Thursday, August 04, 2016

Book review: The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Three body problem is a hard sci-fi novel that is a combination of a detective thriller and a horror story.

The detective thriller is what the main POV character thinks he is in, and how most of the novel reads. The backdrop are top scientists in China suffering strange accidental deaths, and the protagonist having strange results in his experiments. As part of the backdrop, is the cultural revolution. The nature of science means that senior scientists in the present day all had to survive the cultural revolution, and a large part of the story is through a secondary POV character who lived through it, and as the book goes on you see the actions and experiences of those who were were targeted by the cultural revolution, who were the ones who carried out its actions, and who were instigators, then targets. This comes to a head as providing the motivation of several of the key actors in the book.

The horror story has two aspects. One as experienced by the main POV character. Like a good horror story, it is a case of an impending and unstoppable doom that is made known to a generally competent subject, who, for all of his/her knowledge and skills, cannot stop. The second is an online computer game, which initially presents itself as a side line. In the game, the players take I he role within a civilization, which because of its environment is doomed to failure, the players try to understand their environment and build a civilization that can survive and thrive.

The trick to having several parallel story lines is to bring them together naturally. And this is what I experienced in this book. The horror thread that is in the book makes you understand the POV of the characters who experienced the Cultural Revolution as their motivations are revealed. The actions and beliefs of the principle characters make sense. The temptations faced by the main character are definitely there (as he had been courted by both sides that are revealed) and you can see how he could have turned the other way.

I, like most, do not have much exposure to Chinese fiction that deals so directly with the events of the Cultural Revolution, which I have always thought to be a sensitive topic even through i have had informal conversations with those who went through that and the generation of their offspring. It was well worth the time.

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