The Three-Body Problem

Cixin Liu     Recommended by Shannon    

Possibly the best science fiction novel I’ve ever read, this book is just incredible.

The Chinese Cultural Revolution provides a historical backdrop and introduces one of the protagonists, a kickass astrophysicist. Her characterisation was believable and fascinating. Although it explores the experience of being a woman in a scientific field in China during this time, it does not pigeonhole Ye Wenjie as a victim. She is self-sufficient, strong, at times downright intimidating. She is a strong force, pushing the story forward with her outrageous but believable decisions and aspirations.

Our other protagonist, Yang Weining, is also interesting but honestly kind of pathetic compared to Wenjie. He is thrust into this complicated plot because of his specialization in physics, further manipulated by the hilarious Police detective Shi Qiang (Da Shi).

There is hard science fiction exploring theoretical aspects of nanotechnology and astrophysics, in a way that was accessible and interesting. What an excellent genre to portray the importance of such research, that may seem too specific, too small scale to affect our lives in a macro sense. A lot of it went over my head, but that didn’t matter in the long run. It’s possible that anyone who already knows about these fields may find the explanations tiresome, but I don’t know how big that audience would be!

Some of the dialogue comes across as quite blunt, but I think that is due to Cixin Liu being Chinese and the text being translated. Any translation will bump into some cultural barriers, and I think it made the experience more enjoyable. Much of the prose is to the point, but not to the extent of a lot of other science fiction I’ve been reading. It has many poignant, reflective moments about the lonely aspect of studying space and the search for extra-terrestrials.

Part of the beauty of my experience with this book was the fact I knew nothing about it going into it, and I really enjoyed all the surprises I was met with. I would suggest skim reading the Wiki pages for the Cultural Revolution if you want an enriched experience.

Would recommend anyone on the prow for a gripping scifi. – Shannon

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