Problem from Amazon

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