“Eliminate Human Tyranny!”
The excerpt on the The Three-Body Problem‘s amazon page might give the impression you need to know something about Chinese history to enjoy the book. You don’t, other than to understand there was a time in the 1960s and early 70s when China was engulfed in a wave of violent, anti-intellectual reform known as The Cultural Revolution. That historical occurrence frames two other important elements in the book – the idea of a ‘chaotic era’ when society cannot advance and the question of why we would bring disaster on ourselves as China did during the Cultural Revolution (and as some characters do in the story). But now, I’m making it sound like a primarily Chinese sci-fi book. It’s a epic sci-fi book, period. It is, specifically, the ‘blow your mind’ kind of sci-fi with a pleasing sense of scale, full of the sort of ideas that give you a little thrill to think about.
Cryptonomicon and The Three-Body Problem are totally different kinds of books, of course, but for me the experience of reading Three Body Problem felt like the first time I read Cryptonomicon. Maybe it’s because The Three-Body Problem incorporates physics into the story in much the same way that Cryptonomicon incorporates computers and crypto. (Knowledge of physics isn’t a prerequisite!)
Reading up on MH317, I discovered the mainland Chinese population spend a lot of time quietly discussing conspiracy theories. Three-Body Problem‘s tough-guy / regular everyman cop character, Da Shi, says several times how any occurrence sufficiently weird must have an intelligence behind it. A number of global trends and events are actually (I now understand) part of the Trisolairan plot.
I read this during a blackout, the urban American equivalent of a Trisolarian Chaotic Era. There was nothing but me and this guy’s story glowing out of my kindle so he had my full attention. I won’t go on about virtuosity in a medium or how this is masterfully written (and translated). It’s evident once you settle into this story that you’re in exceptionally capable hands.
The portraits of humanity painted with the characters are the kind that create empathy in a reader’s heart, but somehow saying that might make The Three-Body Problem sound less attractive. Plenty of people have praised it for things like that. I’m really writing this so I can say something more like “awesome aliens”, “cool-ass shit abounds here”, and “damn good story”.
Yes, 12.99 is too much for an ebook. But it’s really good. Promise.
The Three-Body Problem, written by Cixin Liu (aka, Liu Cixin), translated by Ken Liu
A.D. Bloom writes scifi (The War of Alien Aggression) and knows a guy like Liu Cixin doesn’t need his help finding more readers, but he liked the story and sometimes he makes an effort to share what he likes so other people can have as good a time as he did.