science fiction not fiction

Is it possible that the relationship between humanity and evil is similar to the relationship between the ocean and an iceberg floating on its surface? Both the ocean and the iceberg are made of the same material. That the iceberg seems separate is only because it is in a different form. In reality, it is but a part of the vast ocean.…

The Three-Body Problem (三体) by Liu Cixin (刘慈欣). 2008. Translated by Ken Liu in 2014.

The first in a trilogy named Remembrance of Earth’s Past (地球往事), The Three-Body Problem is a science fiction novel by Chinese computer engineer-turned-author Liu Cixin. Its English translation by Chinese-American author Ken Liu won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel, the most prestigious honor for a work of science fiction. Set in Beijing, China, nanotech engineer Wang Miao is asked by the police to infiltrate a community of scientists that has been hit by a string of mysterious suicides. He soon begins to play a virtual reality game where players must work to decode the climate patterns of an extraterrestrial planet, which pulls him into a horrifying conspiracy that could mean the end of humanity. The Three-Body Problem has been adapted into a Chinese film starring Feng Shaofeng, to be released this year. 

Follow sinθ magazine for more daily posts about Sino arts and culture.

Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was written by the French author Jules Verne and published in 1870. This is an early science fiction novel about a professor who stumbles across a fantastic submarine (this predates the actual use of submarines) where he is a sort of prisoner with his two friends of the mysterious Captain Nemo. They sail around the globe with Captain Nemo and witness the many wonders of the ocean depths.

The storyline was a lot less action packed than I expected, but I quite liked it. I felt like I got such an extensive education about the many creatures of the sea and about the geography of the world through this book. It also just made me feel like a world traveler. Verne included so much of the globe in this book, which was fantastic. There was a lot of scientific information about fish and what not in the book, which some could find dry. I rather enjoyed it though. I took my time with this book and I found it all very fascinating. In this day and age the technology doesn’t seem so out of this world, but if you take into account the time period this was written in, Jules Verne really foresaw the use of certain things. For instance: the submarine, the use of electricity to light and power things, diving suits with air tanks etc. The whole mystery around Captain Nemo and his submarine was very interesting as well. I really liked the concept of his way of life and was intrigued as to his backstory even though we don’t get too much of an explanation. Professor Aronnax and his friends were prisoners on the submarine, but there wasn’t a whole lot of conflict around that to be honest. There were moments, which made it believable enough. Although, the Professor knew that it was an experience worth having and so he wasn’t too eager to get off. I’m glad he wasn’t because I was all for them experiencing the depths of the ocean.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was set in a submarine called The Nautilus and other than that is set under the sea and all over the globe! I felt like this book contained so much of the ocean and I loved that! This was a celebration of the wonders of the sea that’s for sure! The Nautilus was really cool as well. It was mostly described in the beginning and then I feel like there wasn’t as much description of it later on though.

The characters are interesting to discuss because Professor Aronnax and his friends were just a means to an end I feel, yet Captain Nemo was a very fascinating character. The book was narrated by Professor Aronnax and while he is likable we don’t find out much about him. He is excited by the wonders of the ocean, but doesn’t seem to have any other motivations though or emotional ties. Consiel was Professor Aronnax’s manservant and a naturalist in his own right. He was the most two dimensional character. He seemed to just like to classify fish and agree with everything the professor said. It was kind of funny though because the narrator makes fun of him from time to time and his lack of personal character. Ned Land was a harpooner and the last of the three friends. He seemed like the one to remind us that there was a conflict and that they were prisoners. Like I said, all of them seemed just means to an end. Captain Nemo however, was a fascinating character. He had renounced humanity and society to live by his own means in the vast ocean. He thought that humanity was corrupt and while he renounced humanity he would still make contributions to try to help the oppressed. He lived completely through the sea and didn’t believe in killing for the sake of killing. He seemed like quite a utopian type figure for a while and the Nautilus seemed to be his Utopia. I really liked a lot about Captain Nemo’s way of life for the most part. There were a few times though where he showed a little bit more of a violent/vengeful streak and where he also seemed to contradict himself. Overall though, I did quite like him. His crew on the other hand were so mysterious. We didn’t get to know any of them by name and it seemed like they just had similar viewpoints to Captain Nemo. This book was definitely not a focus on character study, but yet it’s one character is one of the most mysterious and fascinating that I have read about in awhile.

Did I Like It?:
Yes I really liked this! Much more than I was expecting to. I wanted to read some early science fiction and this was wonderful. Out of all parts of nature the ocean is my favorite, so I truly enjoyed all the exploration of that and a science fiction novel set in that element. I read a good deal of this at the beach, which was quite fun. I definitely will be checking out more Jules Verne.

Do I Recommend This?:
Yes! If you have interest in early science fiction, french classics, or are a huge lover of the sea, then I recommend this to you! Be careful of translations though. There are a lot of abridged versions floating around, especially in English.  I do recommend this one that is published by Penguin Clothbound Classics.