02 March, 2021

A Separation Awaits

An Indian flavour imparts this fiercely imagined science fiction a special charge

A Separation Awaits

Have you ever noticed how your reading habits develop a go-to sameness, and you head for books, often by the same author, in the hope of reliving an old high? From time to time I would find myself checking out sci-fi, for the ideas and imagination it offered, going through the likes of Isaac Asimov, and then Stanislaw Lem and Olaf Stapledon, who zoomed out to give me a view of the universe. But then I would drift away. I found their characters flat, always overshadowed by the Big Idea. I couldn’t find myself inside the frame. The writers belonged to a Western world, one they saw as the default setting. Didn’t we also have a place in the future?

Then I was handed Three Body Problem, by Liu Cixin. I had the real stuff. And the real stuff was now from China. It was also as techy, and saw the outreach to life on other planets as beginning with China, in fact with a Chinese woman who had been put in charge of a secret astronomy project far in the Chinese hinterland. Bold and extremely intelligent, and dispirited by the land she saw during the Cultural...

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