May 282015
 

51kxQMvzMeL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu (translation by Ken Liu)

Synopsis: A secret SETI-equivalent Chinese program makes radio contact with an alien species.

Book Review: The Three-Body Problem starts out with a bang, dropping us right into the middle of China’s Cultural Revolution in the late 60s, from the perspective of a persecuted intellectual. The emotional impact is high, the politics are gripping, and the gradual revelation of a mysterious government program reels you in. Unfortunately, Cixin Liu isn’t able to keep the emotion going once we flash ahead to the modern day. He switches gears to focus on the alien-contact conspiracy and the exploration of a scientific problem, and only halfway pulls it off.

One of the great things about SF, that sets it apart from other genres, is the wonder of discovery. The intellectual excitement of running into a puzzle and working through it via experimentation and deduction. Or the exploration of how a culture would have evolved to handle vastly different circumstances. When Liu sticks to these he does a damn good job! Aside from the Cultural Revolution, the most exciting parts of the book are when we’re being shown the alien’s world and brought through their struggle for survival and quest for knowledge. Unfortunately, this is only one aspect of storytelling, and everything else that goes into making a good SF story seems to be ignored.

For a start, the characters are almost undifferentiatable. The only one who sticks out is the hard-boiled cop. Everyone else is a young, single engineer. It’s worth pointing out that the protagonist is actually a married man with at least one child, and yet he’s written exactly like someone with no family at all. If someone else hadn’t reminded me of the brief scene where his wife and child are introduced I would still be under the impression that he was a single young man. And even the hard-boiled cop is basically just a hard-boiled, sarcastic version of the same character template.

There is no discernable emotion after the Cultural Revolution section. An author isn’t just supposed to show us cool gadgets and interesting puzzles, s/he is supposed to make us feel something. Or at least convince us that someone in the novel is feeling something. The Martian was non-stop puzzle-solving challenges, but the entire time there was a joy to it, or excitement, or some sort of relatable emotion. Three-Body Problem is flat in affect throughout.

The dialog can be taken as an example of this problem. It never feels like the sorts of things real people would actually say to each other (with the occasional exception of the cop, Da Shi). Rather, in almost every case it is little more than a way to give us exposition or tell the plot. It feels like people are being forced into verbalizing info dumps rather than actually interacting with each other, and it’s wooden and awkward.

Finally, there is prodigious amounts of telling-rather-than-showing. As a single example, here’s how the after effects of severe radiation dosing is handled:

“However, like everyone else who remained in the cafeteria after the explosion, Shi suffered severe radiation contamination.”

The entire book is like this. Contrast this to the handling in Leviathan Wakes, where the two characters are shown nearly panicking when their radiation counters go red, grimly joking about it afterwards, and later on we see them taking a cocktail of anti-cancer drugs which they’re informed they’ll have to take regularly for the rest of their lives. It took a few extra paragraphs to show that, and make us feel both the panic of the exposure and the consequences of it. It involved us emotionally with the characters. Liu’s line was little more than an acknowledgment that he knows radiation exists, and added nothing.

I will say that this may be intentional. Perhaps the Chinese style of writing is far more sedate than the American style, and to have characters who feel things is considered crass and readers hate it. This could be considered a fantastic book by Chinese critics, for all I know. But at the risk of being culturally insensitive… I consider this poor fiction. This sort of flat, bad writing – wrapped around an intriguing idea with a great puzzle and fun discovery at its center – is what I think gave SF it’s bad rep waaaaaay back in the day. It is entirely possible to write SF that’s based around a mind-blowing idea with a fantastic puzzle, full of all the wonder of discovery and exploration, while also having a story arc, compelling characters, realistic dialog, strong writing, and emotional resonance with the reader. Sure, it’s a lot harder. But if it was easy everyone would be doing it. Not Recommended.

Book Club Review: The lack of engagement and emotion really hurt this as a Book Club book. Once the puzzle is solved and the mystery is revealed, what is there for readers to discuss? The characters, the emotion, the themes. What we think the author was trying to say. In a story that doesn’t have any of those things, the discussion was a bit forced, and didn’t last very long. Not Recommended.

