If you have some kind of physics background, then you may be fooled into thinking that you understand just what The Three-Body Problem is all about from its title alone: a class of problems, with one set surrounding three particles.
This could be a difficult read for the layman, but it’s not necessary to understand this preface before reading – there’s an intricately written piece of hard science fiction regardless.
Originally penned in Chinese by Cixin Liu, The Three-Body Problem is a sedate, no-thrills novel that was a bestseller in China before being translated into English. It begins with the story of Ye Wenjie, a university student who watches her father being beaten to death by the Red Guards.
The first few chapters can be a bit difficult to get through, but Cixin Liu’s use of historical fiction brilliantly meshes with a meticulous passion for scientific fact, as well as details in predated technology. It’s also helped by the translator, Ken Liu, who provides the Western audience with useful notes explaining the intricacies of Chinese history.
And once it pushes into the life of Wang Miao and his entry into the videogame (of the book’s title) The Three-Body Problem decades later, the story takes a turn – becoming a Cold War spy thriller that sets it apart from other sci-fi novels.
You’re never sure where Cixin Liu will take you, and at times there are certain X-Files qualities to the quirks surrounding Wang Miao’s life. But despite the dipping in of other genres, not once do you forget the core themes: quantum mechanics and a quest for the truth.
It is hard science fiction at its finest, and fans will appreciate the superb attention to detail that drives this constantly evolving and impressive series.