"The thin curve [when Ye was watching a waveform on a screen supposedly from an alien civilization], rising and falling, seemed to possess a soul."
Metaphor only takes me so far...When I’m reading a supposedly hard SF book I must put into action my non-suspension-of-disbelief-hat. That’s the only way I can read this kind of SF. I’ve heard from some friends of mine, that some books are all metaphor when the physics part of them are utter crap…. Excuse me? It's like saying, "look here, this is my universe, but try not to concentrate too much on it, look at all the beautiful metaphors I wrote instead." Don’t tell me this is me being pedantic. One thing is getting the physics right from scratch, the other thing is to do the extrapolation stuff the “right” way. In this case, base physics is quite off base, i.e., dead wrong in several key areas of the book. They’re so wrong that I only finished it because I wanted to pin-point the rest of the so-called errors. I know, I’m mean…The above-mentioned example is one of the most glaring examples. A wave form where one’s able to see something behind it just by looking at it! Even with poetical license in play, this is quite a bit of a stretch. I could mention another examples, but this one is one of the most obvious examples in showing that Cixin’s storytelling leaves a lot to be desired.
Show-not-tell is quite absent throughout the book as any good SF vintage book would. Unfortunately, this book was originally published in 2008. So we’re neither in the 30, 40 nor the 50s…It’s my firm believe that because this work was translated from “China's best SF author” by one of the well-read and writers of SF nowadays (Ken Liu) there may be a propensity to interpret poor form as some sort of interesting (aka exotic) nuance. If this book had been self-published on Amazon it wouldn't be getting any attention at all. Instead it’d be getting a lot of stick!
I'm usually not willing to roll with a lot of nonsense when it comes to a Hard SF book, and in this case, because getting the science right is at the core of it, I cannot read past the crappy science.
When I was actively reading SF as if there was no tomorrow, I’d be quite surprised to have been told that a book like this would’ve won an Hugo Award, but in this day and age this book did really win the 2015 Hugo Award! “Ancillary Justice” by Ann Leckie is another good example of crappy SF having won a Hugo Award the previous year, 2014. What’s happening to SF Fandom? Is everyone going bonkers??? A book with this kind of info-dumping to explain the key points of the plot and it wins a Hugo Award? It reads like tenth-rate Stephenson. On top of that, the characters were so incredibly flat that by the end of it I couldn’t remember any of them. Everything is so damn flat that at times I kept saying to myself: “My God, why do I keep on reading this kind of crap?” Alas, one is always on the look-out to be proven wrong. It didn’t happen once again unfortunately. I’m quite sure we won’t see the likes of Le Guin's “The Dispossessed”, Susanna Clarke's “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell”, Frederik Pohl's “Gateway”, to name just a few, in the next few years on the Hugo ballot.
2 stars only for allowing me to understand certain popular school of thoughts in China. Null stars for the rest of the book. Average: 2 stars.
NB: The Hugos’ output in this day and age 100% suck. The books are so fucking simple-minded. Worse than that, they're all simple-minded in the same way, so I’m unable to distinguish those meant for grown-ups from those meant for 10-year-olds...
SF = Speculative Fiction.