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Journal of No. 118

April 30th, 2015

三体, by 刘慈欣 @ 05:24 pm

Published in English as The Three-Body Problem (<---spoiler-laden wiki entry), translated by Ken Liu, not to be confused with the author, Liu Cixin.

The book opens with some pretty brutal scenes from the Cultural Revolution, such as a physicist undergoing a fatal struggle session for teaching 'imperialist' physics. The historical milieu was interesting in its own right, especially from a writer inside China. But obviously, there's more to it than historical fiction. It's a novel of First Contact, and it's hard to talk about it in much detail without getting too spoilery. There are a lot of really inventive ideas in here, but also some things that stretched my disbelief suspenders past their breaking point, on both science-y stuff and character motivation. But I confess to being a little curious to see how things turn out (alas, the remaining books in the trilogy have not yet been published in English).

The Three-Body Problem of the title refers to the problem of characterizing the motion of three bodies interacting via gravity. Turns out it's incredibly complex. But Cixin mentions something I hadn't heard of. A funky figure eight pattern was discovered a while back, and even more recently (after the publication of this book) 13 more families of repeating solutions were discovered.

New Bookchallenge categories:
✓with a number in the title
✓'based entirely on its cover' (On a rare visit to a real live dead tree bookstore, it caught my eye. More because #1 the title caught my physics brain, and #2 on closer inspection it was a Chinese author, rather than 'the cover' but still.)
✓originally written in another language
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Journal of No. 118