The Three-Body Problem Hardcover – 2 Jul 2015
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|Hardcover, 2 Jul 2015||
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'A unique blend of scientific and philosophical speculation, politics and history, conspiracy theory and cosmology' George R.R. Martin.
'Wildly imaginative, really interesting ... The scope of it was immense' Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States.
'A marvellous mélange of awe-inspiring scientific concepts, clever plotting and quirky yet plausible characters, all conveyed in in a plain style capable of signalling hidden depths' The Times.
'A milestone in Chinese science fiction' New York Times.
'The best kind of science fiction' Kim Stanley Robinson.
'Liu Cixin's impressive The Three Body Problem won the 2015 Hugo award for best novel, the first time a Chinese writer has taken that prize' Guardian (2015 Books of the Year).
'It's a stunning, high-concept, rollercoaster of a novel which offers an intriguing Eastern perspective ... this is a trilogy which, like Asimov's Foundation epic, looks set to quickly become an essential science fiction classic' Starburst Magazine (rating: 9/10).
'China has a lively SF scene inaccessible to western audiences until recently, so it's a great pleasure to read this book by Cixin Liu – the country's most popular SF writer – in English. Handled expertly on the terms of the genre, it is seeing this tale played out through a different cultural lens that makes the book fascinating. The translation is exemplary. The book is top-flight SF; smart, informative and engaging' SFX.
'Hard science fiction at its finest, and fans will appreciate the superb attention to detail that drives this constantly evolving and impressive series' SciFiNow Magazine.
'The writing is superb ... The ideas are astounding, real eye-openers that expand the mind and really get the old grey matter going ... A stand-out, award-worthy novel and one that deserves a place amongst the science fiction classics' SF Book Reviews.
The opening installment of China's best-selling apocalyptic space opera trilogy.See all Product description
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Like most western readers and film-watchers, I'm very used to aliens always targetting America and the heroes being American - or at a pinch, British - and it felt surprisingly fresh to watch these semi-familiar events unfolding in a Chinese context. I was almost as fascinated at the insight into normal middle class lives in modern China as I was by all the science, science fiction, and history. And I loved the fact that many of the historical, cultural, and literary references were East Asian in origin.
It was the "oooh, a Chinese sci-fi novel, how intriguing," that made me pick this up, but I can't emphasise enough that this book has value far beyond that. The philosophy was thought-provoking and the science was head-spinning. I read a fair amount of sci-fic, but mostly the sort that's heavier on the fiction than on the science, so I'm not sure how clever the physics here was relative to other pieces of hard sci-fi. But with a ten year-old physics A-level, I found I had to concentrate and sometimes got a bit confused, but could follow proceedings.
The plot is really quite slow-burn, and for large swathes of the early and middle sections of the book, there's relatively little action and little really even to make this feel like sci-fi, beyond a few sinister hints and some unexplained mysteries. The first few chapters in particular - set in the Cultural Revolution - are more like historical fiction with a bit of science thrown in. Which is fine by me, as I enjoy that genre too. In the middle, lots of the action occurs via a mysterious virtual reality computer game, aimed at those with expertise in maths, science, philosophy, and history. The world it portrays is disconcerting and it's relevance to the plot in unclear - but ultimately, cleverly resolved. Towards the end, the action picks up, but it's all still focused on earth, humans, and more-or-less realistic science, rather than anything more flamboyant. As an aside, I went straight on to the sequel, where that really isn't the case.
Much as I enjoyed the plot, setting, and ideas, the characters often felt rather thin and two-dimensional, and the conversations between them often felt quite stilted and forced. I'm not sure whether this is due to translation issues, Chinese writing conventions, or the author's own deliberate choice or weakness. At times, it almost threatened to distract me from enjoying the novel, but that was ultimately never the case.
Overall, between the slow pace, the hard science and philosophy and - more negatively - some of the characterisation and dialogue, this isn't always an easy read. But it's ultimately a very worthwhile, interesting, and on balance, enjoyable one, that I'd heavily recommend.
As the story unfolds the complexity deepens culminating in the bewildering realisation that we have already been infiltrated. The descriptions of the alien technology and capability are truly mind bending and fascinating! Hard Sci-fi encapsulated.
This translation in to English has a postscript by the author where he reveals a little of his personal history and what draws him to the genre. This is a great addition and helps explain some of the socio-political and psychological aspects of the book.
There is also a translator`s postscript. Likewise this is a really good idea for a translated work such as this. I am always a little wary when reading translations and this postscript outlines precisely what I feel and helps to address this issue.
The science in the last 1/8th of the story is great and has you hooked in; the thinking is expansive and provoking.
The story in the first 7/8th's of the novel that get you there is just not believable weak characters and dialogue. The way people behave, their choices and to be honest when you understand what's coming at the end, it doesn't make sense that they would achieve what they do, they'd be stopped.
Read it only out of curiosity, to see what the hype is and whether you agree with me. I'm in two minds right now whether to bother with the next one, so I'm going to re-read an Iain M. Banks again to rejuvenate my love of Sci-Fi.
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