Eric Mesa's Reviews > The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
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really liked it
bookshelves: tor-ebook-club

It has been very interesting reading this book. As someone who started reading SF in the 80s, I've read my share of American Cold War SF. But I've never read a full length Chinese SF novel. As I've often commented, what's interesting with other cultures is seeing where we're similar and where we're different. For example, Da Shi, the cop, is similar to a detective cop in a American fiction. That makes sense - a detective is essentially an amateur psychologist. And humans are very similar in a lot of ways, including in the way in which criminals think. Some of the differences in the way the characters think or act defy an easy characterization, but showcase how our cultures think differently.

The book starts off in the Cultural Revolution. This was the most depressing part of the book because it actually happened. Chinese officials decided, "yeah, we'll become an awesome country by killing all the people who know stuff." This sets up the motivations for Ye, our main character.

A big plot point revolves around a video game called Third Body. This part of the book reminded me a lot of The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. It's a great way to get some more technical issues across to the audience without simply having an info dump.

While it starts off as a subtle effect from what seems like a few throwaway lines, a lot of the book seems to be written in the future talking about past events - even the stuff that takes place in the "present". This gives off a similar effect to reading the first Foundation book by Asimov. There's an inevitability there that provides a sense of anxiety. This is given away a bit by the name of the trilogy - "Remembrance of Earth's Past". But someone who just sees the book without going to Goodreads might not know that.

A couple other small things. I like that Mr Cixin gets creative in the story-telling. Some chapters are reports and others are interviews while the greatest chunk of the book is a straight-forward storytelling. It allows him to use the best way to get across various points. I also like the poetry of two moments in the book as symmetrical moments. One person on Earth and one person elsewhere who have similar decisions to make for opposite reasons; the way those chapters mirror each other is great.

While this book could somewhat stand on its own, it is a LOT of setup and it just has me very curious to read what's in store in the rest of the trilogy. I definitely recommend it if you want a very different kind of story.

Unrelated to this book specifically - it's the last book on my reading challenge. Challenge complete with 4 more months to go.

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Reading Progress

October 15, 2014 – Shelved
October 15, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
July 22, 2016 – Started Reading
July 22, 2016 – Shelved as: tor-ebook-club
July 22, 2016 –
5.0% "I confess I am ridiculously ignorant on a huge chunk of Chinese history. So the significance of the first chapter in the Cultural Revolution is something that doesn't mean as much to me as it would a native Chinese person. \n \n But it's just so odd that a movement can get so up its own ass about its ideals that it decides to get rid of those who would help it progress: intellectuals."
July 22, 2016 –
9.0% "Wow, how annoying to try and do theoretical physics when you could be accused of being capitalist simply for asserting the way the universe works. Yeesh!"
July 25, 2016 –
14.0% "Still in the "mystify the reader" phase. But some interesting and tantalizing hints."
July 25, 2016 –
20.0% "The visions before Wang's eyes ... Mr Liu Cixin could probably write a pretty good horror story if he tired of SF."
July 26, 2016 –
24.0% "The Chaotic Period and Stable Period in the VR game certainly make a great metaphor for history"
July 26, 2016 –
28.0% "Wang is finally ready to start believing things are amiss. I continue to feel that I'm really missing out on a part of the story by not knowing the culture of China."
July 27, 2016 –
30.0% "Apparently literary cops are the same in China as in America. Of course, it makes sense - a good investigative cop is a psychologist and humans are humans"
July 28, 2016 –
33.0% "Main character's time in the VR game Third Body reminds me of Snow Crash when we learn about the Summarians. It's neat to learn about these classical Chinese philosopher-scientists."
July 28, 2016 –
35.0% "Ye's "intern period" at Red Base"
July 29, 2016 –
37.0% "The memos were enjoyable, especially the drafts of the messages to the ETs.\n \n I guess there's a bit of an Ender's Game vibe to this book in that it so far has nothing to do with the implied aliens; or rather, that the story has yet to impart their importance to the reader."
August 1, 2016 –
44.0% "Now people are starting to die. Very exciting. Also, next chapter has the word syzygy which reminds me of one of my favorite Broadway shows - The Putnam County Spelling Bee"
August 2, 2016 –
48.0% "The video game actually reminds me of the main character's tutorial book in Stephenson's The Diamond Age."
August 2, 2016 –
54.0% "Well, that just went sideways. Although slightly predictable, still a pretty effective twist. \n \n Turns out the game was an inverse Ender's Game. They weren't affecting the present, they were reviewing the past."
August 3, 2016 –
57.0% "I wonder if the phenomenon of using the sun as an amplifier is actual science or the bit of pseudoscience needed to push the story forward."
August 3, 2016 –
61.0% "We find out how Ye became involved in the ET's plans"
August 4, 2016 –
64.0% "The story of how Ye became the way she is and the the story of the Cultural Revolution is so sad."
August 4, 2016 –
68.0% "A couple info-dump chapters. Still, it reveals a lot about the philosophy of the ETO members and how things came to be. Mr Cixin's story-telling is neat in how it doesn't hew to the usual paradigms of story-telling."
August 5, 2016 –
75.0% "I love the beauty of the parallel description of the Trisolaran equivalent to Ye. That he had an almost exact mirror of her Red Coast base, right to the red rectangle for transmission. Also interesting they both hated their society and that led them to move towards opposite goals."
August 5, 2016 – Finished Reading

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