Strange things have been happening

Excerpt from The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

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This is an excerpt from the book The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu.

“Fine. I’ll tell you what little I know.” Da Shi pointed to the shore of the moat around the Forbidden City. The two found a spot and sat down.

It was not night, and traffic flowed ceaselessly behind them like a rive. They watched their shadows lengthening and shortening over the moat.

“In my line of work, it’s all about putting together many apparently unconnected things. When you piece them together the right way, you get the truth. For a while now, strange things have been happening.

“For example, there’s been an unprecedented wave of crimes against academia and science research institutions. Of course you know about the explosion at the Liangxiang accelerator construction site. There was also the murder of that Nobel laureate…the crimes were all unusual: not for money, not for revenge. No political background, just pure destruction.”

“Other strange things didn’t involve crimes. For example, the Frontiers of Science and the suicides of those academics. Environmental activists have also become extra bold: protest mobs at construction sites to stop nuclear power plants and hydroelectric dams, experimental communities ‘returning to nature,’ and other apparently trivial matters…Do you go to the movies?

“No, not really.”

“Recent big-budget films all have rustic themes. The setting is always green mountains and clear water, with handsome men and pretty women of some indeterminate era living in harmony with nature. To use the words of the directors, they ‘represent the beautiful life before science spoiled nature.’ Take Peach Blossom Spring: it’s clearly the sort of film that no one wants to see. But they spent hundreds of millions to make it. There was also this science fiction contest with a top reward of five million for the person who imagined the most disgusting possible future. They spent another few hundred million to turn the winning stories into movies. And then you’ve got all these strange cults popping up everywhere, where every cult leader seems to have a lot of money…”

“What does that last bit have to do with everything you mentioned before?”

“You have to connect all the dots. Of course I didn’t need to busy myself with such concerns before, but after I was transferred from the crime unit to the Battle Command Center, it became part of my job. Even General Chang is impressed by my talent for connecting the dots.”

“And your conclusion?”

“Everything that’s happening is coordinated by someone behind the scenes with one goal: to completely ruin scientific research.”


“I have no idea. But I can sense the plan, a very comprehensive, intricate plan: damage scientific research installations, kill scientists, drive scientists like you crazy and make you commit suicide—but the main goal is to misdirect your thoughts until you’re even more foolish than ordinary people.”

“Your last statement is really perceptive.”

“At the same time, they want to ruin science’s reputation in society. Of course some people have always engaged in anti-science activities, but now it’s coordinated.”

“I believe it.”

Now you believe me. So many of you scientific elites couldn’t figure it out, and I, having gone only to vocational school, had the answer? Ha! After I explained my theory, the scholars and my bosses all ridiculed it.”

“If you had told me your theory back then, I’m sure I wouldn’t have laughed at you. Take those frauds who practice pseudoscience—do you know who they’re most afraid of?”

“Scientists, of course.”

“No. Many of the best scientists can be fooled by pseudoscience and sometimes devote their lives to it. But pseudoscience is afraid of one particular type of people who are very hard to fool: stage magicians. In fact, many pseudoscientific hoaxes were exposed by stage magicians. Compared to the bookworms of the scientific world, your experience as a cop makes you far more likely to perceive such a large-scale conspiracy.”

“Well, there’re plenty of people smarter than me. People in positions of power are well aware of the plot. When they ridiculed me at first, it was only because I wasn’t explaining my theory to the right people. Later on, my old company commander—General Chang—had me transferred. But I’m still not doing anything other than running errands…That’s it. Now you know as much as I do.”

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

The Three-Body Problem – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion.

Copyright © 2006 by Cixin Liu.

Translated by: Ken Liu

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

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