Monday, June 15, 2015

The Three Body Problem, by Liu Cixin

The Three Body Problem is the first Nebula nominee of it's kind that I have read--a translation of a Chinese science fiction novel.  Liu Cixin is a very popular novelist in China, and he got a translation from an excellent author, Ken Liu.

Ken Liu says in the translator's notes that he is not trying to make the work sound like it was written in English.  He succeeds in this, the novel definitely has a Chinese prose flavor.  Overall slightly stiff, but kind of like Asimov.

The Three Body Problem is the first of the Three Body trilogy.  The story starts in the Cultural Revolution, and we get a fantastic picture of how very distorted and violent life got in China during that time.  During this time the Red Coast Base is constructed--an antenna to broadcast messages to the stars, as well as to receive them. 

And such a message is indeed received.  Trisolaris is a planet in a three-star system.  It is the last surviving planet in the chaotic environment.  Civilization has somehow developed to the point that it can survive the chaos.  They receive a signal from the Red Coast Base and make plans to come to Earth, contacting humans through an advanced video game.  Invasion to come?

This isn't a perfect book--the slight stiffness in the prose takes away a little--but the video game descriptions and scientific speculation are first rate and fascinating.  Well worth the read.  3 stars from me.,

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