To round out my Sci-fi Summer reading list, I chose Hugo Award winner and Nebula nominee The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. With this choice, I branched out into the realms of hard science fiction and literature-in-translation (translated by Ken Liu). Three-Body Problem begins with the historical backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution and then fast-forwards to modern time where the leaders and militaries of the world are faced with a mysterious virtual reality game and an impending alien invasion. How do those things go together? You’ll have to read it to find out!
The protagonist Wang Miao is a simple nanomaterials scientist. One day, he suddenly gets called in by the government to infiltrate an organization that may be linked to a bout of scientist deaths and suicides. Through his investigation, he discovers a virtual reality video game called Three Body, which incorporates elements from Chinese and world history, though with many deliberate anachronistic elements. The game turns out to be a means to introduce humanity to the plight of an intelligent alien race. The Trisolarians face a dangerous planet plagued by three suns that move around each other and the planet in an unpredictable manner. This is known as the “three body problem”–a physics phenomenon that refers to the difficulty in determining the movements of three celestial bodies with a gravitational relationship.
I have to admit I was a little intimidated by the novel’s awards and status as hard sci-fi. I feared it would be high-brow and dry, but that was not the case at all. The best part of the novel by far was the scenes where Wang is immersed in the video game, while the real world drama seems dull in comparison (much like in the cartoon Code Lyoko I watched as a child). If you’re a Chinese history nerd, you get to geek out about cameos by such figures as Fu Xi and Mozi. If you’re a computer nerd, you may particularly appreciate the scene wherein imperial China uses its impressive manpower and discipline to create a “computer” out of individual people raising flags to create a system like binary. The real-world half of the novel has a very nihilistic feel, as numerous intellectuals lose faith in humanity and decide to sell out to the aliens.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book, particularly to fans of military sci-fi, alien invasion stories, physics, and foreign literature.
Yesterday was the fall equinox, which means the end of summer, which means the end of the Sci-Fi Summer Reading Challenge. If you are just tuning in, check out my sign up post to learn more about it. Here’s how I did:
Books in progress:
Dragonfly Falling (Shadows of the Apt #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Clockwork Fairytales: A Collection of Steampunk Fables Edited by Stephan L. Antczak and James C. Basset
Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Young Elite by Marie Lu
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
Firefight by Brandon Sanderson
Dune by Frank Herbert
Calamity by Brandon Sanderson – A very satisfying final installment of The Reckoners series.
The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
Final Level: Viper Pilot
In total, I finished 8 sci-fi books this summer. I didn’t quite meet my goal but the challenge was fun! It definitely inspired me to explore some sci-fi books I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten around to so quickly. I look forward to other themed challenges in the future.