I can’t recommend Cixin Liu’s Remembrance of the Earth’s past-series high enough. Now, i do have ties to China (my wife’s chinese) and as such, i’m quite interested in reading chinese novels, wuxia or otherwise, and it saddens me that it is so difficult to buy these things in paper-form. You can read fan-translated versions on the net in droves, but really professional publishings are rare. And if something’s available, it can set you back a ridiculous amount of money (60€ for a book). So i was quite happy when i discovered the first in Cixin Liu’s series, The Three-body problem. It won more than just one award, it was translated and it was available on Audible.

Here’s the blurb:

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 Cultural Revolution serves as an introduction and i think it explains why someone would behave in a manner like that woman who gets into contact with the aliens does – she ignores a warning from one friendly alien and sets up humanity for extinction by giving away the existence and position of Earth. There’s another twist here: it will take the aliens 400 years to reach earth, so there is time to react to the threat. Unfortunately, much earlier, so-called “sophons” arrive and limit human research by way of messing things up with experiments like the particle accelerator. So we can make progress in currently available technologies but can’t develop new ones and it’s quite obvious that the aliens are superior and will almost certainly win the war.

It is an interesting and new take on the quite common “aliens invade earth” theme, and even from the point of view of a different- chinese- culture, which is good, because “non-western” views on topics like that tend to be surprising. And this one is- it’s not very heroic- many humans will believe in defeat and think about escape, if they think at all, and there’s even an organization that welcomes human extinction. It’s an interesting mind-game that’s very enjoyable to read/listen to.

One thing of note: i don’t know why, but i’m really having trouble with many english audiobooks. With the exception of Roy Dotrice, who reads the Song of Ice and Fire books, i find it very hard to follow most narrators because they are reading quite flat and emotionless. It took hours before i got used to the narrator here and started to notice differences in voicing different characters or moods. I’d really rather read, but these days, it’s much easier for me to listen to audiobooks instead.

This week, i listened to the second book of the series- The Dark Forest, and i’m glad to see that the author maintains the quality of the first one. The third and final book will release in english this year and i’m really looking forward to the conclusion- so if you like that kind of sci-fi, i really recommend you pick it up.