Book review – The Three Body Problem – Hard sci-fi

The Three Body Problem – Cixin Liu

4 star read

Why I read: Hugo award winning sci-fi.  I read a review on Helen’s Bookshelf which sold it to me as a must read book.

Book blurb: “The Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple award winning phenomenon from China’s most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.

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.”

Select  quote : “To effectively contain a civilization’s development and disarm it across such a long span of time, there is only one way: kill its science.”
― Liu CixinThe Three-Body Problem

 

My review

The book begins during China’s Cultural revolution where Ye Wenjie witnesses her fathers death at the hands of the Red Guards, this event shapes her view on humanity and we see later  how this has an impact on the rest of mankind.  Years later Nanotech Wang Mayo infiltrates a secret organisation and immerses into a virtual world  ruled by the interaction of its three suns.   This Three Body Problem is the key to scientists deaths, a conspiracy which spans light years and the extinction level threat facing humanity.

Its hard to talk about this book without giving anything away!  I absolutely loved how much this book had science at its core.  I didn’t  always understand all of the physics and some I was unsure if it was current physics knowledge or it was fictional science for the story but this did not impact on my enjoyment.   The virtual reality system was amazing and really spoke to my inner gamer geek.  I loved how game theory and physics intertwined as Wang tries to solve the Three Body Problem and work out the pattern of the Stable and Chaotic eras which occur within the VR.   It’s a real hard thinking book full of huge ideas.   There’s so much going on within the speculative fiction including concepts on astrology, aliens, religion and humanity.    Like most good sci-fi it shines a light upon humanity so you see both the good and bad and possible futures based on this.   I took my time reading it as felt I would miss out on so much if I read it quickly.  I still got a little lost in places as there is just so much going on.  There are many themes than run through but all get tied together nicely at the end.

The characters are all well thought out, quirky people but realistic.  I think its a fine example of gender equality writing.   There were women scientists in the book and these were presented as it being completely normal and they just happened to be women.  Not super-hero women who had exceptional talents so could do science but real normal women.  I’ve tagged it as a feminist book because of this.  Not because it deals with issues to do with women but because of the strong sense of equality present throughout.  Its a really positive way of writing which I hope to read more of in the future.

I prefer writing that is more descriptive and evocative. I don’t know if its the translation but it is written quite plain speaking.  This does however fit in with all the science that is packed into the book.   The translator did a  great job, throughout the book are a few footnotes that explain aspects of Chinese culture and history relevant to what is happening and these added to my understanding.  This book is highly original so is a must read for anyone who enjoys hard sci-fi.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Hard science fiction, physics, Chinese sci-fi, strong female characters, thought-provoking books, big idea books.

“Science fiction is a literature that belongs to all humankind. It portrays events of interest to all of humanity, and thus science fiction should be the literary genre most accessible to readers of different nations. Science fiction often describes a day when humanity will form a harmonious whole, and I believe the arrival of such a day need not wait for the appearance of extraterrestrials.” 
― Liu CixinThe Three-Body Problem

****

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published November 11th 2014 by Tor Books (first published 2007)
ISBN 0765377063
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Book Review : The Growing Season – thought provoking dystopia

The Growing Season – by Helen Sedgwick

4 star read

Why I read:  Science fiction and dystopia with strong feminist themes

Book blurb: “Now anyone can have a baby. With FullLife’s safe and affordable healthcare plan, why risk a natural birth?

Without the pouch, Eva might not have been born. And yet she has sacrificed her career, and maybe even her relationship, campaigning against FullLife’s biotech baby pouches. Despite her efforts, everyone prefers a world where women are liberated from danger and constraint and all can share the joy of childbearing. Perhaps FullLife has helped transform society for the better? But just as Eva decides to accept this, she discovers that something strange is happening at FullLife.

Piotr hasn’t seen Eva in years. Not since their life together dissolved in tragedy. But Piotr’s a journalist who has also uncovered something sinister about FullLife. What drove him and Eva apart may just bring them back together, as they search for the truth behind FullLife’s closed doors, and face a truth of their own.

A beautiful story about family, loss and what our future might hold, The Growing Season is an original and powerful novel by a rising talent”

 

 

My review

A beautiful, thought provoking book.  Exquisitely layered with hope, sadness, heart-break, love, family, science-fiction and dystopia.  Set in the near future where a  bio-tech baby pouch has been invented and is owned by a private-for profit FullLife Company who have exclusive rights to the pouches. This pouch is marketed to allow anyone to experience pregnancy and as an end to female equality issues.   A journalist discovers that there are problems with some of the babies being born from the pouches which is being covered up by the FullLife Company.   A mix of characters try to figure out what is happening and causing babies to die in the pouches, as there is a lot at stake both financial and society wide.

