Another of my treasures from that Taiwan trip was the three volumes of 三体 The Three-Body Problem, by 刘慈欣 Liu Cixin. In the small amount of time I had to look, I tried a couple of Mainland import bookstores, but neither had copies of the book, so I got a set in Traditional characters. Yes, my luggage was very heavy on the way back.
I’m very slowly working my way through the eponymously-named volume one. It’s pretty interesting, and gives me a lot of things to think about as I’m reading it. Here are some idle thoughts I’ve had so far:
- Is Liu going to use the word 现在 xiànzài at some point, or is it going to be 现下 xiànxià the whole time? If he does finally use 现在, it will be pretty dramatic.
- Why does the English version have such a different chapter order from the Chinese version? In the edition I have, it starts with Wang Miao, and doesn’t get to Ye Wenjie until Wang has already gone into the game. Which order is closer to Liu’s preferred arrangement?
- How much background do you need in Chinese history, philosophy, etc. to get everything that’s going on? The section in the game with Mozi was pretty amusing to me — for someone who studied Neo-Confucianism in grad school, it’s pretty biting satire to see Confucius die in the desert, burned instantly in the hot sun for his vast impracticality. (Also, echoes of PKD’s Timothy Archer, there.)
I’ve actually tried asking Liu Cixin some of these questions, but haven’t gotten a response yet. Things to keep wondering about.