The Three-Body Problem

Cover art from The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

The Three-body Problem by Liu Cixin was a very interesting read. It was recommended to me by a friend, so I thought I would give it a go. Since this isn’t a book report, I won’t be summarizing the story. Instead, I wanted to talk about some of the controversial ideas that are prevalent in the story. I feel like in order to give my thoughts solidity, I need to convey that this book is both different and similar to others in its genre. For example, many of the scientific topics and ideas used in this book are found both in other works and in real life. However, from my perspective, it was so different because it was written from a different viewpoint than what I have. Chinese culture is very different than our own.

The book starts the reader off with a healthy dose of fascism and anarchy, followed by a large helping of governmental control. During the Cultural Revolution, anything that had the semblance of western society was deemed heretical and seditious. For example, Liu Cixin includes in his book an exposition that describes how far this went. He explains that physical laws known throughout the world by one name were changed during the Cultural Revolution for the Chinese. Laws like Pascal’s Law and Ohm’s Law were changed to the Law of Fluid Mechanics and the Law of Resistance. The Manhatten Project was also deemed as an evil capitalist venture. Books, ideas, teachings were all censored and if they didn’t fit the narrative set by the central government, they were outlawed. When I read through this, I was astounded by how far this censorship went. For the Chinese during this time, it was very dangerous.

The second thing I want to mention that I found controversial is after Ye Wenjie has made contact with the aliens on Trisolaris. She is told by the alien to not respond again or his people will come and destroy all humanity. She ultimately decides to give her people up to the extraterrestrials. For me, this is an interesting moral issue. During wars and rumors of wars, history shows two competing human societies trying to control the other. That is how it has always been. We’ve never been faced with the question, what would we do if all of humanity was threatened by an alien race? Would we unite to defend the human race from extinction or would we continue to fight amongst ourselves? With the decision that Wenjie made, she gave up her belief in humanity and sentenced everyone to be destroyed by the hands of the aliens. Granted, the Trisolarians wouldn’t get there for 450 years, but even still, she willingly sacrificed her people because she had been wronged by humanity. Recognizing of course that humanity hadn’t done her any favors. In fact, it was human society that executed her father, drove her mother mad, and brainwashed her sister. So, maybe she had every right. With that being said though, would we so willingly forgo thousands of years of human culture and evolution simply because we had been wronged, or would we find it in ourselves to fight for the human race regardless of the evil in it?

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