Originally published in 2006 in China, this highly acclaimed work of Chinese scifi is now available to English speakers, and it’s worth the hype. Reminiscent of Arthur C. Clarke, this is a classic tale about what humans would do if we found a way to send a message across space, far enough that someone might hear it.
Present-day nano-tech engineer Wang Miao begins to uncover a conspiracy that threatens to destroy the progress of all fundamental science on Earth. During his search, Wang is introduced to an online videogame, Three Body, that is psychedelic, abstract, and demanding, yet extremely addictive. Another storyline, which takes place during and after China’s Cultural Revolution, concerns astrophysicist Ye Wenjie as she is labeled a traitor, but given a second chance when she is allowed to work at a secret research base called Red Coast. On a whim, she decides to test a theory without permission, sending a signal into space.
This is hard scifi, complete with passages of technical exposition. (In the field of classical mechanics, the three-body problem attempts to determine the motion of three particles, knowing the initial position, masses, and velocities at a particular moment in time.) But this novel is also a mystery thriller with empathetic characters, not to mention a moral story for human race itself. Who wouldn’t love the gruff down-to-earth police officer, Da Shi, who provides common sense tactics and humor at just the right moments?
I love that this translation brings together two distinct cultures, advancing the in-group of what it means to be a part of the science fiction community. This book is deeply rooted in Chinese history, culture, and politics, but it’s also very human. The Three-Body Problem is a stunning and elegant scifi epic with profound implications. I love it!
“It was impossible to expect a moral awakening from humankind itself, just like it was impossible to expect humans to lift off the earth by pulling up on their own hair. To achieve moral awakening required a force outside the human race.”