The story of the search for and eventually communication with alien life takes place in three primary settings–flashbacks over the course of the later 20th century while China races to communicate with alien life, present day where nanomaterial research Wang Miao discovers one day that he’s the only one who can see a mysterious countdown, and within a virtual reality game Wang Miao discovers called “Three Body.”
The threading of the flashbacks, present day, and the game is done in such a way that makes you want to find out what’s going on. The slow boil of the pacing made me question at first how the story fell into the science fiction category, which seems laughable after the fact. (Keep in mind I hadn’t done any research on the story before picking it up. All I knew was that it was a hit in China.) Each time Wang Miao dives into the game, a rich and vivid world awaits him and the reader, making you wish he’d log in more often.
Blame it on the translation, but the dialogue is flat, and the info-dumps a little heavy at times. But the bad dialogue only helps to set up the stand-out character of Shi Qiang, the loud foul-mouthed chainsmoker who’s not afraid to get things done.
Though not without its problems, “The Three-Body Problem” was difficult to put down. But despite enjoying the first of the trilogy, I never saw any real need to pick up the next in the series. Will the Earth properly prepare for the inevitable invasion of aliens? Meh. Maybe. But that will be in 400 years–making the setting a vastly different world from our own and much more difficult to connect with. Definitely pick up a copy at Amazon.com, and decide for yourself if you need to know how future generations deal with their impending doom.