Book Review: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin LiuThe Three-Body Problem: What it is about

From B&N: “Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

The Three-Body Problem: What I thought

I came across this book in a book store and it looked very special, a real find. I was keen to read it soon, so I made April East-Asia month! This is the first book by an East-Asian writer that I finished this month.

It was definitely a special book, but also a little cumbersome. First of all, there was some Cultural Revolution stuff that I wasn’t interested in, but I guess it was needed, because the story did (and had to) cover that time period as well as more recent times. Secondly, there was a lot of science in this science fiction novel. I can handle a lot of science in a novel, but sometimes this went a little too far even for me. At other times, I was pleasantly surprised by a particular scientific explanation. The explanation of the three-body problem especially, in relation to three suns, was very clever.

The blurb suggested an interaction between earthlings and aliens, but it took quite a while before the aliens entered the story. This was my main attraction to the book, so that was a pity. There were some very clever ideas about these aliens (for instance, they would dehydrate when it was too cold to live on their planet and re-hydrate when the temperature was favorable again).

There were several protagonists in the book, and it was hard to feel attached to them and their story. Towards the end of the book, several chapters dealt with the aliens on their planet, trying to unfold a proton, leading to hilarious effects. This was interesting to read, but it felt a little strange to have them appear as protagonists this late in the story.

The idea of what happened on Earth when people found out about the alien contact, and the expectation that they would come to visit at some point in the future, seemed quite likely: there are of course (of course!) several factions with different ideas of what should be done, people trying to have sole access to the transmissions, etc.

While this was at times a difficult and not always interesting book, I loved the ideas that were presented. I feel reading this book was great experience, and I love the new ideas about humanity, aliens, and the future I now have been exposed to. This is the first part of a trilogy, and I both do and don’t look forward to reading the next part. I’m curious how the story continues but I do wonder whether many more great ideas can be included in the story.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 400

First published: 2006

Translated: from the Chinese by Ken Liu

I got this: bought in a book shop

Genre: science fiction


Book review: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel FaberThe Book of Strange New Things: What it is about

From the publishers: “Peter Leigh is a missionary called to go on the journey of a lifetime. Leaving behind his beloved wife, Bea, he boards a flight for a remote and unfamiliar land, a place where the locals are hungry for the teachings of the Bible – his ‘book of strange new things’. It is a quest that will challenge Peter’s beliefs, his understanding of the limits of the human body and, most of all, his love for Bea.

The Book of Strange New Things is a wildly original tale of adventure, faith and the ties that might hold two people together when they are worlds apart. This momentous novel, Faber’s first since The Crimson Petal and the White, sees him at his expectation-defying best.”

The Book of Strange New Things: What I thought

This is a large book but reads so fast! It’s hard to put it down, as we need to know what happens to Peter, the missionary. His wife wasn’t allowed to come with him to Oasis, the planet far, far away. So, he goes alone. While his work with the aliens is very rewarding and positive, he gets messages from his wife suggesting that back on earth, things are falling apart.

He loves his wife very much, but is so engrossed by his life among the natives, that he finds it hard to be considerate to her. Life on Oasis is so different, he even forgets what certain things on earth are like (e.g., at some point, he can’t picture what a turkey looks like).

He is the only human who is interested in the aliens on Oasis. The others consider them freaks and not worth thinking about. But Peter is hired to evangelize them, and so he will. Although it turns out they’ve heard of Jesus already! And they’re keen to learn more. How about that? That was great fun, as was exploring the Oasians’ lives and customs together with Peter.

I loved all of this book and especially finding out what Peter would do: Will he return to earth when the time comes (or even earlier, to look after his wife)? And how does his relationship with the Oasians develop?

If this story appeals to you, don’t be held back by the size of the book. It’s irrelevant!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (very good)

Number of pages: 592

First published: 2014

I got this: from the publishers, Cannongate, for review (Netgalley, e-book)

Genre: Science fiction, space travel


Book review: The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

The Ship by Antonia HoneywellThe Ship: What it is about

From the publishers: “WELCOME TO LONDON


Oxford Street burned for three weeks. The British Museum is occupied by ragtag survivors. The Regent’s Park camps have been bombed. The Nazareth Act has come into force. If you can’t produce your identity card, you don’t exist.

Lalla, sixteen, has grown up sheltered from the new reality by her visionary father, Michael Paul. But now the chaos has reached their doorstep. Michael has promised to save them. His escape route is a ship big enough to save five hundred people. But only the worthy will be chosen.

Once on board, as day follows identical day, Lalla’s unease grows. Where are they going? What does her father really want?


The Ship: What I thought

I love post-apocalyptic fiction. What I love most about it is discovering a new world. And every post-apocalyptic book has its own, different world. Authors have such great ideas about what is happening in their version of the future. I always enjoy reading those.

In this book, the world is seen through the eyes of 16-year-old Lalla. She doesn’t know a lot about her world. She has been kept indoors a lot and hasn’t suffered hunger and homelessness like many other people in London. Even so, the situation of Lalla and her parents gradually gets worse, and they decide to board a ship that will take them away.

The ship is organized and stocked by Lalla’s father. Here is one of several things that I wasn’t sure about: How could her father get hold of the ship and the many things he has on board in this time of scarcity? Why did the authorities let him and the other people get away? Was he maybe himself very high up in the ranks? Because Lalla didn’t know, the reader doesn’t know, either.

Lalla is a spoiled girl, and not a very pleasant one. But she is asking the right questions. While the rest of the passengers are just happy to have food and shelter, Lalla, who is used to those things, wants to look beyond this. And she doesn’t like the answers she gets.

I liked how she starts off as a passive, ignorant girl, and eventually becomes a woman who thinks about her situation and takes action. I didn’t like her too much as a person, but I loved the voyage we, as readers, make with her in this strange and dangerous world.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 320

First published: 2015

I got this: for review from Orion Publishers (Netgalley, ebook)

Genre: science fiction, dystopia

Book Review: Wool by Hugh Howey

Wool by Hugh HoweyWool: What it is about

From the publishers: “For suspense-filled, post-apocalyptic thrillers, Wool is more than a self-published eBook phenomenon―it’s the new standard in classic science fiction.

In a ruined and toxic future, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo’s rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside.

His fateful decision unleashes a drastic series of events. An unlikely candidate is appointed to replace him: Juliette, a mechanic with no training in law, whose special knack is fixing machines. Now Juliette is about to be entrusted with fixing her silo, and she will soon learn just how badly her world is broken. The silo is about to confront what its history has only hinted about and its inhabitants have never dared to whisper. Uprising.”

Wool: What I thought

For me, this was a whole new dystopian world: a silo under the ground. And a deep one at that. Special couriers travel the stairs to deliver packages and letters all day through. But most people only use a few levels from where they live, and so, sub-societies are formed of those living near the top, the middle, or the bottom of the silo.

I love the ideas in this book. The details of the silo weren’t totally convincing to me: there was running water and electricity, and apparently the silo was so airtight, that the poisonous gases from outside never entered it. It did not disturb me too much. After a slow beginning, the story started to speed up and I was turning pages to see what would happen next rather than worry about believability.

The beginning was not only slow for me but also frustrating. In each of the first two chapters, a main character is introduced who is thereafter no longer important in the book. Only from the third chapter onwards did the main character actually stay in the rest of the story. I never like it when I get to know and love a character and then have to shift focus to another character.

For fans of dystopia, this is a great and suspenseful novel. I have already got the sequel, Shift, and I’m really curious to see how the story will continue.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 528

First published: 2013

I got this: bought it

Genre: science fiction, dystopia


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