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The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #1)
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The Three Body Problem > TTBP: Huge plot hole? (full spoilers)

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Erik (aerik) | 43 comments I need you guys to tell me if I'm nuts. Because I finished this book over the weekend, and I hit what I think is a gaping plot hole right at the climax of the book.

The Trisolarans have to invade Earth because their suns periodically roast them, right? And as an ancillary to invading Earth, they develop this method for unraveling an 11-dimensional proton into two dimensions. When they do this, they accidentally cover their planet and blot out the sunlight temporarily. Whoops! Wouldn't want to block sunlight! So they make it transparent, and then go about their invasion plans.

...WHAT THE HECK WERE YOU TRYING TO DO IN THE FIRST PLACE?! You just solved your entire problem accidentally, and then ignored the solution and continued with this cockamamie invasion plan. Put the freaking unfolded proton around your planet, and only let in as much sunlight as you want to. Heck, put three unfolded protons around your three suns. Heck, you can fix your winter periods, too, because you also accidentally made it into a mirror for a minute there. You can bounce extra sunlight down to your surface to avoid the horrible winters! How can you be so smart and yet so dumb?


message 2: by Brendan (last edited Jan 23, 2017 04:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brendan (mistershine) | 930 comments You're right that there's a logic error there, i think, but not the one you're saying. As far as i know a proton is far too small to interact with light and so it should just be invisible? No shade, no mirror, nothing. Higher energy photons could potentially strike the proton, at an exceeding small probability but i believe visible light should just ignore it.

Then again, the proton computer was basically just magic, so it can do whatever the author says it can do.


Matthew (matthewdl) | 341 comments I think that the unfolded proton was blocking/reflecting light. The problem is that eventually one of the suns will engulf their planet not just roast it. So what you suggest would only be a short term solution to a mild chaotic period.


message 4: by Trike (last edited Jan 23, 2017 09:46PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trike | 8146 comments Yeah, it wasn't the heat they were worried about, it was their planet getting eaten by one of the suns. Didn't they figure out there had been 11 other planets? (Or 11 total?) They were the last planet standing purely by happenstance, and they'd get swallowed up eventually.


Michael Stanford | 2 comments My big problem with this was why bother with invasion at all? Just unfold the proton around the earth and freeze all the humans out. Problem solved.


message 6: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3858 comments Yeah, that was a big one. It also occurred to me that if they can send a fleet across space then they can move their world to the outer reaches of the system. Use unfolded protons as a lens to bring the proper amount of light to their world, bingo bango, problem solved.

I'm halfway through the third book and still can't shake the feeling that the whole thing is a put on by elder civilizations.


message 7: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom | 4 comments Michael wrote: "My big problem with this was why bother with invasion at all? Just unfold the proton around the earth and freeze all the humans out. Problem solved."

because the humies would just bomb it? Even if you could expand and retract specific areas of the photon to avoid the explosion radii of oncoming bombs (is there any evidence they could control them like that? Sounds kinda wonky.), you'd still have to coordinate such defense mechanisms potentially thousands of times. Not only that, but the Trisolarans probably wanted the planet's ecosystems intact, and freezing the planet might've run contrary to that.


Erik (aerik) | 43 comments Yeah, even if we can debate the feasibility of certain plans, it still bothers me that the Trisolarans don't even consider them. They have this amazing science and technology, with far-reaching implications, and instead of using it creatively to solve their problem, they just... go invade Earth. It feels like the dumbest, most brute-force thing for them to do.

And ditto story-wise. Amazing, mind-spinning science, aaaaaaaaand it's just an alien invasion story. Yawn.


message 9: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3858 comments Erik wrote: "They have this amazing science and technology, with far-reaching implications, and instead of using it creatively to solve their problem, they just... go invade Earth."

Reading further on in the series, I get the impression that (spoilers for later books)

(view spoiler)


message 10: by Rick (new) - added it

Rick | 2775 comments My issue with the book ran even deeper... what are the odds that a) intelligent life would have time to evolve in a system like this and b) that any of the civilizations would have time to evolve to a high technology state and c) that they'd actually evolve significantly higher tech than Earth? Oh and d) that it would just so happen to be 4 lightyears from here?

Combined with the "Hey, they killed my Dad, let's invite the aliens in" motivation of Ye (and the unclear motivations of everyone else on her side), this was a book that had some really cool, interesting high points but that didn't do it for me.


message 11: by Marsyao (new)

Marsyao | 5 comments Rick wrote: "My issue with the book ran even deeper... what are the odds that a) intelligent life would have time to evolve in a system like this and b) that any of the civilizations would have time to evolve t..."
Ye was deeply disillusioned with the entire human race,not just becaust of the death of her father


message 12: by Marsyao (new)

Marsyao | 5 comments Erik wrote: "Yeah, even if we can debate the feasibility of certain plans, it still bothers me that the Trisolarans don't even consider them. They have this amazing science and technology, with far-reaching imp..."

