“The Three-Body Problem”: Book Review

The Three-Body Problem

“The Three-Body Problem” is the first science-fiction works I read that comes from China. Interesting read. A bit too hard, but also quite an ambitious one.

The good: Heard of Fermi paradox? Basically, a physicist named Enrico Fermi says that given the size of the universe, we can’t be alone. This paradox is best expressed as a single question. “Where is everybody?”

I’ve always thought and believed that humans can’t be the only sentient beings in this whole universe. We are not that special. Though I may not be seeing the evidence of such alien life in my lifetime but nonetheless, I know that they were there. They are maybe as clueless as we are about the existence of other sentient beings. Or, in a worse but as likely scenario, they have already known about us, but then dismissed us as we are clearly an underdeveloped beings, not worth their time to made a contact.

This book is yet another sci-fi work around this paradox. The title is also a reference to an orbital mechanics problem of the same name. The gist of this Three-Body Problem is that there’s simply no way, except in some special cases, to determine the motion of three bodies as they are generally non-repeatable. The book introduced this problem through a virtual reality simulation that took place in a world where instead of one, had three suns. The problematic and the general unpredictability movements of these suns was the main brain teaser of this book.

As a casual reader with a penchant of science fiction especially dealing with large objects, universes, space, and its many relationships, I found this book to be a very enjoyable read.

The bad: A reddit user, through this thread, laid out his problem with this book. Although I’m not going to defend nor deny that there were problems, I felt the book’s problems were generally common in a hard science fiction genre. Hard science fiction has to touch and explain a topic that sometimes a little bit beyond reach of most readers. And therefore, a careful explanation is often required. This is a tricky balance to navigate between lecturing and confusing the readers.

The characters are, to be quite honest, cardboards. Usually featuring one or two exemplary character that often a manifestation of the writer’s own narcissism. Not so uncommon in the genre. In all fairness though, I think if one is knowingly going to dive into this particular genre, he or she is would most likely expecting ideas rather than memorable characters.

The last third is kinda flat but I’m more than willing to let it slide.

Ultimately, this book, had led my curiosity to learn about at least two new things. The Chinese Cultural revolution, and the Three-Body Problem itself. These new curiosities are easily worth more than the few hours I had spent to read this book..

Notable Fact: The book was written by a Chinese author, and it is my first time to read any book from a Chinese author. I made a mistake to read his “About Me” section because it gives me a signal that the author is a bit pompous (to which most of the reason why I’m attributing “the manifestation of the writer’s own narcissism” to this work of his in previous paragraph) of his own accomplishments. Though for a very good reason, I felt that it was a bit unnecessary.

It is a refreshing air. I have never read any science fictions except from English or American authors and naturally, their views tend to be Americans or English. The first part of this book deals with Chinese Cultural Revolution and it is succinct enough for me to warrant a few more extended trips to Wikipedia to delve more into the subject.

This is why I read. I was given a chance to glimpse into Chinese Cultural Revolution and though merely on the surface,  into a Three-Body Problem.

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