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The Three Body Problem: My Thoughts

The Three Body Problem is a series of novels by Cixin Liu.  While I have a grasp of how Chinese works (not enough to speak it, but enough to pronounce most of the words I encounter), I honestly have no idea how to pronounce Cixin.  I’ve heard it pronounced SIX-IN, KEE-SHEEN, KEE-SHIN, and even CHEE-SHIN.  None of which appear to be correct.  But I digress.

As of this writing, there’s two novels in the series.  Also at the time of this writing, I’m still slogging my way through book 2 of the series.

Earlier in the month was actually the second time I tried reading book 1, and honestly, it’s a miracle I made it through in one piece the first time.  About this time a year ago, I’d commented that The Three Body Problem was kind of an ordeal to read through at best.

I’m willing to forgive a lot, considering this was originally a Chinese series being translated into English.  Believe me, I know a thing or two about terrible English translation.  Maybe I don’t speak a lot of Japanese, or any Asian languages, but when you watched anime as religiously as I used to, you kind of get used to a lot of it.  Somewhere around the mid 2000s, English dubs got a lot better than the stuff I had to endure, but I digress.

The Three Body Problem as well as The Dark Forest have pretty good English translations…  But sometimes, I get the feeling the plot might be a little too ambitious for its own good.

The plot, simply put, is that a race of aliens is coming to Earth with all the intention of destroying humanity.  Humanity is more than willing to fight back…  Except we’ve figured out that it’ll take about four-hundred years for the alien fleat to get here, and it’s up to us as a species to unite and stay united in the time left to us.  As you expect, humans are dicks, and this doesn’t end up being an easy feat.  It’s a pretty original approach to the clichéd alien invasion angle, but that’s where the positives come to an end, and a lot of the awkward “I don’t know, bruh” moments begin.

Maybe it’s because the audio version of The Dark Forest doesn’t feature Luke Daniels as the reader this time.  It’s always a little jarring to go from one reader to another where audio books are concerned.  My favorite example comes from one of my all time favorite series: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  The first Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book is read by Steven Fry, but then the other four books are read by Martin Friedman (I think that’s his name anyway).  Great, now I have to get used to some other guy’s interpretation of Zaphod Beeblebrox’s manner of speaking.  Hope you like New Yorker accents!

I want to cut the new guy (whose name escapes me at this very moment and I’m too lazy to look it up) some slack.  Luke Daniels is awesome.  He’s made the audio versions of The Iron Druid Chronicles truly some of the most memorable readings I’ve ever sat through.  It’s a pretty big act to follow…  And unfortunately, the new guy just isn’t doing it for me.   It also doesn’t help that he doesn’t tell you when it’s a new chapter.  Dude just keeps on reading as if everything’s one gigantic, continuous block.  For all I know, it might actually be, but not having the eye sight for print anymore, I can’t guarantee that one way or the other.

It could also be that Cixin Liu is getting a little too pretentious for his own good.  All I know is it’s usually a sign that the author is bouncing around in the background, bellowing “ASK ME WHAT IT MEANS!  ASK ME WHAT IT MEANS!” when the prologue is from the perspective of an ant.  Yeah, I get the reference.  Is it necessary?  I’d like to think no, but then again, I’m not the one writing the book.  Also, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m not above being pretentious.  Hell, have you read HikikoMorey?

Compared to book 1 in the series, which focused primarily on two characters’ perspectives at absolute most, The Dark Forest seems to bounce all over the god damn place.  I don’t even remember anybody’s names half the time!  The only character that seems to be returning from book 1 is the chain-smoking detective, and I still can’t remember his name!

Also, I tend to have a real love-hate relationship with hard scifi.  I love that they’re going out of their way to try and keep it as real and down to Earth as possible, but at the same time, there are moments where the angry mob from Monty Python and the Holy Grail are screaming “GET ON WITH IT!” in my head, and I have to agree with them.  Sad to say, both books have this problem in spots, but especially book 2.

I really wanted to give this series a chance.  Really, the fact I could finish book 1 twice is nothing short of spectacular.  Unfortunately, by the time I get to book 2, I’m just not enjoying the ride.  I’m already finding myself checking the chapter count on my audible.com app, and groaning in annoyance when I see how much I have left.  I don’t even know why I bother continuing instead of doing the logical thing and abandon the book completely in favor of the next Hap and Leonard novel in my cue.  Oh well, at least I tried.

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