Liu Cixin is one of China’s most prolific and popular science fiction writers. The Three-Body Problem, first published in 2007, was the start of an immensely popular trilogy and one of the most popular science-fiction novels in China. Translated by Ken Liu, The Three-Body Problem is an extremely ambitious novel that takes its central premise from the titular three-body problem in classical and quantum mechanics.
The novel stretches across multiple timelines, and even dimensions, shifting from the experiences of Ye Wenjie, a young woman struggling to survive the Cultural Revolution and forced to work for the government at a mysterious scientific base, and Wang Miao, a researcher into nanomaterials who finds himself embroiled in the mysterious suicides of a number of leading suicides, a situation that is secretly and inexplicably being treated by the international community as an invasion.
Ye Wenjie’s development and attempts to survive the political upheaval are compellingly realized. Her descent into a form of nihilism and turning away from humanity is an entirely reasonable response to her experiences. Wang Miao’s modern day investigations and entrance into a surreal virtual reality world were less compelling for me, although his interactions with hard-boiled detective Shi Qiang provide some much needed levity and grounding to the high concepts.
The Three-Body Problem is immensely ambitious, wrapping a tale of social unrest, mystery, invasion, and a meditation on the human history, around a core of dense physics concepts. Liu Cixin has a firm grasp on both the science and the characters, and an ability to make the ideas reasonably clear.
Received a Copy from NetGalley for Review
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