This book explores many ethical dilemmas around women’s roles, equality,  family, life and death.  This is done in a wonderfully thought out and caring way that forms part of the book and the characters views.    The pros and cons of the science and how this impacts on society are explored which I enjoyed as science ethics really interests me.  Earlier parts of the book run a little slow but the last section makes up for this.  The thriller part of the novel runs slim, a lot of pages are devoted to backstories of the characters and their views, and exploring the ethics around the technology.  To me this added to the book,  giving emotion and making it a really thought-provoking read.  Some themes reminded me of the Handmaiden’s Tale with its look at how conceiving babies is a woman’s role but how the pouch could transform that.  But The Growing Season is a wonderfully original novel that deserves a place amongst the must-reads of dystopian fiction.

Sedgewich writes in a passionate, evocative prose that is very captivating.  The characters are all human, fleshed out with flaws and strengths, errors and achievements that allow you to connect with them.  At times I got a little confused with who’s story I was reading as characters would switch around within chapters so you do need to pay attention.

It is a book I will read again, for the hope contained within the pages for a better future and the beautiful tale of love and heartbreak.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Strong female characters, science fiction, dystopia, feminism, science ethics.

****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

ebook
Expected publication: September 7th 2017 by Vintage Digital
ISBN 1473548756 (ISBN13: 9781473548756)

Book Review: Nights of Blood wine – Exquisite dark vampire shorts

Nights of Blood Wine – Freda Warrington

5 star read

Why I read: Vampires! Vampire tales written by one of my favourite authors. I knew I was in for a treat.

Book blurb: “”Enter the spellbinding worlds of Freda Warrington. Fifteen tales of horror and darkness, taking the reader deeper into the vampiric and the unknown.

Warrington’s vampires haunt the borderlands of excess, and you can find them here in ten stories set in her popular Blood Wine series of novels. Then there are five further tales of fantasy and horror as Warrington takes you further into the worlds of imagination. Step gently, as you may not leave untouched!”?”

Select passage: “They split women in half, good and bad, virgin and whore, submissive and disobedient, Eve and Lilith, Odette and Odile. But we are all one. Lilith’s crime was her refusal to be dominated. She is rage and freedom and sexuality, all the things women are not meant to be, even today because men fear those things so greatly. Yes, she is dark, but darkness is only the essential complement of light. It is mystery, not evil. How people fear mystery!” My Name is Not Juliette, Freda Warrington

 

My review

Reading this book was pure indulgence for me. I loved the Blood Wine series as a teenager and this took me right back there into the addiction. Beautiful yet dark vampires, complex stories filled with emotion and depth, a touch of eroticism, all wrapped up in lavish prose.

Nights of Blood Wine consists of 15 short stories. These are dark tales of vampires, fantasy and horror that weave mythology into a breathtaking new vision. They can be read as stand alone tales so no previous knowledge is needed of her previous works. All my old favourites are back, Karl and Charlotte, the vampire twins Stefan and Niklas and Violette. 5 other tales not inspired by the Blood Wine novels make up the rest of the shorts including an intriguing story featuring Dracula.

Freda Warrington’s vampires are far away from sparkly “Twilight” teen romance vampires. Her “romance” is a sprinkling of adult eroticism, dark and disturbing visions of blood and cravings. Her vampires are complex, multi-layed beings some capable of both pure evil and others spellbinding empathy towards humans. She writes women beautifully, mixing good and bad, strength and vulnerability into complex, realistic and compelling characters. This work has an element of feminism but its there in the background and the richness of all her characters, male and female rather than pushed at you. Each story gives an exquisite glimpse into the characters lives and takes you into a wonderful fantasy world of vampires. I only wish some of the vampire stories were longer as I loved re-visiting that world.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Strong female characters, vampires, horror, fantasy, dark tales

*****

Paperback, 228 pages
Published March 31st 2017 by Telos
About the author:   Freda Warrington is an award-winning British author, known for her epic fantasy, vampire and supernatural novels.

 More about Freda Warrington and her other books can be found on her website: http://www.fredawarrington.com/

5 Star Sci-Fi Classics

 

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18373.Flowers_for_Algernon

Heartbreaking exploration of mental problems and how society treats and perceives people differently. Immensely thought provoking this classic sci-fi explores what it means to be human. It is as relevant today as when first written. Perhaps even more so as we move forward with scientific knowledge and the possibility of genetically enhancing intelligence.

The tale is told through Gordon’s journals where the writing style, spelling and grammar alters as he changes. it beautifully demonstrates his life as he undergoes an operation to make him smart and the consequences of this.

I really enjoyed reading this book.

*****

18373

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25837084-the-left-hand-of-darkness

An embassy arrives on a distant planet of Winter which is populated by ambisexual beings. The unfolding tale is a fascinating exploration of gender and what it means to be human. Ursula’s ideas were an interesting thought experiment that demonstrates the best of what speculative fiction can be. This exploration of the human condition is still a relevant feminist/humanist novel today. I really enjoyed the book and did not want it to end.

*****