Three Body Problem Book Review

8.0 The President Said It


It has been many years since I last read a science fiction. Films have been far more stimulating thanks to dazzling special effects. But I have reached a saturation point that the special effect can no longer disguise the monotonous story line. Three Body Problem came as the savior. It has redefined the meaning of “thought-provoking” to an astronomical new height – literally light-years away from Earth and 19 millions years into the future! Liu, Ci Xin wrote this epic saga of human survival, spanning many cycles of human civilizations. Three Body Problem is much more than a science fiction. Science is just the harbinger to his rich narration deep into life, society and human nature.

The story started when human made baby steps in finding extraterrestrial lives since the 70’s. Ye was a survivor of the Cultural Revolution in China where her father was falsely accused and tortured to death by student mobs. Accidentally, Ye got involved in a top secrete project – Red Coast: finding life outside Earth. Ye found a way to amplify her signal using the Sun and successfully contacted with Trisolaris. In the decades that followed, secret fraternity formed to invite the alien specie to “liberate” human race. The fraternity used a virtual reality game to find radicalized elites across the globe. As the organization surfaced, Earth governments learnt that Trisolaris had already sent fleet to conquer solar system. The fleet would reach Earth in 400 years. But in order to maintain a technological advantage over human, Trisolaris has sent over sophons – invisible two dimensional computers to monitor and stall human scientific discovery. Human also learnt that the reason we have not found another civilization outside of solar system is because any civilization exposes its location would dangerously attracts predators in the dark universe.

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.

In the centuries that followed, human race endured great hardship and enjoyed unprecedented prosperity. The galactic government built strong fleet and colonized solar system. For a moment, it seemed that Trisolaris would only find defeat when they come to solar system. When the 2000 strong fleet intercepted the almost harmless looking, teardrop shaped Trisolaris drone, it meant to be a showcase of military might. Then the drone attacked with decisive prowess. Generations of efforts, resources and the symbol of human pride and hope – annihilated.

There are many interesting physics in the book: reducing the speed of light, flattening high dimension to lower dimension and strong force binding materials. I am not any where close to be able to validate any of the theory, but they were described in such authoritative details that they sounded convincing. They were also laid out in the simplest terms and analogies that has done enough to pique my interest and imagination.

Technological advancement and the looming extinction threat constantly shaped the evolving society. Some people were sympathetic to Trisolaris, others were hostile. The new space-born wore an aura of prestige; underground dwellers lived on massive trees; people who had woke up from hibernation held high their traditional values; A fanatic but visionary man wanted to use terrorism to coerce governments to conduct dangerous experiments; Luoji, one of the protagonists, was hailed as the savior of humanity in one moment, and the next moment he was charged with anti-humanity crime. Battleship captains had to massacre thousands of fellow comrades in order harvest spare parts, fuel, and proteins, so some of them can survive a long, lonely journey to a distant star. Cixin dived deep into many similar moral dilemmas.

With its long time span, it is far beyond the life time of any protagonists, far beyond any life on earth and solar system to fully comprehend the consequences of any action. The ever expanding, contracting universe brought in new perspectives. After that 19 millions, even the words carved into the rocks would be destroyed. Few things really mattered in the universe. Survival holds the highest moral ground.

All praises being said, on the other hand, because the book is way far into the future, sometimes I found it hard to connect. I also found the ending to the second and third book too abrupt. Trisolaris seemed too easy to be manipulated.

A great break from the Marvel universe.


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