What We’re Reading: The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem book coverTitle: The Three-Body Problem

Author: Cixin Liu

Genre: science fiction

Why did you choose to read this book?

I am participating in Book Riot’s 2018 Read Harder Challenge. Having read The Three-Body Problem allows me to check off the category “A book of genre fiction in translation.” Also, the book has been on display on the Special Collections area of the main campus library and I’ve walked by it many times. The cover jumped out at me; this qualifies it for the library’s Read Great Things Challenge, category: A book you chose for the cover.

What did you like about it?

It is difficult to describe this book without giving anything away.

What if people discovered an alien society? Should we hide from them? Attack them? Ask them for help? These are the questions posed in this book.

The action takes place primarily in China, beginning in the late 1960s during the Cultural Revolution, and continuing to the early 2000s. Characters include an engineer at Red Coast Base, a military installation with a huge antenna pointed at the sky; a nanomaterials engineer; and an ex-military cop with a shady background. There is an immersive online video game, set in a world of “Chaotic Eras”—when the game planet is uninhabitable—and “Stable Eras”—when societies can grow and develop technology. (All of this makes sense if you read the book!)

I liked the translator’s footnotes that provide background in Chinese culture and recent history. I also appreciated the detailed explanations of advanced theoretical physics in the book.

Did it remind you of any other book, or a movie?

Using the library’s book recommendation resource NoveList Plus, I looked up The Three Body Problem’s “read-alikes.” One of them is Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (I have seen the movie), because both books “reflect on technological progress and feature non-human intelligences who communicate with humans, often through computers.”

Was there anything noteworthy about the book?

The novel, the first book in a trilogy, was originally written in Chinese and later translated into English by Ken Liu. It won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015.

What feeling did the book leave you with?

I am eager to read the next book in the trilogy, The Dark Forest.

Who would you recommend the book to?

Fans of hard science fiction will appreciate the copious details about unfolding a particle into multiple dimensions.

What would you pair this book with?

On a moonless night, far from the city, stargazing through a high-quality telescope.

About Stephen Brooks

Stephen is a reference librarian at Durham Tech. He has blogged previously at acqweb.org and for American Libraries magazine online. He enjoys reading 20th and 21st century literature, biographies and books about sports.