Puppy Note: This book was not on the Puppy Slate. When I thought to myself “How did this book make it onto the Hugo Ballot?” my first thought was the same uncharitable thought that the Puppies normally have. I thought “This is cultural inclusiveness being taken too far. The liberal thought-leaders want to show they are racially/culturally diverse, and they know that this book is CRAZY popular in China! For it to be so popular among so many readers, it must be fantastic! So let’s make sure it gets a nomination regardless of its merits.” Thus a type of affirmative action – signaling your awesome cultural acceptance and diversity at the cost of nominating a book that would have been much more deserving of the Hugo on its merits.

Except that the Puppy Leaders have come forward to say that they love this book, and would have put it on their slate if they’d known about it!! And I’m like… WHAT THE HELL is going on?? OK, we all already suspect that the Puppies don’t have great taste in SF lit, but if they think this book deserves a nomination on its merits, than perhaps *I* am being a giant, insensitive dick by assuming that only someone with a hidden liberal agenda would nominate this. Obviously people must actually like it. And if I am lumping in the Sad/Rabid Puppies with their hated “SJW” nemesis for picking crap for political reasons, maybe that’s a big flashing sign that says “There is no such thing as the political-reasons voter, and the Puppies were even more wrong that I thought from the very beginning.” Seriously, if I can’t tell you apart from your political rivals based on book selection, I think you’re grasping at straws.

Second, apparently Puppy-approved books can be nominated without the Puppy’s help. In fact, despite their efforts in this case. If the liberal conspiracy you claim is keeping good works down keeps nominating things you like (much like they nominated Correia and Torgerson in the past…) then it might not actually exist.

Third, why the hell hadn’t the Puppy Leadership heard of this book!? I am not very in-touch with the SF community. I have very rarely heard of more than 1 or 2 books that are nominated each year. Yet even I had heard of The Three-Body Problem. If the Hugo Popes deciding what books should be put on the Puppy Slate are so poor at reading the field that they can’t identify and nominate The Three-Body Problem, and have to admit afterwards “Man, I’m glad that made it in, because we love it!” then perhaps they are doing a shit-ass job of being the Hugo Popes and should relegate that job to the SF-reading hive mind again. FFS.

  23 Responses to “SF/F Review – The Three-Body Problem”

  1. 3 Body Problem is on the ballot because A) Larry Correia declined his nomination and B) Marco Kloos dropped out from the shit-storm.

    You should try reading Monster Hunter Nemesis. Its not flat in affect, I can tell you that. I will say that I think Monster Hunter Alpha is a better story, but not by a lot.

    I see you still don’t get the basic Sad Puppies premise. There was no SF hive mind. There was special deals and under the table shenanigans. Now the shenanigans are -on- the table where everybody can see them. With a spotlight in case anybody couldn’t see very well.

    You can tell which side of the issue wants it all back under the table by all the butt-hurt and screeching because some people [gasp] VOTED. OMG snap!

    • > There was special deals and under the table shenanigans.

      Your assertion that this is the case does not make it so. Maybe if you say it louder and with more conviction people will begin to believe you.

      • I can’t quite see why the Puppies believe the whole special deals thing. If the SMOF Cabal were indeed controling the Hugos, the Puppy slate couldn’t have won so big. Its success is proof of no deals.

        • “Its success is proof of no deals.”

          Disagree. Sad Puppies is a grass-roots explosion that started from a few Monster Hunter Nation blog posts over two years, and the resulting Twitterstorm/Internet forest fire. Its success was an ACCIDENT and entirely unexpected, given last year. Correia was basically trolling the SJW contingent by proposing things to be nominated and watching them freak out in The Guardian.

          What seems to have happened is that the SJWs pissed us Puppies off last year with the “no straight white males were nominated YAY!!!” thing, so this year lots of cranky people like The Phantom paid money and voted.

          • >last year with the “no straight white males were nominated YAY!!!” thing

            Your lack of knowledge is showing. The majority of novel nominees last year were straight white males.

            • Year before then. And don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about, there was great counting coup among the SJW set, they didn’t shut up for weeks.

            • You mean the year that straight white male John Scalzi won? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Award_for_Best_Novel I started at 2014 and gave up at 1990 because it was getting ridiculous. The closest I can get is 2011 (which is neither last year OR the year before it), but if Ian McDonald is gay, that’s unknown to me. Can you clarify what the hell you are talking about? Or do you simply not bother with actual knowledge of events before making claims?

