Bridget Jack Jeffries's Reviews > The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
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Aug 08, 2015

it was amazing
bookshelves: science-fiction-fantasy

This book. Wow.

The Three Body Problem is a hard science fiction novel that deals with a number of concepts that scientists are actually investigating and discussing: namely, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (Fermi paradox), and whether or not it's actually a good idea to try and contact other civilizations even if we learn of their existence. It also deals with the titular three-body problem and what life would be like on a planet plagued by an unpredictable orbit around multiple suns.

The answer is: life would be horrific. The Trisolarans, as they are called, inhabit a grim world where cataclysmic events caused by their triple suns periodically wipe out civilization again and again, and where civilization otherwise has to eke out its existence through dangerously hot or cold "Chaotic Eras." But, when the planet manages to spend some time orbiting just one sun, they get "Stable Eras" of mild weather where civilization can develop. The ways in which Liu chooses to end things for the Trisolarans again and again--solar "syzygy," the appearance of all three suns at once, or when the planet is flung too far away from all three suns so that it completely freezes over---are truly terrifying. You feel for the Trisolarans, even as they set their cold, world-conquering gaze on Earth.

And then there's the horrors wrought by humanity. Ye Wenjie is a brilliant young astrophysicist who watches Cultural War revolutionaries murder her father before her eyes, in a scene every bit as terrifying as anything that happens on Trisolaris. Her story from the 1960s ties in with that of Wang Miao, a modern-day nanotech scientist who begins experiencing inexplicable things, things that cause him to question everything he thought he knew about science, physics, and the universe. Between their journeys, the Trisolaran threat to humanity is rolled out.

That I am giving this book 5 stars does not mean it was without problems. Liu's characters are but thin shells for the real star of this book, which is its hard science concepts. The main protagonist, Wang Miao, barely registers. It was like watching a Keanu Reeves movie, where you could draw a face on a board and swap that for Reeves and it would not diminish the film in any way. The only characters who register at all are Ye Wenjie, as the horrors of the Cultural Revolution continue to haunt her, and an ass-of-a-detective named Da Shi who provides comic relief. There are also some storylines that do not get wrapped up particularly well, and parts of the dialogue are forced and unbelievable, leaving me to wonder if things got lost in translation. The idea of what's essentially an MMORPG as a recruitment tool for rich people and intellectuals is just plain absurd, and for something to be absurd in a book about ET coming to kill us all is saying something.

The main reason I give this book 5 stars in spite of its flaws is, I could not put it down. It gets right into the action and does not let up. It was thoughtful and imaginative and dealt with concepts and ideas that transcend the typical alien invasion trope. Well worth the read, can't wait for the sequel and the movie.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 7, 2015 – Finished Reading
August 8, 2015 – Shelved
August 8, 2015 – Shelved as: science-fiction-fantasy

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