06 June 2017

Hugos 2017 [Prelude]: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

Trade paperback, 434 pages
Published 2016 (originally 2006)

Acquired and read May 2017
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

It took me a little bit to get into this book, which I'm reading because the third volume in the series it began is a 2017 finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Novel. There are a lot of characters, and Liu sort of jerks you from character to character, especially at first, and the one the narrative ends up settling on doesn't really have a personality beyond "baffled but well-meaning scientist." This is definitely a sort of throwback science fiction, like The Martian, more the sf of ideas and technology than of character and society. Which turns out to be fine, because once I came to grips with that, I actually really got into the book.

The explorations of the simulated alien world of Trisolaris are really neat, especially the grappling with how would you devise scientific reasoning in a world that seemingly defied rational prediction. As things started to come together in the final third of the novel, I liked it even more-- as the narrative comes back to Ye Wenjie, she turns out to be a fascinating character. This isn't just a book about cool scientific concepts, it's also about the processes of history, and who gets left behind by history, and who feels betrayed by progress. Liu provides a mirrored vision for these issues, as we see them play out on both Trisolaris and in China. Those who struggle against history are of course themselves part of it, and even though this book just spans from 1967 to 2007, I can already see how this series will (quite appropriately) project hundreds of years into the future by the time it's done.

Next Week: A return to the world of The Broken Earth in The Obelisk Gate!

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