            • http://io9.com/the-hugo-awards-were-always-political-now-theyre-only-1695721604

              “Last August, the Hugo Awards for science fiction and fantasy were swept by a younger group of women and people of color. At the time, we said “This was really a year that underscored that a younger generation of diverse writers are becoming central to the genre.” So maybe it’s not surprising that there was an organized backlash.”

              “Or do you simply not bother with actual knowledge of events before making claims?”

              No, generally I do bother. My bad for saying “nominations” instead of “awards”, it was after all something I read in passing a year ago.

              Also, fyi, http://www.ibtimes.com/chinas-binge-drinking-business-culture-learning-be-successful-drunk-1251339 This is the cleaned up version without the hookers.

              Do you ever look anything up before strongly implying random strangers are ignorant racists? You’ll find that if I say something is true, chances are its probably true. You may not -like- what I say sometimes, but at least consider the possibility it might maybe possibly be true.

            • Re Last Year’s Hugos: It wasn’t a clean sweep, as straight-white-male Stross won for Novella. And you have an extremely odd definition of “great counting coup” and “no straight white males [won] YAY!”. The io9 article you linked expresses excitement at a new generation of writers taking the lead. I don’t know how you get from that to your aggrieved sense that straight white men are being ground under the heels of oppression.

              Well OK, that’s not true, I know exactly how it happens. The outrage-peddlers fan a narrative of “their side hates us, look at how much they hate us” and it works. I know both sides do this. But spreading those lies makes the problem worse, not better.

              >My bad for saying “nominations” instead of “awards”, it was after all something I read in passing a year ago.

              You’ve spilled a lot of ink over this, and obviously have a fair bit of emotion invested in it. You made it a cause, threw in $40, and encouraged hundreds of others to do the same. You’ll forgive me for thinking you had a bit more interest in it than just “something I read in passing a year ago.” If you didn’t take the outrage-peddling sources so seriously you may perhaps have a less distorted memory of how the previous year’s awards went.

              Re Chinese Business & Alcohol: I am aware of the practice. It’s not uncommon in Japan either. Businessmen still have families, their wives are still people, and they still have opinions and reactions to this sort of thing. That’s not what was portrayed in Three Body Problem, and I really can’t make any argument more effective than “just go read the book if you disagree with me.” The protagonist is an engineer who literally disappears for three days without so much as a phone call to let his wife know he’s still alive, and there’s no knock-on effects. He is not written as a married man. He’s written as a single guy working at a tech start-up, who had a wife and kid for about 3 pages when it was convenient for the plot, after which point the author forgets they ever existed.

            • Of course I have not yet read the book, so I can’t comment on it or the writing involved. If it is as you say then that’s not particularly good writing.

              Funny it got a nomination, eh? Wonder how that happened? MAYBE HE HIT ALL THE RIGHT SJW TICK BOXES? Gee, could it be?

              All I’m saying is for a Chinese businessman to go on a three day bender with The Boss to land a big contract is essentially unremarkable, and his wife might not even mention it if they aren’t particularly close. That’s another thing that’s fairly common, arranged marriages and people who don’t interact much beyond keeping up appearances in the community. Cat’s comment is an ethnocentric one, specifically American Feminist/Lefty culture centric, and indicates she knows bupkis about Chinese culture. Worse, she doesn’t know that she doesn’t know. Isn’t that a micro-agression?

              Therefore -obviously- The Phantom must be raaaacist.

              You can see how that would make you tired after a while. I get this shit all day long from people like Cat, see my blog.

              “The outrage-peddlers fan a narrative of “their side hates us, look at how much they hate us” and it works. I know both sides do this. But spreading those lies makes the problem worse, not better.”

              The iO9 thing is not exhaustive, it is an example. Exhaustive would be ten or fifteen similar articles from the usual blogs one expects to see that type of thing on. Other people have made that exhaustive list, I’m not going to link it because its late and I’m tired. Coup was counted, look it up if you want.

              Both sides do -not- do this “look how much they hate us” thing. SJWs make up outrageously false and despicable shit. Puppy side REPORTS WHAT THEY SAID on Twitter or farcebook or whatever.

              iO9 for example -opens- with “At the time, we said “This was really a year that underscored that a younger generation of diverse writers are becoming central to the genre.” So maybe it’s not surprising that there was an organized backlash.” Because raaacist Puppies are against the “younger generation of diverse writers”.

              All we did was say “Look at iO9 calling us raaaaacists again.”

