I don’t know about you, but for me, quantum physics is the stuff of sci-fi even before it’s part of a sci-fi plot. It’s disconcerting at a fundamental level (Yes. I just did that.) as it is. Add in some otherworldly considerations, and a sci-fi tale is born. In the case of The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, the sci-fi tale is gripping – and different.
For one thing, this book was originally written and published in Chinese. The world-view is one of someone who is Chinese. The inside look at societal norms and expectations adds a layer of complexity – and discovery – to the tale that was not intentional. Nevertheless, it brings another lens through which to frame the experiences as they are depicted.
Another aspect of this Hugo Award winner is the manner in which physics is thoroughly integrated into the narrative from the start. It’s not just that the parties involved are scientists, it is that they are immersed in their subject matter and bring the reader right into it with them. If you are not interested in science as part of your sci-fi, this book is most likely not for you. If you are, this is a treat to savor.
Some parts of the plot are a bit farfetched – in terms of the fiction, not the science – yet it all holds together nicely from start to finish. The sequel, The Dark Forest, takes up where the first novel ends. It opens with a telling perspective of the world and segues into a discussion that brings a new field of sociology to the world. Once that has happened, it’s time to settle back for another mind-engaging read.
No space opera this. No tech-driven saga. The Three-Body Problem and the volumes that follow, take us to where our zeal for an ever-deeper understanding of the workings of the universe lead us.