I’ve got a soft spot in my heart (and on my reading list) for science fiction. It probably started when I was reading Michael Crichton as a 12-year-old. OK, Crichton might not be the first one you think of when I said “science fiction”, but Crichton’s mix of legit science into thriller novels was an appealing first taste. (Jurassic Park? eh, fine. The Andromeda Strain? Better.)
There’s an awful lot that gets passed through in the name of “science fiction” these days, though. For some incomprehensible reason, our libraries lump sci-fi and fantasy together, which means you’ve gotta be careful or instead of picking up a hard-science space opera you’ll end up with some multi-volume epic starring sexy telepathic cat people on a far-away planet that resembles nothing so much as medieval England. But I digress.
I started with Crichton, but progressed quickly to Asimov and Arthur Clarke. Later on I enjoyed Stephen Baxter’s Manifold trilogy and some of Robert Sawyer’s stuff. I still browse the New Sci-fi shelf at the library on a regular basis, but most of the time when I pick up an interesting-looking volume, it turns out to be Volume 17 of some big space opera, and ain’t nobody got time for that.
A couple years ago, though, The Incomparable podcast devoted an episode to Hugo Award nominees, and somebody brought up Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem. I was unacquainted with Liu, but found that this prolific Chinese author was finally getting a book translated into English. And what a book.
The Three Body trilogy continues with The Dark Forest and wraps up with Death’s End, the translation of which just released this fall. I finished reading Death’s End last night and wow, what a epic, sweeping trilogy. It begins as a current-day encounter with an alien race of such advanced technology they can hardly be understood, and traverses time and space to some distant future where the universe collapses in on itself only to explode again in another Big Bang.
Liu digs in to communication via gravitational waves, the survival strategies of intergalactic civilizations, and lightspeed travel, while telling a story expansive in spacetime in a way that hearkens back to Clarke and Asimov. The English translations are excellent, and while the books aren’t short, they kept me engaged through the final page.
If you’ve stuck with this post this far, The Three Body Problem might be one you want to pick up.