              What do I get from you? ” I don’t know how you get from that to your aggrieved sense that straight white men are being ground under the heels of oppression.”

              Yeah. No connection at all. I must be imagining things. We’ll see how things turn out at Sasquan.

              I’m predicting Vonda McIntyre and a group of older women will set upon and beat the living shit out of some fat kid with a MHI shoulder patch the first day. What makes me say that? She does.

              http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2015/04/15/i-will-walk-with-you/

              See that? That was ol’ Vonda making up shit about how the dastardly Puppies might get violent, and me reporting what she said.

              Tell me again how distorted my memory is.

            • >Funny it got a nomination, eh? Wonder how that happened? MAYBE HE HIT ALL THE RIGHT SJW TICK BOXES? Gee, could it be?

              Gee, I wonder if I didn’t speculate on EXACTLY THAT in the Puppy Note section of my review. Gee, could it be that I was confused by the fact that it hits NOT A SINGLE sjw tick box (except maybe “Is very popular in China”, which… is that even a tick box??) and also by the fact that it is highly praised by the Puppies leadership. Gee, could it be I interpreted this as evidence that there’s actually probably no SJW cabal at all, because I have no way of making sense of the “SJWs vs Puppies” narrative in light of this book. Gee, I wonder if you’ve been keeping up with the conversation at all, or simply parroting the same talking points ad naseum. /sigh I’m not sure if there’s much point in continuing this.

              >The iO9 thing is not exhaustive, it is an example. Exhaustive would be ten or fifteen similar articles from the usual blogs

              Look, I don’t care if there were 100,000 blogs saying exactly the same thing. To expresses excitement at a new generation of writers taking the lead, no matter how many times it’s done, is not oppression or counting coup or anything. It’s being excited that the landscape is changing and the genre is growing. For you to interpret it as oppression says a lot about you.

              >SJWs make up outrageously false and despicable shit. Puppy side REPORTS WHAT THEY SAID

              You linked an article saying “Look how cool it is that young and diverse people are getting awards!” and reported it as “SJWs pissed us Puppies off last year with the “no straight white males were nominated YAY!!!” ” That is not only VERY different from what they actually said, it is also FACTUALLY INCORRECT. How in the name of god can you get up on your self-righteous horse saying “WE JUST REPORT WHAT THEY SAID” when just a few comments back you both grossly distorted the message and were *entirely incorrect about the actual facts of the matter*??

              You know what would be funny? If just a few sentences after making the above claim, you then grossly distort and blatantly lie about something else in the exact same comment. Let’s read further…

              >I’m predicting Vonda McIntyre and a group of older women will set upon and beat the living shit out of some fat kid with a MHI shoulder patch the first day. What makes me say that? She does.

              Man, you even gave us the courtesy of linking to her blog, so we can read for ourselves that a *literal* little old lady is offering to *walk places with people* so they’ll feel safer, and REPORTED WHAT SHE SAID as “women will set upon and beat the living shit out of some fat kid with a MHI shoulder patch”.

              You sir, can no longer claim to be someone who is was tricked by the false reporting of the outrage peddlers. You are now acting as a spreader of lies as well, fanning the flames of hatred, and I urge you to reconsider.

            • Eneasz said: “For you to interpret it as oppression says a lot about you.”

              Indeed. It says I’ve been paying attention.

              For you to interpret my comment as dissatisfaction that “new talent” is entering the field is hilarious. i09 is not excited about new talent. They’re excited the new talent is not straight white males. Because straight white males are bad, and now those bad straight white males are causing this [hissssboooo!!!] backlash.

              You sir are predisposed to view me as a raaaacist, no matter what I say.

              You are not alone. I direct your attention to the current bun fight, Irene Gallo’s facebook page wherein dear Irene says we are “extreme right wingers to neoNazis”. See Tom Knighton’s or Sarah Hoyt’s blogs for elucidation. I’d link it but I’m lazy today.

              Kind of irritating, really.

              “You sir, can no longer claim to be someone who is was tricked by the false reporting of the outrage peddlers. You are now acting as a spreader of lies as well, fanning the flames of hatred, and I urge you to reconsider.”

              Oh. Ghod. After I direct you to exactly what she said. Wherein she says people are “feeling unsafe”. And she will protect them. From the friggin’ puppies, a bunch of scifi nerds who voted for boks. -I-, not crazy ass Vonda, am spreading lies?

