Review – The Three-Body Problem

Posted December 27, 2016 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of The Three Body Problem by Cixin LiuThe Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, trans. Ken Liu

Since this one pipped The Goblin Emperor to the post for a Hugo, I was very curious to read it. Buuut, a bunch of people who normally share my taste in books found it boring and completely flat, so I was a little apprehensive. Part of the problem is, I think, the cultural translation: Ken Liu added some explanations and footnotes, but the tone still isn’t very Western. The writing feels really flat and simple: this character did this. He took something out of his pocket and did something with it. Then he smiled. It doesn’t flow in the same way as most Western writing, to my mind. The translation works in that it keeps a sense of the original, but I’m not sure that was the best decision in terms of an engaging tone in English translation.

I was intrigued by the story, anyway, and honestly loved the way it was thoroughly rooted in Chinese culture and the Cultural Revolution. I didn’t know that much about it, but I enjoyed learning (and doing some extra reading). The Trisolaris sections are rather odd — suddenly Copernicus? Einstein? What? I didn’t understand what exactly was going on with the characters, though the idea of Trisolaris is compelling. The hard SF concepts were… less easy for me to grasp. You’re unfolding a proton into two dimensions? What, why? I’m confused…

But the central conflict, the idea of there being people who have so far given up on humanity that they called to aliens to invade… yes, that is intriguing, and it’s that plot which makes me want to read the next book. It’s more of an ideas book than one about characters, which is usually less appealing to me, but I’m intrigued enough by the plot that I think I will read on.

(Do I think it should have beaten The Goblin Emperor? Not in a million years.)

Rating: 3/5

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4 responses to “Review – The Three-Body Problem

  1. I definitely struggled with this one – both the hard SF and the characters. I was fascinated by the historical passages, but didn’t find the present-day plot held my interest (it was rapidly turning into one of those reads where you root for the apocalypse, so I haven’t continued with the series).

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