Monday, April 30, 2018

The Three Body Problem (Including Spoilers)

I finished Cixin Liu's The Three Body Problem this weekend.  It's brilliant and, like most good sci-fi, hard to paraphrase.  Without spoiling too much, it boils down to an alien first contact scenario with some significant hiccups.  First, the responders are Chinese, not American or Anglo-, and set firmly in the violent turmoil of Mao's Cultural Revolution.  Second, there is no illusion that contact with an advanced civilization would be anything but catastrophic for a backwards, primitive, environmentally rapacious group of humans who happen to inhabit Earth.

The essential question becomes not if we should make contact, but if the Earth and its people are even worth saving all.

But somehow, it isn't nihilistic -- the characters wanting the aliens to come and enslave or destroy us are quite rational in their motives.  They've seen the excesses of both Communism and Capitalism and quite righteously don't want Earthlings to spread beyond our home planet.  Being destroyed is, from the viewpoint of some, actually the right thing to do.

I'm excited to already have the second and third books of the trilogy waiting for me at home.

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