The Three-Body Problem

Book Review of The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin

The Three-Body ProblemI borrowed a copy of Liu Cixin‘s The Three-Body Problem from my hubs.

Description from Goodreads:
Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

This is actually my husband’s book. He received it as a gift from a friend who happens to be from China, with the explanation that ‘it is very popular at home.’ I have read a few of Liu Cixin’s short stories (They show up on the Amazon free list occasionally.) so I knew it would be interesting.

Honestly, I can see why it is a bestseller in China. I can. But equally as honestly, this book didn’t do it for me. I often find Chinese to English translation read very dryly and this is no exception. (I’m pretty sure this is a cultural characteristic of Chinese writing.) But the book is also very slow to get going.

The first half feels very random and though the end does tie it all together, I still spent 200 pages wondering what was going on. None of this is helped by the fact that it is very science heavy. Everything is explained well, but I didn’t particularly enjoy sciences lessons.

Then, in the last half, when things do finally pick up I found myself irked about something else entirely. It’s hard to address without a spoiler of some sort, but the POV shifts somewhere new and that POV feels far too human. We’re told repeatedly that we don’t know what they’re like, but everything about them presents as human when it really shouldn’t have.

All of the characters are also very thin. However, there are some interesting ones. Da Shi is one of the best anti-heroes I’ve come across in a while and I appreciated Ye Weing’s flat affect.

I’ve heard that the 2nd and 3rd books are better than this one and if I happen across them I’d read them. But I’m not rushing out to buy them. This was just an OK read for me.

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