With my life now being dictated by a smartphone productivity app, I decided to try something completely out of my wheelhouse by diving into some Chinese science fiction (which I assume people refer to as "Chi-Sci-Fi"). In the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that the leader of a book club I'm in is the one who actually came up with the idea of reading The Three-Body Problem. That won't stop me from writing about it, though!
As the first entry in a trilogy that has garnered widespread popularity and acclaim in China, The Three-Body Problem was recently translated into English, allowing American luminaries like Mark Zuckerberg and myself an opportunity to see what all of the fuss is about. Unfortunately, this book does not make a great first impression. The two protagonists lack clear personalities and these early chapters are burdened by thick layers of exposition. When the author decided to establish two separate time periods and explore China's Cultural Revolution, classical physics quandaries, sprawling conspiracy theories, and virtual reality in his first 100 pages, he must have been confident that people would be curious enough to stick around and see what happens next.
And hey, that strategy clearly worked out for him, given the book's success. I'll be curious to see what the payoff to all of this groundwork ends up being. Having said that, it has already been interesting to read something like this from another country for a particular reason. Like countless science fiction stories written by English-speaking authors, The Three-Body Problem positions the author's home country as the center of all things important in the midst of events that appear to have worldwide ramifications. All of the important and relevant scientific investigations into the seemingly supernatural phenomena in this book are happening in China, with a couple of representatives from other countries along for the ride as spectators. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, and it has mostly made me think about how silly it is that the United States's government is so often portrayed as the only one that seems to give a shit when aliens land on the planet or whatever.