Liu Cixin’s ‘The Three Body Problem’ was a unusually great read for me. The book is written by a Chinese author, and was written in Chinese, then translated into English. This, all by itself, makes it unusual. Science fiction read in the West appears to have all been written in the West. I cannot remember another time that I had read any science fiction written by a non-westerner. It simply doesn’t make it over here.
Because the fiction is coming from a different cultural mindset, the pacing and foci of the book are different. There are a few small things that did not make entire sense to me, but I’m unclear if that’s because of the cultural difference or if it was an actual issue with the writing. There is a scene where our protagonist is forced to move a pool table around with a drunk man who is trying to make a point, however the specific reason on why this is occurring or why it happened is not clearly defined later.
To the credit of the translator, there are many footnotes. Only a handful of the many references to Mao’s Cultural Revolution did I get. The generously applied footnotes did a very good job of explaining to me the references that are made otherwise.
A word of caution: the book features many ideas in physics that it does a decent job of presenting in ways that would not alienate the lay-reader, but it’s hard stuff at times. The title of the book comes from a physics problem of the same name. Because of that, it may be a daunting read for someone who isn’t interested in hard science.