I read this book some time ago, but have delayed writing a review because it’s such a tremendous book I wasn’t sure how to sum it up. This book continues after the first in the series, The Three Body Problem – the Earth is due to be invaded in 400 years by an alien force with vastly superior technology. Given this knowledge, how could the human race best prepare for a battle for survival?
To make things more difficult, the aliens have deployed tiny sentinels to Earth that can observe everything – so like the best crypographic security, and strategies chosen by Earth must succeed even if the opposition knows the strategy in advance. The response of the United Nations is to pick four individuals and give them unlimited powers to devise a strategy and carry it out. There is little oversight – and by keeping the overall plan to themselves, the individuals can achieve some level of subterfuge and misdirection. The main thread of the story follows Luo Ji, who at first seems to use his powers purely for personal gain, achieving a superb lifestyle and making little visible progress on any plan.
The author conveniently gives humans the ability to hibernate for long periods, so that some characters are able to appear at key points during the 400 year ‘crisis’. We experience the devastating first encounter of the human defences against the alien technology and the bravery of some leaders of the space fleets as they question their orders.
This book won the 2015 Hugo Award for best novel and is one that I would recommend to Science Fiction fans. The story starts during China’s Cultural Revolution and witnesses restrictions on research and philosophy, to the extent that when the main character’s father (an academic) does not conform, he is publicly flogged and murdered. The daughter, Ye Wenjie, goes on to serve the country doing hard labour, but is recognised and recruited for a top secret monitoring mission. At Red Coast Base, a huge satellite dish is receiving and transmitting messages – although the purpose is shrouded in mystery. Ye Wenjie starts work as a technician, but her intellect and application make her indispensable and following a period of re-habilitation, she is able to do some research more fitting to her potential.
Without giving away too much, the Three-Body Problem of the title refers to a planetary system with three suns. The system is unstable, resulting in intermittent chaotic/stable periods for the nearby planet, Trisolaris. We meet this system through a sophisticated online game, played by another academic, Wang Miao. He sees a series of foremost physicists losing their minds and committing suicide – could this be due to the impact of the game, or is there a more serious disconnect between established, universal laws of theoretical physics and their application in a world such as Trisolaris? He teams up with Shi Quiang, a well-connected police detective, to infiltrate the masterminds behind the game and find out the truth.