Sunday, May 24 2015

The stupid, it burns us…

I really hope this is not representative of The Three-Body Problem, the last of the Hugo-nominated novels I’m reading:

“…he had successfully predicted the birth defects associated with long-term consumption of genetically modified foods. He had also predicted the ecological disasters that would come with cultivation of genetically modified crops.”

This part of the book is set in the more-or-less present day, and our allegedly-reliable narrator treats these statements as simple fact. Fortunately, it’s soon followed with:

“He believed that technological progress was a disease in human society. The explosive development of technology was analogous to the growth of cancer cells, and the results would be identical: the exhaustion of all sources of nourishment, the destruction of organs, and the final death of the host body.”

With any luck, this batshit-crazy luddite will be one of the villains. Or a spear-carrier soon to depart from the plot. Fingers crossed, because there’s a page and a half of this nonsense before he ever utters a word.

Update and SPOILER! after the jump:

I am pleased to report that this minor character is publicly killed for murdering a scientist. I am less pleased to report that he was only authorized to murder a mathematician. I am downright dismayed to report that this was only a dispute between two camps of batshit-crazies, in which a global conspiracy of scientists has been undermining scientific research for decades to make it easier for invading aliens to conquer Earth. One camp wants the aliens to rule humanity, the other wants them to destroy humanity.

We still (67%, chapter 23) have no direct evidence that there actually are aliens, and that the whole thing is not simply a psychological thriller in which the main character has been fooled by a little bit of stage magic and some really good drugs. I keep expecting James Randi to show up and expose the fakers.

This book is starting to reach Battlefield Earth levels of stupid. I look at the glowing reviews about the vibrant characters and compelling hard-SF story, and I wonder who else has access to really good drugs.

Update: the aliens won’t arrive until sometime in the 25th century, so Our Conspirators have a long, tedious fight ahead. Communication with the aliens (or their in-flight invasion fleet, not clear which at the end of chapter 28) has a four-year delay each way, since they’re coming from Alpha Centauri. The title refers to the unpredictable and inevitably-decaying orbit of their homeworld in a chaotic trinary star system, which would of course be a four-body problem, and completely incompatible with what we know about Alpha Centauri and Proxima Centauri.

Chapter 29 is either a brilliantly vicious satire of the Left, or a clunky infodump of tedious gibberish. Sadly, I expect it’s the latter.

And, I’m done. Chapter 30 has destroyed my will to live: the female lead has revealed that while the fleet won’t arrive for 450 years, the aliens have managed to accelerate two protons to near light-speed and sent them to Earth. In her words, the effect of this is:

“They are sealing off the progress of human science. Because of the existence of these two protons, humanity will not be able to make any important scientific developments during the four and a half centuries until the arrival of the Trisolaran Fleet.”

Reminder: people are claiming that this is good old-fashioned hard science fiction of the sort that the Sad Puppies campaign is all about. They’re taking amazing drugs.