Sunday, January 10, 2016

Book Review: Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin , Ken Liu (Translation)

Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin , Ken Liu (Translation)

Hardcover, 400 pages

Published November 2014 by Tor Books

(first published in China January 2008)

Hugo Award for Best Novel (2015),

Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2014),

Locus Award Nominee for Best Science Fiction Novel (2015),

John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015),

Prometheus Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015)

My history with Chinese fiction is deeper than most American science fiction readers given that I am a junkie for Asian film and Kungfu movies. That has given me a natural interest in Chinese history and culture, I have bought and read many Wuxia Chinese fantasy novels. It comes down to this, my first novel Hunting the Moon Tribe was a horror Wuxia cross over so I studied the genre, researched the culture a fair amount. That might give me a bias towards the novel I think I need to be up front about. Bottom line as a Sci-fi nerd also when I heard there was an award-winning Chinese science fiction novel, well I had to read it.

3BP is a really interesting novel, and not just for the fact that it is a rare that a Chinese science Fiction novel published here. That is very significant. The story can't take place in an American setting with the main character losing parents to a Chinese work camp.

It is hilarious that the novel is marketed as having "The scope of Dune and the commercial action of Independence Day," anyone reading this novel hoping for that will be disappointed. It has more in common with Asimov's "The Gods Themselves." This is a true SCIENCE fiction novel of ideas that doesn't ignore characters but I feel the Chinese form of storytelling and character development might be lost on some readers.

3BP is the story of Ye Wenjie a scientist who witnessed the murder of her father as a part of the cultural revolution. This first act surprised me and had me wondering if the author had trouble with censorship. When she gets older she becomes a part of a SETI like project. The novel presents a very interesting way of having first contact communication. The aliens are called Trisolarians and they live in a system with three suns that is dying. Their advance civilization is in the process of escaping, and communicating with the chinese scientists through a virtual reality game.

This novel explores the concerns with sending out a signal into the universe, maybe we don't want to meet other intelligent species. It is not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it.

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