The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Tor Books, 2014, 390 pp (originally published in China, 2006, translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu)
Wow! If you are not into science fiction you can skip this review but I say wow! I read it as the November selection for my project to read one book a month from my last 12 TBR lists. The first of the Remembrance of Earth's Past Trilogy, the novel won the Hugo award in 2016 and was the first by a Chinese author to do so.
The story opens in 1967 when the Red Guards of the People's Liberation Party, formed at the beginning of China's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1966, have splintered into factions bent on killing each other. Astrophysicist Ye Wenjie watches her mother denounce her physicist father, watches her father killed by four young Red Guards, watches her mother go mad, finds her other closest confidant dead in the woman's apartment, and becomes numb.
This first chapter provides a succinct history of the beginnings of Communist China. Ye Wenjie goes on to become the leader of a group of scientists determined to make contact with an alien civilization in outer space and request their aid for an Earth gone insane.
Despite being full of hard science and math, I had little trouble reading such a complex story. It address the problems we face now: a world on the brink of the collapse of civilization compounded by an increasing discrediting of science. Even the scientists attempting to carry out their bold plan are in conflict.
Later in the story we learn about the alien civilization from their point of view. They are on their way to Earth! It seems that their arrival will possibly save the planet but will destroy humanity.
Wild, crazy, though not improbable. The tale told in this novel shot my mind into outer space and gave me much to ponder, because we have all the daily disasters and annoyances but what if there was a bigger picture? If so, is mankind as a whole capable of the intelligence and decency required to save itself as a species? If not, is there truly a species or a greater power out there who cares? Since I think about this almost every day, I was completely involved in the story.
I want to, but I don't want to, peek ahead and see what conclusion this author comes to. I think it would clear my mind more just to keep reading the trilogy to the end. Earlier this year I read the full Broken Earth trilogy by N K Jemisin and felt a fragile sense of hope. Hope. That factor can get a Black man elected as POTUS, can keep migrants coming here, can get me up in the morning and through my days. I am curious to see where Cixin Liu stands.
The day after I finished the book, NASA's InSight Lander touched down safely on Mars. As I watched the live streaming video of that I wondered, where will we all end up?
(The Three-Body Problem is available in paperback on the shelves at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)