Ye Wenjie sees her father murdered as part of China’s cultural revolution. That event will continue to hang over the rest of her career and will influence her actions as an astrophysicist in the Red Coast Observatory. When Wang Miao is recruited into the Beijing police’s investigation of a secretive society of scientists connected to a series of unexplained suicides, he did not expect to get drawn into the organisation itself. He takes up a mysterious video game, Three Body, and finds that it is the first step on a road that will take him some place he had never imagined…
Listened to the audiobook with Bruno Roubicek (fine narrator, no particular opinion on him). I picked up this book due to the Hugo win and went into it with high hopes. I was really fascinated by the first chapters that took place during the Cultural Revolution, and expected perhaps a bit of an alternate history telling of the rise of China. I was wrong.
Perhaps there is a disconnect between Western and Eastern storytelling styles, or there is a lot lost in translation here, but to me this book felt highly original in concept but very primitive in execution. All development and exploration of characters and all technique of storytelling are sacrificed in favour of advancing the plot and science fiction concepts. Scenes which could be exciting are either narrated in retrospect or experienced by characters from a distance. Often reveals are forced onto the characters as opposed to truly discovered. There are a lot of interesting concepts in the book, and it is full of conversation starters. It is not a bad work of fiction, but apart from the earlier chapters taking place during the cultural revolution and the chapters inside the Three Body video game, I just didn’t enjoy reading it from page to page.
To me, the book is reminiscent of some of Asimov’s earlier work, like the first Foundation book, and can even be compared in its focus on wowing the reader with complex science to Herbert’s Destination: Void. I would not generally recommend it, but I can imagine it will please some of the hard-core sci-fi nerds out there that don’t read books for the characters but rather for the cool concepts.