For Contact Lovers: Review of Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem

By

three body

 

The Three-Body Problem (Part One a Trilogy) asks a fundamental question: Is science good for humanity? What happens when the progress of science is halted? Can humanity live, endure without science? What is the appropriate balance between religion and science? Is SETI (the search for extraterrestrials) science? If you have seen the movie or read the book Contact, Cixin Liu is very similar in some ways. I have seen the movie Contact; the book is on my ever-expanding TBR list. There is some emphasis on higher mathematics and science in the movie Contact. In The Three-Body Problem, significant portions of the book deal with basic physics and some calculus. It is not hard going, but unless you have a background in either higher mathematics, mechanics, or physics, be prepared for a slow down. It is still very interesting and I learned a lot from the narrative as well as the author’s post-script. Some ideas that had in the past been merely abstract concepts became real, understandable. Particle accelerators

(e.g. The Hadron Collider Hadron Collider)  the relationship of dimensions to size were two such concepts.

 

 

The Three-Body Problem is also a retelling, a quick glimpse of history, particularly life during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the race for space, and the recovery of life after Mao.There are also glimpses back in time all the way back to our hunter-gatherer days through the inventive use of virtual reality gaming, Eventually, the game has to end and virtual reality becomes reality. And you have Independence Day. The question transforms from SETI as a science to whether contact with extraterrestrials should be encouraged or discouraged? What are their aims? To replace us, live among us? What is special about Earth? What is valuable about humankind? Would it be so bad that humankind was wiped off the face of the planet? Is humankind redeemable? Should it be saved? What is the role of science, religion? All worthy questions.

As far as the narrative, Ken Liu did an excellent job in translating Cixin Liu’s writing. The writing flows, and I did not see any parts that should have been left out. The sections on history, physics, and mathematics are nicely done, intelligible and do not make the story-line drag. Beware there are footnotes, but these are spare and are helpful in bridging the gap for readers who are not familiar with Chinese history. I found the video game sections at first hard to get into as they appear to take away from, interrupt the plot but that quickly changes. Onto The Dark Forest, Book 2.

 

Advertisements