Thursday, June 4, 2015

More Hugo's stuff - My Other Three Body Problem problem

Sigh. I had rather stopped thinking about The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu and translated by Ken Liu. Shortly after I finished the book I saw lots of gushing praise about it and kept wondering if I had somehow ended up with the wrong book, because I just didn't see the magnificently clever story that other people were seeing.

Confused, I put it out of my mind and started reading Ancillary Sword.  Now though, the recent news about the chaotic behavior of Pluto's moons has put TBP back into my mind.

There is one more problem that I had with the book that I left out of my review. For my review I just concentrated on the science and logical error issues that I had with the book. This problem is a bit different. To explain, I will present some quotes from the book ...

"When she first expressed an interest in abstract theory, I told her that field wasn't easy for women. She said, what about Madame Curie? I told her, Madame Curie was never really accepted as part of that field. Her success was seen as a matter of persistence and hard work, but without her, someone else would have completed her work. As a matter of fact, Wu Chien-Shiung went even further than Madam Curie. But it really isn't a woman's field."

"But she was a woman. A woman should be like water, able to flow over and around anything." 

Both of these lines are spoken by a female and the woman she is referring to was her daughter.

"Do you not want to join this wonderful life?" Mozi asked, pointing to the ground below. "When women are first revived, they crave love."

There are more examples, but those are the ones that really stood out in my mind.

Next I ask you to consider the female characters in the book and the roles they play in the story. Spoilers in ROT13.

Gur cevznel srznyr punenpgre, Lr, vf vavgvnyyl n flzcngurgvp punenpgre ohg vg gheaf bhg gung fur vf npghnyyl n zheqrere naq gur urnq fbpvbcngu oruvaq gelvat gb trg gur ragver uhzna enpr jvcrq bhg. 

Lr'f zbgure vf gubebhtuyl haflzcngurgvp. 

Lr'f sngure jnf orngra ol sbhe lbhat srznyr zrzoref bs gur Erq Thneq naq hygvzngryl zheqrerq ol bar bs gurz.

Jnat'f jvsr vf cenpgvpnyyl vaivfvoyr (V qba'g rira erzrzore ure univat n anzr) naq qvfnccrnef sebz gur fgbel nf fbba nf fur vfa'g arrqrq.

Gur anzryrff crefba jub oernxf Cna Una'f arpx ("fur gjvfgrq Cna'f urnq 180 qrterrf jvgu cenpgvprq rnfr") naq jub guerngrarq gb oybj hc gur zrrgvat jvgu n ahpyrne obzo, jnf lbhat fzvyvat jbzna.

Again, there are more examples, but you probably get my gist by now. I think that this probably explains, at least in part, why my reading experience as a female in a STEM field is rather different than another person's might have been. Yes, the characters are pretty thin, but even so think about whose minds you get to ride along with - I think it matters in terms of how the story plays out to you.

I found the science got too silly and I thought the plot was lacking in logical consistency, but I have still liked stories with those flaws if there is some other redeeming feature - here I also felt, initially subconsciously but increasingly overtly, insulted by the roles that women played in this story.

Normally I don't think too much about this sort of thing, but in this case I felt like I was being slapped in the face with it. Not a fun reading experience.

Since I am once again totally bummed, I will close with a xkcd comic to make myself feel better.

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