You should read the book more carefully, it clearly states that generation after generation of the Trisolar civilaztion did their utter most trying to solve the three body problems, all of these efforts failed, until they had to give this up and consider expanding into cosmos the only way for their civilization to survive.


message 13: by Marsyao (new)

Marsyao | 5 comments Michael wrote: "My big problem with this was why bother with invasion at all? Just unfold the proton around the earth and freeze all the humans out. Problem solved."

Because that would not work, the unfold proton was very fragil, even human could easily destroyed it with out missle


AndrewP (andrewca) | 2446 comments I found it odd that after all the effort to get the 2 dimensional proton the first thing they did was wrap it around the planet, effectively making it 3 dimensional again. The previous chapter had just explained why that didn't work. IIRC there was no explanation of flattening it out to 2 dimensions again before folding it back into the original 11 dimensions. If they folded it up again while it was still wrapped around their planet I'm guess it would end badly:)


Michael Stanford | 2 comments Marsyao wrote:

Because that would not work, the unfold proton was very fragil, even human could easily destroyed it with out missle "


I'm not sure I buy that if it wasn't shredded by meteor strikes after years in a 3-body orbit.


message 16: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3858 comments I just finished the trilogy and holy crap was that freaky. Plot holes abound. It's more like a travelogue with characters as convenient stand ins for plot points. As in, "yep, plot is secondary, look at the science!"


message 17: by Erik (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erik (aerik) | 43 comments John (Taloni) wrote: "It's more like a travelogue with characters as convenient stand ins for plot points."

Yeah, I was surprised to discover after several chapters in his POV that our modern-day scientist guy was married and had a kid. IIRC, his wife wasn't even given a name, and she was basically just there to stand in the background and fret and be inconvenient while he was trying to do Important Science Stuff. Ugh.


message 18: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom | 4 comments I'm still wondering where that "dude floating through space" cover for the third book came from, since I don't remember anything like that happening and it really bummed me out.


message 19: by Marsyao (new)

Marsyao | 5 comments Last part, about the lightspeed sapceship halo and hunter


message 20: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (last edited Feb 15, 2017 06:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tassie Dave | 3489 comments Mod
Zaruyache wrote: "I'm still wondering where that "dude floating through space" cover for the third book came from, since I don't remember anything like that happening and it really bummed me out."

My cover had the same scene but with out the dudette (I'm pretty sure it's a woman on the alternate cover). Instead of the woman there were a couple of skulls being destroyed.

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I don't think it is a literal scene that is in the book, but is probably (view spoiler)

description


message 21: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom | 4 comments I guess that makes sense. The first book had the pyramid on the cover and Death's End's cover seemed intentionally non-symbolic so I assumed it was going to actually illustrate something from the actual book. Guessss nooooooot. The Cheng Xin idea sounds likely, I guess.


Albert Dunberg | 30 comments John (Taloni) wrote: "It's more like a travelogue with characters as convenient stand ins for plot points. As in, "yep, plot is secondary, look at the science!""

Erik wrote: "Yeah, I was surprised to discover after several chapters in his POV that our modern-day scientist guy was married and had a kid. IIRC, his wife wasn't even given a name, and she was basically just there to stand in the background and fret and be inconvenient while he was trying to do Important Science Stuff. Ugh."

Well TTBP might not have been to your taste then but it doesn't mean that it was badly written. What you are describing are essentially the traits of a Hard SF story.

There's an interesting article here on the Hard vs Soft SF debate: http://www.tor.com/2017/02/20/ten-aut...

Some quotes from the article that I think are in line with your observations on TTBP:

"The story becomes not one of plot or character or setting—although ideally those are present as well—but a story in which the action is broken down into a series of technical problems to be solved."

"Historically, hard science fiction has been more about how inanimate objects work than how human beings live."

I really like Hard SF and would not have appreciated more background story on the characters and their families. I find for instance Ye and Da Shi to be very interesting characters as they are and more detailed descriptions would have been filler and the story would have been less tight.

Also on the issue of an advanced civilization being just 4 lightyears away. Since TTBP has no convenient faster-than-light travel the Trisolarans would have to be close, otherwise there would not have been contact or they would have been so far away as to be irrelevant and we would not have a story in the first place.

Interaction over large distances just doesn't work. Just take a look at Aurora (May '16 pick) or The Forever War.


message 23: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 3858 comments ^Hm, I didn't mean to imply I didn't enjoy the book. I read all three, clearly I liked them.

As for characterization, though, I'll note that Alastair Reynolds mixes in a good deal of characterization along with the hard SF. It can be done. Niven is arguably not hard SF (although I would argue he is) and his characters are memorable and interesting.


Albert Dunberg | 30 comments I agree, it can be done. We like to attach labels like Hard SF or Space Opera to stories to box them in but there are no well defined limits. It's rather a set of different styles and a story can of course have elements of several styles.

I see it as sliders on scales. A careful mix is usually the best and sliding everything to the max usually results in something greyish-brown...

I have not read much by Reynolds yet but I will certainly check him out. Thanks for the tip.


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