Books of 2015, #50: “The Three-Body Problem”, Cixin Liu

I have a hard time articulating my reaction to this novel.

Something about this book evoked the late-90’s “Otherland” series by Tad Williams for me—I’m not entirely sure why, insofar as the narrative trope of having events in some virtual world paralleling and ramifying out into the outside world verges on hard to avoid these days, and that’s about all the connection I can make between them.

On the one hand, I found myself drawn in by the plot and intrigued by the way society seemed to influence characters’ outlooks and behavior in ways that felt very different from the norms to which I am accustomed. Interested enough that I intend to read the second book in the trilogy soon.

On the other hand, there is a particular quality to some of the characters—their desire to be subjugated, their almost nihilistic conviction that anything must be better than the slice of mankind they are familiar with—that fills me with this almost surreal revulsion.

I guess it’s a testament to the delivery in the text, but something about the behavior of some of the characters simply set me so on edge that I felt as if I were to ever actually meet one of these people, I would be driven to physically assault them—to somehow try to beat humanity back into them.

It was weird and disturbing, and I still don’t know where it came from. Even just thinking back on it is hard to process—I don’t remember ever having such a visceral reaction to a book.