Ye Wenjie watched her father being beaten to death during China’s Cultural Revolution during the late ’60’s for not renouncing his scientific beliefs. Ye, given the chance to redeem herself for her own transgressions, ends up working at a secret military communications base which sends signals into space. Her discoveries and actions there impact our future in a major way.

“The real solution to the three-body problem is to build a mathematical model so that, given any initial configuration with the known vectors, the model can predict all subsequent motion of the three-body system.”

page 154

Skip forward to our present, Wang Miao, a nanomaterial researcher is drawn into helping the Chinese police infiltrate The Frontiers of Science group, a mysterious and potentially dangerous group of people who are interested in handing Earth over to aliens.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

Three-Body Problem is on our shelf not only for the science and philosophical aspects of it, but won the Chinese Nebula and Galaxy award.

It was translated to English by Ken Liu, who is himself a Hugo, Nebula & World Fantasy award winner.

The 2014 translation was nominated for the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Rating (5 stars)

I’m going to be painfully honest here, I struggled with this book. A lot.

As much as I love science and philosophy, oftentimes concepts (especially advanced ones) fly right over my head unless they’re explained very slowly. I read and re-read parts, let them sink in as much as possible, and in some instances, they remained as slippery as an eel until I was able to hash it out with someone who read the book, and is a lot more science-minded than I am.

That said, I loved this book.

There’s enough explanation of the goings on that if you don’t 100% “get it”, you can still enjoy the story.

The other reason why the book works well is the fact that the translation is phenomenal. Having snagged a translator who has a sci-fi background saves what might have been a very tedious story, and turned it into a masterpiece.