              Dude. Please get a grip on yourself. That makes zero sense.

              Furthermore. If there’s gangs of pissed off older women led by Vonda The Destroyer looking for trouble at Sasquan, they will find it or make it. This is a prophesy, based on my lifetime observations of cranky middle aged women. I could be wrong.

              But I would not bet money.

      • This is a well known situation, no less than K. Tempestuous Cupcake mentions it. You don’t have to believe me, its well documented out there in the Real World. Lots of big name authors have talked about it ver the last twenty years, Correia is the first one to go do anything about it other than whine.

        And really, if everything was so super duper pure as the wind driven snow, why all the rancor from TOR bigwigs? Wouldn’t they be all “More fans, yay!”? Doesn’t pass the External Reality Check.

        And really, if there’s no bias at work anywhere at all, how does 3 Body Problem get a nomination? Going purely by your review, the single thing this story has going for it is the nationality and race of its author. If it was written by Joe Schmoe from Kansas, would it be nominated? Nuh uh.

        Therefore = shenanigans. QED.

  2. Arranging for people to vote a slate leaves tracks. Great, big, recognizable tracks. Everybody knows what the Sad Puppies (and Rabids) did because you can’t organize enough people to run a slate without letting people outside the group in on the secret. Even back in the days when you would have had to get the word out by mimeographed letter, one letter that went to a fan who was slightly more honest than you thought and the secret is out and the stray letter gets mimeographed and goes out in the next fanzine and everyone knows.

    There is no evidence of previous slates. That is because the Puppies were the only ones. They would love for you to think their behavior is normal, but it’s not.

    Claiming that non-Puppies are unhappy with the Puppies for voting is misinformation on the part of ignorant puppies, and outright lying on the part of better informed Puppies. Nobody minds that they voted. People mind that they slated.

    I didn’t like 3BP either, and for pretty much the same reasons you mention. Characters that don’t ring true bother me as much as inconsistencies in internal logic or obvious science blunders (like “etching” anything on a proton(!)) When a married man gets drunk and sleeps two nights away from home without letting his wife know and it makes no difference to his life something is wrong.

    But at least it was voted onto the ballot honestly, by people (necessarily nonPuppies, since they had the available slots) who read what appealed to them and voted for their actual favorites. So even though I really don’t like it, I don’t have a problem with it being there and if it wins I will figure the Hugo Voters have spoken.

    It does, however, demonstrate that the aggregate of nonPuppies actually do a better job than Puppies at knowing the field and picking out excellent works of the sort that Puppies love. Puppies should probably drop the slating and nominate the normal way so they don’t force the next 3BP off the ballot.

    • Cat said: “There is no evidence of previous slates.”

      Explain Redshirts. The Sad Puppies Slate -is- the first of its kind though. Its the first time anybody came out and did publicly what’s been getting done under the table since the 1990’s in whisper campaigns. Correia has had the poor taste to talk out loud where anybody can hear him.

      “Claiming that non-Puppies are unhappy with the Puppies for voting is misinformation on the part of ignorant puppies, and outright lying on the part of better informed Puppies.”

      Tell TNH. She’s pissed at us for drawing breath, much less voting. Or K. Tempestuous Cupcake, I’m pretty sure she’d object to any of us drawing breath or not. I’m just going by what they said, mind. I have no opinion outside their views as recorded for all to see on the Interwebz. NK Jemwhatsit was busy spreading false news about the International Lord Of Hate the other day, so I think she’s not down with your contention either.

      Then there’s all the people over at Scalzi’s bog, I mean blog…

      Just saying there’s a plethora of evidence against you. You can apologize any time.

      “But at least it was voted onto the ballot honestly, by people (necessarily nonPuppies, since they had the available slots) who read what appealed to them and voted for their actual favorites.”

      Yeah, as opposed to those damn Puppies who read what appealed to them and voted for their actual fav… Oh, wait…

      As I said above to Embrodski, the reason 3 Body Problem got a nom is that its the least-sucky thing by a non-straightwhitecismale the SJWs could come up with on short notice. Otherwise know as… wait for it… a slate.

      “When a married man gets drunk and sleeps two nights away from home without letting his wife know and it makes no difference to his life something is wrong.”

      Ethnocentric much? He’s Chinese, its how they roll. That little detail is 100% authentic.

