While I wrote in 2015 that I’d love to be part of a book club again, for some reason I didn’t really read all that many of the Sword & Laser assignments since then. At least I punished myself for that by listening to their podcast and hearing all about those awesome stories I was missing. In order to resolve this, in 2017 I’ll try to read at least most of their Scifi assignments starting with the one for January: The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin (in the English translation by Ken Liu). The fact that I’m already writing a review only a week after I picked this book up should already tell you something 😉 Turns out, this was one of the most interesting reads I’ve had in a while!
First, the story takes place in China and spans all the way from the Cultural Revolution to the early 21st century. I think this is the first book I’ve read taking place during that era and in that region so I was already hooked! The early parts of the book follow Ye Wenjie. Her father was killed during the first days of the Cultural Revolution and she is sent to a labor camp. Later thanks to being one of the last real experts in her field she gets the chance to work on a top-secret government facility tasked with the search for extraterrestrial life.
The latter half follows Wang Miao, another nanotech-scientist in Beijing who gets pulled into a huge mystery threatening the very basics of scientific exploration. While the story jumps between these two eras the time-line is still mostly linear. Once Wang is introduced, the story bits in the 1960s up to the 1980s are explored as accounts from some characters living in that era or through protocols.
The book mostly deals with classic Scifi questions like what would happen if a civilization learnt it wasn’t alone in the universe. That being said, the way this topic is handled is quite interesting as the focus here is on how a culture could be manipulated from the outside. While this may sound like something out of the X-Files, it certainly isn’t. Rather, what would it take to bring every scientific progress to a halt?
What also drew me in was the to-the-point writing style. Very little time is spent on decoration, still the world-building works quite well. And there is tons of building going on here! Yet the author doesn’t shy away from going hard-scifi in some places. Especially during the last chapters lots of time is spent on exploring topics like n-dimensional space. I cannot really write more without turning this post into a huge spoiler but I’ll say it this way: I simply couldn’t stop reading! Sadly, the book ends in a cliffhanger which is also pretty much the only unfavorable aspect that I could make out 😊
So far the series consists of three books. I’m pretty sure I will also read at least the second entry but not right away. First I should really make some progress with my pile-of-shame 😉 But if you haven’t picked up this book yet, please do so!