The Three-Body Problem

Cixin Liu
The Three-Body Problem Cover

The Three-Body Problem


Advanced physics and video gaming play major roles in this novel. In the interest of full disclosure, let me say the following:

1. I think the last video game I played was Dig Dug. I have never played or had an interest in the sophisticated gaming world and still only occasionally play games that involve unscrambling letters in three minute turns -- and I know those don't count.

2. So long as Morgan Freeman is explaining the concepts of advanced physics to me on television, the quantum world reveals its mysteries. Changing the channel wipes my brain clean.

And so I still enjoyed The Three-Body Problem, but probably not on the level as its true target audience.

What I did appreciate was the sweep of the narrative from the Cultural Revolution to the present day. The Chinese characters carry a weight of history that remains difficult for Westerners to comprehend. The narrative timeframe is expanded when you consider the communications carried on across light years, and an alien invasion technically underway but that may not reach earth for 450 years. There are also a few murders, international intrigue, and one spectacular moment at the Panama Canal that is handled with disappointing reserve.

That reserve may be a Chinese element of the narrative. Ken Liu, the translator, says in his Postscript that he did not want to turn Cixin Liu's book into a western sf novel. He hasn't. The book incorporates science, political intrigue, and alien civilization into a narrative that moves calmly forward, keeping the reader engaged and building to a conclusion that sets up the next installment of the trilogy.