Sci-Fi ‘n’ Me, Or: What Is WRONG With Me?

Chestnut has become quite the adventurous reader. We are talking wide. She's zipping from The Taliban Shuffle to Bossypants to The Three Body Problem, which is where my troubles began.

See, I till like to, when possible, read books that my kids are reading. When is this possible? When they let me know what they're reading, for instance, and don't squirrel the book away so I can't find it.

Dipping into their reading is especially alluring when it's a book I've never heard of. So when Chestnut started reading—and re-reading—The Three Body Problem, I was intrigued. Award-winning sci-fi by a Chinese author I'd never heard of? It sounded world-expanding in all the right ways.

I was never a big sci-fi buff growing up, but I like to think that I've gotten smarter than I was, and that I'm not as—genre-defensive? Is that a term?—as I once was. So with great anticipation, I began.

Here's where real life creeps in (sort of). Through strange flukes of the NYC public school system, both my kids are taking physics this year. I have never taken physics, and when they have run into problems, I have pathetically tried to google my way towards helping them, with middling success. It has not been…pleasant. And then here comes the Three Body Problem, which is chock-full of physics, nanotechnology (at least conceptually), and many, many scientific and mathematical digressions.

I mean, I get it: Science Fiction. Right? Except, oh! How it made me long for Trollope!

What I want to read about, pretty much always, is people. I feel this is a limitation on my part, but it is a truly felt one. And there were people in this book, of course. But they were not, it seemed to me, the author's main concern. Not by a long chalk (ah! What an excellent expression that is).

So: what gives? What makes someone able to engage fully in science fiction? And why don't I have it? And where or how can I get it? It should be noted that Chestnut LOVED this book, and found it fascinating. I feel like I am missing something, both in the sense that I don't have a quality I should, and because that means there are many wonderful books that I could love that I do not.

Is it just a taste thing? Larger? Smaller? All suggestions welcome.

8 thoughts on “Sci-Fi ‘n’ Me, Or: What Is WRONG With Me?

  1. I think the reason you didn’t like it is: Physics. Or, background knowledge…or lack there of. It is hard to make connections and predictions and inferences as well, when you don’t get the text clues that the author is providing. Just so you know, I wouldn’t like this either. Physics. [shudder]
    A Wrinkle in Time is Science Fiction is it not? And I LOVED that book–no physics.


  2. I’ve got the Three Body Problem on my library list, so I’ll let you know what I think when I get there. A year or so ago, you recommended The Peripheral and I loooooooved it. It really was about the people, for all the tech, right? So if you haven’t tried it already and you are up for another sci-fi that is really about the people (and what does ‘person’ even mean, anyway?) then try Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. If you hate it, I don’t mind if you drop it, but if you love it there are two more! I am nearly done with #3 and she has blown my mind multiple times.


  3. So great!
    For some reason your description of the Three-Body Problem reminds me of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein, which is full of philosophy. But it also has incredible characters you can care deeply about. (Blog suggests you read that in 2011, but if your eyes were bigger than your vacation, I highly recommend it.)


  4. You could try reading a science fiction book by John Scalzi.
    I have read Red Shirts which is sort of a Star Trek spoof (but it’s more than just a spoof), and Lock In which is a mystery/detective story set in the future. Both were very fun readable books.
    He has a blog too which is a lot of fun. Once a year he lets people write in random questions to him and then he will answer the ones he likes. I really enjoyed his answer to the question of why there are no doorknobs in the future as envisioned in science fiction.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.