The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu

01 Dec 2014

The Three-Body Problem is a translation of a very popular Chinese science fiction novel. Sparking from the smoldering embers of the great cleansing fires of China’s Cultural Revolution, Ye Wenjie’s mission becomes one of redemption for the human race; but for redemption to happpen, first must come atonement.

Half of the book is about the Cultural Revolution, a quarter about a strange video game, and the other parts related to physics. This was a good mix for me, and I found the historical bits interesting in part because they’re from the perspective of a Chinese author (I’ve never read about the Cultural Revolution directly from the perspective of a Chinese person.)

The book was a bit slow to start, with a Dan Brown-esque late night call for a specialist. Then, some supernatural things happen that made me wonder where the story was going. Part of the story is told through a video game, and these parts are even more strange. The video game is more interactive novel than your typical game. Reading through to the end, there is a huge payoff, and I’m excited to see where this story goes.

The style was interesting. The language seemed very straightforward, and I wonder if this was because it was a translation of Chinese. The characters were enjoyable but I found them somewhat flat, the most complex one being one of the main characters, Ye Wenjie. Wang Miao, the protagonist, is not totally flat, having varied motivations but I think he is portrayed a bit shallowly (possibly to further the plot). Shi Qiang is your typical hard-boiled cop character and didn’t seem to have much depth.

Despite the lack of complex characters, I enjoyed the plot. The inside of the book jacket says that it has “the scope of Dune”. I don’t agree with this, but it is definitely an entertaining read that kept me interested throughout.

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