Book Review: The Three-Body Problem

I had been on the library’s waiting list long enough when I canceled my hold and said, “Screw it, I’m going to buy it.” I have one friend who just loves this book, and I want to read it for him before too much time passes

The Book

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The Three-Body Problem
Author: Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
2014
Amazon Link

Untold millions (well, more like three) people have told me directly that I need to read this. They waited with bated breath while I got my hands on a copy and read this. It seems, from the description, kind of War of the Worlds-y, but we’ll see where this author takes us!

Also, I took several semesters of Chinese, and I’m hoping that I might be able to catch some cultural nuances. It would at least make me feel smart!

Non-Spoiler Review

This was an excellent book. It feels different from anything I’ve ever read before, but it works so well. I’d definitely recommend it.

While I thought the story was good, what really made this book one of a kind was the incredible sense of setting (including all aspects of time, places, and cultures). Something present in this book was the idea of passing generations, of how past decisions affect the future, and so on. Reverberations of China’s Cultural Revolution continue to affect the way science, politics, and war is conducted. The translator, Ken Liu, did a fantastic job.

All in all, the book was fantastic. I’ll keep my eye out for the sequels, perhaps give in and buy them like I did for this one!

That being said, I definitely recognize this book is not for everyone. If you like Clarke or Simmons, this might be a great fit for you. If you’re not into reading long, boring explanations of sci-fi tech, don’t read this. You won’t even get to know what’s really going on before about halfway through the book.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Like I said, there were tons of explanations of sci-fi tech. Most of this was ok, but there were a couple things I’m going to complain about right now:

  1. Flying Blade Nanowires – No. There is no way you can get me to believe that a micrometer scale wire is capable of withstanding the force of a ship pushing against it, or that it will cut through steel. Even if I believe that a material exists which is strong, tough, and ductile enough to withstand such pressure, why didn’t the nanowires cut through the pillars they were attached to, since that was the path of least resistance?
  2. Sophon – The sophon was a computer the aliens made out of a proton. They unfolded the 11 dimensions of a proton, rearranged it to create circuitry, then folded it back up and commanded it to mess with the humans’ particle colliders and stop scientific advancement. Multiple issues exist with this:
    a) Unfolding 11 dimensions into 2 dimensions is ridiculous. This also assumes that it is possible to interact with such an object, that it is possible to detect and see this object. If something so small as a point is able to be flattened to a large surface, it makes sense to me that the surface would be so thin, it’d be imperceptible.
    b) If you assume that is ok, how did the Trisolarans know how to create their computer, especially when they had only just figured out how to unfold a proton?
    c) The Trisolarans commanded their Sophon to travel to earth. Even with quantum entanglement, how would the command their Sophon? What kind of input would this thing have? Photons would be unacceptable, since calculations are done in 11 dimensions.
    d) I can dig sending the proton through space since space is primarily empty. But once the proton reached Earth, coulombic interactions with air molecules would stop it within an inch – or a few feet – of entering the lower atmosphere. This is why alpha and beta radiation pose almost no threat to humans. The amount of energy it would take to keep the proton’s speed near the speed of light is astronomical. Also, the aliens claimed that their proton gathered energy by using it’s 4th dimension to borrow it from near the end of the universe, and even if you buy that, any single bombardment of the particle with another particle would cause it to have problems. I don’t see how it can be effective in a particle accelerator and still exist.
  3. Sun Radiation Bullshit – In order to send a message to the aliens, a scientist basically imprisoned by the Communist Party launched a weak message into the sun which caused it to reverberate the message at a different frequency and at extremely high power. This message reached the Trisolarans. I don’t think sending those radiowaves into the sun would cause that kind of reaction.

Next week:

Stand back for something exciting and dastardly extra! It’s a 5-Monday month!

12 thoughts on “Book Review: The Three-Body Problem

  1. crispina kemp says:

    I swallow, and dare to answer just one point … and prepare to be shot down in flames. But what the heck, when has that ever stopped me. The message relayed via the sun? If the sun is giving off charged particles of blah-de-blah, mightn’t the message attach to one and take a free ride? Though I don’t know how a guidance system would work.

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      The problem is how they got the sun to give the message. It didn’t quite seem reasonable. It has to do with the intensity of the signal created by the sun. The message would go out in all directions, though, so there’s no need to aim it at the aliens.

      • crispina kemp says:

        I don’t *fully* understand about proton and neutrinos and things, but if part of the premise is the ability to unforld the 11 dimensions (and I much prefer 22), then I reckon someone might be able to nano-engineer a particle that will, perforce, grab onto a solar particle.

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      I’ve been on my university library’s list for YEARS – I started at something like #106. However, I’m now at #8, and I’m not sure that I’ll get the opportunity to read it before I graduate in December!!! It’s quite sad.

  2. robertawrites235681907 says:

    I don’t think this book is for me, but I can understand the feeling of Chinese culture and heritage being passed from generation to generation. I always feel that is so, particularly for the Chinese and Japanese with their ancient civilizations.

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      I feel like things have passed from generation to generation in a lot of cultures, but cultures with ancient bureaucratic structures and writing systems have a distinct advantage in being able to analyze it. So yeah, the Chinese and Japanese definitely have a good sense of generational passage!

      • H.R.R. Gorman says:

        Most people: “Let’s pass on an oral tradition!”
        White Colonials: “Let’s burn everything and say it never existed because it wasn’t written down!”

        Though sometimes I try to ignore that because the white guilt can get pretty incapacitating.

      • robertawrites235681907 says:

        I think it is more the African people themselves. The young people have moved away from their rural situations and prefer modern things like TVs and Cell phones to their old stories, rituals and customs. There are attempts being made to write down and record these things now before it is to late.

      • H.R.R. Gorman says:

        Sounds a lot like what many Native tribes are doing here in America. Though whites here were *pretty systematic* in our genocide of the tribes, so it makes sense that a lot has been lost, which sucks.

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