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The Three-Body Problem Paperback – January 12, 2016
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“A breakthrough book . . . a unique blend of scientific and philosophical speculation.” ―George R. R. Martin, on The Three Body Problem
“Extraordinary.” ―The New Yorker, on The Three Body Problem
“Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review, on The Three Body Problem
"A must-read in any language.” ―Booklist, on The Three Body Problem
"A meditation on technology, progress, morality, extinction, and knowledge that doubles as a cosmos-in-the-balance thriller.... a testament to just how far [Liu's] own towering imagination has taken him... forever into the canon of science fiction. - NPR, on Death's End
"The best kind of science fiction, familiar but strange all at the same time." -- Kim Stanley Robinson, on The Three Body Problem
About the Author
Ken Liu is an award-winning author of speculative fiction. His books include the Dandelion Dynasty series (The Grace of Kings), The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, and the Star Wars tie-in novel, The Legends of Luke Skywalker. He frequently speaks at conferences and universities on topics like futurism, cryptocurrency, the mathematics of origami, and more. He lives near Boston with his family.
- ASIN : 0765382032
- Publisher : Tor Books (January 12, 2016)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780765382030
- ISBN-13 : 978-0765382030
- Item Weight : 15.7 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.31 x 1.15 x 9.16 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Absolutely zero character development, I mean nothing! Just flat personalities all-round. In fact, I couldn’t begin to emphasise the two-dimensionalism present in this book even if I was blessed with the eloquence of a Joyce or Shakespeare.
Oh, and it might be good to have at least a PhD - no, that is a bit much, make it a Masters in physics - because the amount of academic regurgitation is borderline criminal!
And what the hell is this video game plot all about...are you kidding me?!? Dehydration!?? Utter-Rancid-Rotting-Garbage!!!
To leave my sardonic humour aside for a second, perhaps it really did not translate well from Chinese...similar to how Crazy Rich Asians (also garbage, but entertaining garbage!) was hugely profitable in the US, but an absolute bomb at China’s Box Office.
I’m so alone...someone please help me...please explain how I was led astray by so many?!
There is also rather ... amateur hour writing, which may be due to the translator.
In the book plot, the invariance of physics under translations in time and space has been proved to be wrong at higher energies, and because of this "There is no Physics" and scientists have started killing themselves due to despair. This is nonsense.
In the real world, Particle Physics has gotten rather boring and predictable. Short of some absurd theoretical results at energies that we can't test experimentally, the Standard Model has tremendous explanatory power and has explained all experiments and predicted new results correctly. CERN discovered the Higgs, as expected, but has brought out no new Physics, thus far. This is disappointing. Much, much more exciting would be a field breaking result, (such as a new, previously unknown, variance of Physics in time and space at higher energies). Particle Physics would be fun again.
Similarly, when Wang Miao starts seeing a countdown, instead of jumping to the most likely conclusion (that he is becoming mental ill, and needs outside, non-biased verification of what he is seeing) or that he is receiving messages from some outside intelligence, he starts to go crazy in a very over the top and amateurishly written way.
This series well and truly "blew my mind away". This isn't a page0-turning space opera adventure kind of story. The story is interesting and good, and there is most definitely some drama and entertainment - and the writing is excellent (translation to English is superb). But the main thing for me about this series is that it educated me about physics and really made me look at EVERYTHING through a new lens. The ideas in this book I had never encountered before - and I am a voracious reader. I found this series to be totally original and mind-blowing. There were time where I simply needed to put it down after reading only a short time, in order to simply ponder the ideas presented. I've never had quite an experience like this with a book.
Highly recommend this series. And, make sure you read all three, because each one is better than the last. The last book of the series was my favorite and just absolutely melted my brain. I mean, to the degree where I am questioning my own reality. Yes, it is that good. Really, a mind and perception altering experience.
Above all else the plot, world-building and pacing of the book are completely top notch. To have a hard sci-fi book that is not about space marines and laser guns but still manages to be a page-turner that you can't put down is an amazing achievement! This book represents the best in science fiction. It's about big ideas and examining possibilities. I refuse to discuss the plot but if you have an interest in science and technology and love the hard sci-fi genre, stop reading this review and order the book immediately!
I will provide one disclaimer. If you have no interest in science whatsoever or just lack an aptitude or understanding of it, this book series may not be for you. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to enjoy this book but you probably will need to have at least a baseline understanding of some basic scientific principals and/or a willingness to google some stuff.
Anyway, get it!!
Top reviews from other countries
Like most western readers and film-watchers, I'm very used to aliens always targetting America and the heroes being American - or at a pinch, British - and it felt surprisingly fresh to watch these semi-familiar events unfolding in a Chinese context. I was almost as fascinated at the insight into normal middle class lives in modern China as I was by all the science, science fiction, and history. And I loved the fact that many of the historical, cultural, and literary references were East Asian in origin.
