Despite the recent boom for foreign fiction in the U.K., it is still difficult in getting English-language readers to pay attention to science fiction not written in English. There were a few translations from Chinese writers, I remember Lao She’s Cat Country translated in the 1970s, but Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem must be the first modern hard science fiction translated from Chinese in English. It is a story that combines plausible physics and high-concept ideas, such as the 3-body problem referred in the title, innovative nanomaterials and technology of energy transmissions with a compelling story that explores key social, political, and historical events in the People’s Republic of China since the dark years of the Cultural revolution.
In his Author’s Postscript Cixin Liu argues that
“science fiction is a literature that belongs to all humankind. It portrays events of interest to all humanity, and thus science fiction should be the literary genre most accessible to readers of different nations. Science fiction often describes a day when humanity will form a harmonious whole and I believe the arrival of such a day need not to wait for the appearance of extraterrestrials.”
The Three-Body Problem which was first published in China in 2008, is the first book of the trilogy titled Remembrance of Earth’s Past. It is a fascinating read; it explores the chaotic and doomed world of Trisolarans, an alien civilisation who see the colonization of Earth as their best chance at survival.
Central to the story is the 3-body problem, the oldest – it is dating back to Newton – unsolved problem in mathematical physics. Unlike the two-body problem, the numerical orbit integrations to determine the evolution of a three-body system are unstable, and decay either into three separate stars moving away to infinity, or into a binary star and a single star.
Kill the Science – A brief abstract of how to contain a civilization’s development.
“…To effective contain a civilization’s development and disarm it across such a long span of time, there is only one way: kill its science.”
The science consul said: “The plan focuses on emphasizing the negative environmental effects of scientific development and showing signs of supernatural power to the population of Earth. In addition to highlighting the negative effects of progress, we’ll also attempt to use a series of ‘miracles’ to construct an illusory universe that cannot be explained by the logic of science. After these illusions have been maintained for some time, it’s possible that Trisoralan civilisation may become a target of religious worship there. Then, unscientific ways of thinking will dominate scientific thinking among human intellectuals, and lead to the collapse of the entire scientific system of thought.”