Review: The Problem With Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body ProblemThe Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really did not like The Three-Body Problem, and I realize I’m in the minority opinion on that. Had this book not been assigned for my Science Fiction & Fantasy college course, it’d be a rare find on my “did not finish” shelf.

It had nothing to do with its setting, nor it being part of a trilogy, nor the fact that it was translated, nor the fact that it was hard science fiction. The translation was done well and the scientific research was accurate as far as I can determine.

The reason I couldn’t connect with this book was because it failed to engender any emotional attachment to the characters. The entire cast could have died at any point and I would have felt nothing. They could have been all replaced with other people of other genders in other professions and it would not affect anything. One person told me “the plot is what matters in TBP, not the characters.” While I agree that plot is very important, I also believe that without characters your audience cares about (whether positively or negatively), your plot doesn’t matter.

The constant flashbacks as a way of holding back plot reveals was annoying, especially since this tactic was used all the way through the final chapters. (Trust me Ye Wenjie, I do not want to hear what happened to you 40 years ago, yet again.) A lot of the flashbacks likely could have been condensed, and the story would have been much shorter.

I considered only rating the book at one star, but chose two because–despite the flaws mentioned above–the translation and footnotes were done well, and the author obviously did his research. Needless to say, I won’t be reading books two and three.

If you’re up for giving Three-Body Problem a whirl, the ebook is $9.99 on Amazon.

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