Liu Cixin has made me question every sci-story every invented for its lack of vision. Cixin’s The Three Body Problem was so grand in scope, so truly “hard sci-fi” yet at the same time managed to capture humanity, individualism, doubt uncertainty, unfailing hope. All while narrating the start and end of our entire universe (as we know it).
When I first started the first novel of its trilogy I remember nearly wanting to quit on every new page I turned. I thought, it’s too heavy, it’s too dense, there’s too many characters to keep track of, I don’t understand the history of 1960s communist China well enough! And so on. Luckily, sometimes, I can be quite stubborn so I kept reading. And somewhere around a 30% progress I couldn’t stop reading the strange mix of whodunnit metaphysical existential mystery novel it had become. Complete with a mysterious game mixing history and improbable planetary revolutions. I thought of Gibson’s Neuromancer and general Kafka but there’s no point in comparison.
Then I met the woman who pressed a button and became a revolutionary and inspired an inevitable followers dissipating into various factions. The game. The daughter. The mysterious suicides. Who can stop reading after that?
But what impacted me most and I mean truly changed my outlook on life, fiction, the universe, was the last book of the trilogy: Death’s End. How can I even mention anything that captures the scope of the book? There is Sophone; particle, electron, photon and I know her as 子, in an alphabet I cannot even comprehend. The infatuated student who buys a star and lets his brain float in space. The female scientist from another era sleeping and waking throughout time till the end. The Wallfacer, and how I wish I could really understand him. Aliens we never get to see or meet but who permeate every aspect of earth’s life as soon as that one button’s pushed. An universe beyond our comprehension. How can it work? But also: why not? I don’t have a scientifically inclined mind but I did not need to and there is always imagination to fill any gaps.
Now I turn on Netflix, catch some sci-fi show (and though I am aware of the inherent racism, lack of budget or maybe lack of dare. I realise it want to say something about Humanity or Society but all it often does is fall into the same old black and white tropes of evil versus good, it throws in some unbearable romantic plot with no feeling whatsoever, I suppose to keep those ladies watching, and mostly is nothing more but propaganda for that One (pseudo-)democratic government or rouge group to save all those oppressed peoples who know of nothing better, who have no culture of their own, who have no thought of their own. I read yet another sci-fi novel, finish the last page. Close that Netflix tab and I cannot stop thinking: who will every make me wonder, imagine, astound, feel and realize the beautiful and ugly complexity of life as much as Cixin did?