Cixin Liu is a multi-award winning science fiction whose works are now available in English translation. This is the first in a planned trilogy. The novel begins during the time of China’s Cultural Revolution. Academics are being purged and forced to undergo Communist indoctrination. One area remains untouched, that of science as China is planning a project to contact aliens from outer space. Ye Wenjie had watched her scientist father being beaten to death; yet by a strange series of circumstances, she is chosen to be part of this new team to reach outer space. This is truly hard science fiction. Even though the science of astrophysics is hard to follow, one can skip some of the scientific descriptions and still get the gist of the plots herein. At first the problems with the project are that Wenjie and her colleagues are studying scientific theory, they discover that eventually all past theories become negated by the new ones. Physics, Biology and Computer Science are omitted after their use has become negated by technology leaps.
The Red Coast Project is highly secure with a classified rating. Wang Miao has been invited to be part of the project even though his field of nanotechnology is totally unrelated to this problem. Wang has a problem getting others to answer his questions. What he learns is mostly from what originally was a virtual reality game called Three Body which involves discovering and eventually the renunciation of these same theories by Newton, Von Neumann, the First Zhou Emperor, Syzygy, etc.
Suddenly, the Three Body game is no longer a game but a connection with Extraterrestrial beings, the Trisolaran Fleet. Instead of being excited, the scientists become divided in factions. The proverbial problem is after the discovery, what are these beings like and can Chinese plans fuse with the Trisolaran beings? Will the latter reform human civilization, the goal being the elimination of all human madness and evil? Will the Earth be destroyed? Yours to be discovered!
The author includes a postscript in which he describes how his interest in science and scientific theory developed which is clear and interesting to follow.
All in all, this is a difficult text to read but contains ideas about science and scientists and humanity that is sure to intrigue fans of hard core science fiction. It certainly will provoke much dialogue about its theories, plots and plans for future novels in the series!