My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I won this book from Goodreads in return for a fair review (though this did not in any way influence my review). Unfortunately I got it at a time When I had no reading time available so I didn’t quite get this ARC read before publication and I am sorry about that.
First off, I was very excited to get this because it’s from an award-winning Chinese SF author and how often do I get that chance here in the States. The translation is smooth and not the least bit clumsy (which I have seen in translations in the past). I also very much appreciated all the translator notes on Chinese history and culture that are necessary to know to fully enjoy this. They were an immense help.
Now, If your type of SF has a lot of aliens and battle scenes, then this is not the book for you. Seriously, this is the antithesis of the space opera shoot-em-up. I was worried when I saw the title that this book would be a bit physics heavy since the three body problem is a physics classics. The blurb didn’t really clue me in one way or the other (and may actually do the book a disservice because it talks about ‘commercial action ala Independence Day and frankly there really isn’t that.).
This is heavy on abstract math, theoretical and applied physics and nano-tech. I’m a scientist but those are not my science. I think that might be why it got a three star rather than a four star review from me. I did enjoy this but I wasn’t in love with it. I occasionally felt out of my depth with the all the physics. This is definitely a thinker’s book. There is a lot to chew on.
It opens during the Cultural Revolution in the forties and Ye Wenjie, a young physicist, sees her father (and in her way, her mother) fall victim to the fanaticism of the revolution. She was taken first to a logging community as a punishment for her ‘radical’ father then accused of being a radical herself she is given a reprieve, a chance to work at the Red Coast Base which in some ways reminded me of CETI.
It fast forwards forty odd years to Wang Miao, a nanotech researcher who uses old time film photography as his hobby. A strange count down begins appearing on them leading him to start questioning things. He is drawn into a mystery where many top scientists have turned up dead, often by their own hands.
Wang is led to the Three Body virtual game which takes place in a chaotic universe where the laws of physics don’t apply. Worse, he begins to believe as do others, that the universal laws aren’t as set as we would like them to be. At first, I didn’t think much of the game other than it seemed liked a distraction from the other things whirling around Wang but it turns out the game is the important thing.
The last quarter of the book Ye Wenjie is back and the truth about what she had done at the Red Coast and what the Three Body game really is comes to light. Let’s leave it at ‘bad news all around.’
This is a science-heavy, interesting and well thought out scenario that I can see happening (well the idea that humanity is so broken it should be destroyed is out there at any rate). Contacting an alien race may surely not be in Earth’s best interests. I didn’t, however, really connect with any of the characters and it is a bit slow. Still, I did enjoy the book and if you like plot driven, hard science SF you will enjoy this.
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