What would you do if the laws of physics, of the universe, turned out not to be laws at all? Imagine you're a scientist confronted with this realization. This is one of the more disturbing realities that characters must contend with in The Three-Body Problem, the first of a trilogy by Chinese author Liu Cixin.
The book does an excellent job of making the scale of the universe, from its immensity to its sub-atomic particularities, conceivable and real. One of the scientist characters has a gift that allows him to visualize numbers, and in a note the author reveals that he has a similar gift. The book is very intelligent and detailed in its explanation of science; I can't say I could follow it all, but I understood the larger picture and was fascinated by the minutiae.
The book begins in China's cultural revolution and fast forwards to the present, shifting perspectives from the scientist daughter of a persecuted university professor to a man working in nanotechnology. Most of the significant characters are scientists, with the exception of Da Shi, a corrupt, wily policeman who became my favorite character. The protagonist, Wang, learns of the deaths of prominent scientists and starts seeing strange things, such as a countdown that appears visible only to him. He is tasked with helping to investigate a shady scientific organization, which involves his playing a strange video game called Three-Body. Nothing is what it seems, and Wang falls down a rabbit hole (more like a black hole) that leads to knowledge of extra-terrestrial life.
This Chinese SF novel was something unique; I found its different style of storytelling often engaging, though sometimes odd. The translator explains in a note that there may be narrative techniques unfamiliar to Western readers, and I could sense them. For example, much is explained through pages of dialogue, and the narrative can feel interrupted by the video game chapters, as much as I enjoyed them. I struggled with the fact that, after a brief appearance earlier in the book, Wang's wife and child do not re-enter the narrative, not even Wang's thoughts. His thoughts themselves are often unknown--for a time I wasn't sure where he stood in the quiet war going on.
Nevertheless, I do look forward to reading the next book in the trilogy (after a break) and to seeing the movie adaptation.
Really enjoyed this – you know I love my modern detective stories but sometimes its nice to read a mystery set in a time when there were no mobile phones or DNA matches or anything really except legwork, good old fashioned common sense and the use of the little grey cells (Yes this is a little bit Christie)
This is my first novel in this series although I have the other one sat in the never ending pile somewhere so will definitely have to dig this out – I was particularly struck by the setting and the atmosphere in The Body in the Ice and I loved how A J Mackenzie (another spot on writing team) wove plenty of humour into the narrative. It made for a fun and compelling read, the mystery elements are spot on and the writing style is easy and immersive. Great for a Sunday afternoon (which was when I read this one pretty much in a single sitting)
The historical elements were great – letters and actual conversations and the team of Hardcastle and Chaytor worked really well, I’ll look forward to going back in time (again) and read their first adventure. This is old school storytelling at its best and whilst I’m not generally a huge fan of Historical fiction there are exceptions to the rule and this is one of them.
Villages and community (loved Amelia) family dynamic and the social strata of the day bring this novel to life – that with the occasionally Holmes like detection elements and a gorgeously drawn cast of eclectic characters make The Body in the Ice a wonderful read.
From the blurb:1796,Kent, a killer at large, a family feud and a house with a secret. Doesn't it sound good?
The year is 1796,the United States have gained their independence some 20 years previously, the British took part of Canada from the French and the French fleet is ready (or so it seems) to invade Britain. The relationship between the British, the Americans ( republicans) and the French( revolutionary) is slightly troubled,to say the least. Against this background a small coastal community, and more specifically Reverend Hardcastle (who is also a Justice of Peace) is confronted with murder ( and smugglers, French spies and an adorable Irish wolfhound who is not particularly brave (a rabbit frightened the hell out of him)).The historical setting is marvellous, it is very atmospheric and the main characters are endearing.
But strangely enough, the last chapters are perhaps a bit long-winded with too much gunpowder, spies and cloak and dagger and somehow it kills all that atmospheric tension.
Still, all in all, a very good read.