| (22 Mar)|
Speculative, almost sci-fi fiction about a secret Chinese communications program from the 1960s that inadvertently plays a role in the downfall of humanity. Or does it?
This Hugo-Award-winning novel is the first in a trilogy, setting up a 450-year story of revenge. The opening pages are full of stunning images of violence and destruction. The scale of this violence throughout the book reaches from the simple gore of dead bodies on pikes to the analytic destruction of sub-atomic physics at a level that could best be described as philosophical. This book isn't for the physically or metaphysically squeamish.
The Three Body Problem is an old and interesting mathematical conundrum in physics. I urge any would-be reader who doesn't know what it is, to NOT look it up beforehand, but instead let this book describe it to you. There are at least two major outstanding set piece scenarios in this book that have the possibility of blowing you away with their ingenuity and simplicity, but there would only be one if you knew the specifics of this condundrum beforehand.
I liked the portrayal of the two lead characters, an astrophysicist and a nanomaterials researcher, but much of the rest of the cast felt too much like standard "types" of characters that would be inhabiting a story like this. Parts of the story are spectacular, and it's possible that a reader could subsist on those parts alone, but other parts are about as entertaining and readable as the minutes from a university physics department faculty meeting.
If I could give this story a one-word description of its tone, that word would be dispassionate. The story itself might disappoint readers of other works of speculative fiction, because much of the action hinges on specific mathematical properties represented by our understanding of physics, but the humanity of the characters — except for one crucial exception — has very little to do with how that science has affected the modern world. Modest attempts to portray such an effect later in the book are quickly snuffed out. This can lead to a frustrating experience for someone who reads speculative and other sci-fi-ish fiction for the entertainment of seeing human responses to different technologies, like myself. Because I haven't read all books in this trilogy yet, I don't know if that experience will be common to the whole narrative arc.
I think it's a worthwhile experience to have been exposed to this book, but as a narrative object, I don't know if I want to be responsible for recommending it to anyone who isn't already a fan of the genre.