It was the "oooh, a Chinese sci-fi novel, how intriguing," that made me pick this up, but I can't emphasise enough that this book has value far beyond that. The philosophy was thought-provoking and the science was head-spinning. I read a fair amount of sci-fic, but mostly the sort that's heavier on the fiction than on the science, so I'm not sure how clever the physics here was relative to other pieces of hard sci-fi. But with a ten year-old physics A-level, I found I had to concentrate and sometimes got a bit confused, but could follow proceedings.
The plot is really quite slow-burn, and for large swathes of the early and middle sections of the book, there's relatively little action and little really even to make this feel like sci-fi, beyond a few sinister hints and some unexplained mysteries. The first few chapters in particular - set in the Cultural Revolution - are more like historical fiction with a bit of science thrown in. Which is fine by me, as I enjoy that genre too. In the middle, lots of the action occurs via a mysterious virtual reality computer game, aimed at those with expertise in maths, science, philosophy, and history. The world it portrays is disconcerting and it's relevance to the plot in unclear - but ultimately, cleverly resolved. Towards the end, the action picks up, but it's all still focused on earth, humans, and more-or-less realistic science, rather than anything more flamboyant. As an aside, I went straight on to the sequel, where that really isn't the case.
Much as I enjoyed the plot, setting, and ideas, the characters often felt rather thin and two-dimensional, and the conversations between them often felt quite stilted and forced. I'm not sure whether this is due to translation issues, Chinese writing conventions, or the author's own deliberate choice or weakness. At times, it almost threatened to distract me from enjoying the novel, but that was ultimately never the case.
Overall, between the slow pace, the hard science and philosophy and - more negatively - some of the characterisation and dialogue, this isn't always an easy read. But it's ultimately a very worthwhile, interesting, and on balance, enjoyable one, that I'd heavily recommend.
To summarise the book, an eminent scientist is asked to join a global task-force fighting an unknown enemy that is making scientists commit suicide. It turns out the enemy is an alien race, invited to Earth by radical environmentalists (amongst others) despairing of humanity's behaviour.
Perhaps some of the problems are down to the translation - it was apparently done by a friend of the author rather than a professional - and perhaps some are down to the way Chinese novels are written. But in the end you can only review what you read. The major issues? First, the characters are utterly one-dimensional, interchangeable and without any kind of character development. Second, the dialogue is wooden and non-one has any kind of distinct voice. Third, the plot is simply unbelievable. It is just about credible that some humans, seeing their own species as environmentally destructive - might reach out to aliens without finding out what those aliens are actually like. But it is absurd to suggest that highly intelligent scientists around the world would be committing suicide because of strange results in their experiments. It is surely far more likely that most would be intrigued rather than despairing? Fourth, the computer game that the protagonist is drawn into makes no sense whatsoever. It is not a game in any real sense and the claims about its complexity and depth are not match in any way with the actual game as it is described. finally the action scenes are without any kind of suspense or excitement, devoid of interest and realism.
In some ways, this reads like a first draft, something that would then be worked on and revised and edited and worked on some more. Perhaps after that you might end up with something half-decent, that a good editor could knock into some kind of shape. But as it stands it is just strangely bad, in just about every important way.
As the story unfolds the complexity deepens culminating in the bewildering realisation that we have already been infiltrated. The descriptions of the alien technology and capability are truly mind bending and fascinating! Hard Sci-fi encapsulated.
This translation in to English has a postscript by the author where he reveals a little of his personal history and what draws him to the genre. This is a great addition and helps explain some of the socio-political and psychological aspects of the book.
There is also a translator`s postscript. Likewise this is a really good idea for a translated work such as this. I am always a little wary when reading translations and this postscript outlines precisely what I feel and helps to address this issue.
Its just not very well written.From the characters, trough the story and all the way to how the plot is being advanced....its just not very good. The setting is quite interesting, and the idea is decent/good as well, but anything after the game sequences in the book is just....awful, lacking, and poorly written.
Maybe its the translation, but I doubt it. Way too many instances where characters simply explain their entire personality and motivation directly to you, as if the author is breaking the third wall in the most basic way imaginable.
"I always was a lazy boy but was also super intelligent without giving it a second thought but I never could be bothered to apply myself but then I decided to go to the monks where the head monk was super smart too and gave me an epiphany that motivated me to start working on this thing that is super important for the plot and then this woman found my half-burned notes and figured out instantly that I was working on this giga-complex problem and as it turns out this is very important to her as well so she got me out of the buddhist temple and we got marred even though I am practically dead inside and dont care about these things and now she threatened to kill me'
It would've been fine if this was just single occurrence, but at least two other characters are done in the same manner and it is just painfully bad and cringe-worthy.
Don't bother. Hugo award my arse