      “Puppies should probably drop the slating and nominate the normal way so they don’t force the next 3BP off the ballot.”

      Oh, we should go back to whispering, private emails and meeting in the coffee shop pre-WorldCon to decide who wins? Seems a little sketchy, Cat. Just sayin’.

      • Phantom, you are starting to get repetitive, and bogged down by your narrative. Please engage the discussion, rather than repeating talking points.

        >the reason 3 Body Problem got a nom is that its the least-sucky thing by a non-straightwhitecismale the SJWs could come up with on short notice. Otherwise know as… wait for it… a slate.

        Your sentence doesn’t make sense. First – what short notice? This novel had been getting huge buzz for all of 2014. And why would anyone even need to come up with something on “short notice”? People are very aware that the Hugos are coming up, they know the usual deadlines, and they’ve been preparing their lists for months. Are you aware of how Hugo nominating works?
        Second – you appear to have no idea what the word “slate” means. I suggest a dictionary, or a quick google search.
        Third – It looks like you are being hobbled by your dedication to your pre-written narrative. Please consider the actual thing I’m saying: The entire point of my Puppy Note was the fact that the Puppy Leadership *loves* Three-Body Problem, and stated that they would have put it on the Puppy Slate if they’d known of it in time. How does one reconcile this with the fact that it was your supposed “SJW cabal” that nominated it? It certainly doesn’t push any of the themes or messages that the SJW crowd favors. It looks to be a pretty solid refutation of the Puppy’s claim that there is a cabal of elites who decides these things.

        >Ethnocentric much? He’s Chinese, its how they roll. That little detail is 100% authentic.

        LOL! Classic Phantom! I would have expected nothing less.

  3. “LOL! Classic Phantom! I would have expected nothing less.”

    What, you deny that Chinese businessmen as a class have a known predilection for extended bouts of drinking and ignoring their families?

    Better yet, you’re going to imply I’m a racist because I know about problems in Chinese culture whereas Cat apparently doesn’t?

  4. I’ve just finished the book, and I disagree with you regarding the lack of characterisation, emotion and show/tell, but I’ll accept your review for the sake of argument because it shows how you misunderstand the puppies.
    I’m not surprised that the Puppies like this. I am surprised that you’re surprised. As far as the Puppies are concerned there is no “everything else that goes into making a good SF story”, what you consider to be the “everything else”, they (and I) consider to be just optional extras. One of the motivations for the SPs is that SF has become too literary, too concerned with the optional extras and not concerned enough with what’s important, what makes SF, SF. It’s like having a sports car that has bluetooth audio, cupholders and heated seats, but the engine doesn’t work and it drives like a boat. What you consider to be works that gave “SF its bad rep waaaaaay back in the day”, they consider to be exemplars of what SF is, and what SF is not.

    I’ve commented before about “Pure SF”: science fiction with everything that isn’t science fiction removed. Even if I agree with everything in your review (which I don’t – I might comment later about that), then this would stand as a great example of “Pure SF”. I’m now thankful that the Martian was ineligible, simply because I don’t have to choose between them.

    • Beerwulf said: “It’s like having a sports car that has bluetooth audio, cupholders and heated seats, but the engine doesn’t work and it drives like a boat.

      YES. A fire engine red Mustang. Convertible! With leather seats, full audio package, the shiny rims… and a wheezy 150 hp six with an automatic transmission. And every time it drives past you want to choke the guy for being such a poseur.

    • My reply got too long, I made it a post. I agree with a large part of what you said, but differ in taste. :)

    • I will say I think you can have both. Peter F. Hamilton does an excellent job of taking that “Pure SF” and including amazing writing, great characters and story arcs, strong themes, etc. I’d recommend Pandora’s Star + Judas Unchained. Or for something shorter, most stories by Ted Chiang. He’s amazing.

      • I agree that you can have both. I’ll check out your recommendations after I’m through the Hugo Packet.

      • I love Peter F. Hamilton’s books. I also recommend anything by Neal Asher. Ian M. Banks was also very good, except for his last one wherein his editor let him go on and on and on about how bad religion is for your brain, and how much more superior atheists are. That got a bit boring after a while and frigged up the story line.

        Point being, -good- SF flows logically from the underpinning philosophy of the universe the story is written in. Banks was excellent at this, and his “The Culture” novels told their plots in the universe he designed. He faltered only when he used the plot and characters to preach.

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