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Remembrance of Earth's Past #1

The Three-Body Problem

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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.

472 pages, Hardcover

First published May 1, 2006

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About the author

Liu Cixin

269 books11.4k followers
Science Fiction fan and writer.

Liu Cixin also appears as Cixin Liu

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5 stars
112,584 (39%)
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47,560 (16%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 27,048 reviews
Profile Image for Mona.
508 reviews296 followers
August 6, 2015

Badly Written and Ill Conceived Science Fiction with a Few Interesting Ideas

I'm not sure I read the same book as everyone else. This got lots of four and five star reviews here on Goodreads.

Plus, it's been nominated for both Hugo and Nebula awards.

As often happens, I'm not with the majority opinion here. I give it two stars.

I'm not sure if the problem was the translation, or the original text, or both. (Unfortunately I only have the audio for this, so I can't quote the text here).

But I found the writing wooden, the characters two-dimensional cartoonish stick figures, and the audio narration poor. Although most of the characters are academics or intellectuals, the most believable and interesting character turns out to be a coarse and apparently ignorant policeman, She Qiang (nicknamed "Da Shi").

Most of the characters are cold and unsympathetic. A few of them commit murders for which they seem entirely unremorseful. It's impossible to care about these people.

And there are many unbelievable plot developments. For example, Mike Evans, an environmentalist, conveniently inherits his billionaire father's money at just the right time in the plot. I won't say much more about this as it's a spoiler.

This might have been acceptable in the early years of science fiction, but now it just seems like a bad novel.

As for the science...I'm not a physicist, so I can't really discuss the physics. Evidently, the three body problem has been unsolved by physicists dating back to Newton. So this part has some scientific basis.

Also, the stuff about micro circuitry was interesting.

But I have worked with computers for many years. The "human formation computer" (a computer powered by trained soldiers with colored flags) seems a bit silly to me, although nothing is impossible. I doubt if millions of humans could achieve the required precision. Interestingly, a minor character in the book who is an executive in a software company says the same thing.

Also, the author seems preoccupied with social status. And science is held up as an object of worship.

Science and technology are important, but I don't think they should be a religion (which in some quarters they seem to have become).

Anyway, here's a brief summary.

As a young girl, Ye Wenjie, an astrophysicist, witnesses the killing of her father by Cultural Revolution fanatics.

She becomes an astrophysicist herself and is recruited for a secret Chinese science/military project, Red Coast. It's years before she learns the true purpose of the project.

Meanwhile, many intellectuals are playing a video game (which requires a haptic suit), called "The Three Body Problem". The main gamer character, Wang Miao, is a professor of physics specializing in nanotech.

It turns out the game and the Red Coast project are connected.

They both relate to extraterrestrial life.

Anyway, I won't say much more about the story. I don't want to spoil it.

If you liked The Martian, you might enjoy this. The focus is technology and science, with the prose, characters, and plot being entirely secondary to the ideas. Isaac Asimov's Foundation was another book where the characters and plot were subordinate to the ideas, although I think it works much better as a novel than this does.

I didn't really care for Luke Daniels' audio narration either. His voice varied from leaden in some spots to over-excited in others. And when doing foreign accents, he either exaggerated them, or in some cases, got them wrong.

I'd say pass on this one, except that lots of others seem to love it.
Profile Image for Yun.
521 reviews21.7k followers
January 20, 2023
I'm going to call it right now. Even though I only just finished book one, I'm certain The Three-Body Problem will go down as my favorite sci-fi series of all time.

This book blew my mind so thoroughly that it leaves only destruction in its wake. Where could Liu Cixin have possibly come up with all of these ideas and concepts? No wonder everyone says this is wildly imaginative. Even a single one of the ideas in here would have sufficed for a book of its own, but to put them all together into a single cohesive epic tale is absolutely jaw-dropping.

The pacing is relentless and the surprises just keep coming. In fact, it has more twists and turns than most mysteries and thrillers I've read. Not only is the story utterly riveting, but it's also insightful and thought-provoking, touching upon science, politics, philosophy, and history. I found myself glued to the pages. I wanted to inhale the story as fast as I could, but I had to slow myself down periodically to reread and fully absorb all that the book was trying to tell me.

This is my favorite type of science fiction, one that puts science front and center and unabashedly celebrates everything about it. There's no handwaving, no hocus pocus. Every point brought up is eventually explained via actual science in ways that made complete sense. And what ingenious explanations they are, sure to stun and amaze any reader.

I found the initial pages, set during the Cultural Revolution, to be enlightening. This was the defining event of my parents' generation, yet they hardly talk about it. How do you put into words the frenzy that overtook a whole country, such that science and learning were denounced, and friends turned on friends, neighbors turned on neighbors? It's like a fever burned through the population, and left famine, trauma, and destruction in its wake. This emotionally fraught experience influences all who went through it, including the characters in this book.

With translations, there's always the fear that some vital but intangible part of the story will be lost. And this is especially the case when the two languages in question do not share a common linguistic ancestor, so translating between them is not as simple as one-to-one. In the translator's notes at the end of the book, Ken Liu mentions that he was cognizant of this and tried hard to preserve not only the story, but also the cadence and feel of the Chinese language and culture in his translation. I think he did an excellent job.

One thing to note is that the official book blurb is quite short for this story, but in my opinion, even that gives away too much. This is a book best experienced blind, so if you're going to read it, don't look up anything about it ahead of time.

What a tremendous way to start the trilogy. My expectations for the remaining two books are sky high, and I'm assured by everyone I know who has already read them that they will be met and exceeded. I have no doubt only goodness awaits me.

See also, my thoughts on:
#2. The Dark Forest
#3. Death's End

The Cretaceous Past

Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 256 books408k followers
February 18, 2016
Adult sci-fi. By Chinese author Cixin Liu, The Three-Body Problem takes a classic scenario -- contact with alien life -- and cranks up the sinister factor to maximum. The story begins during the Cultural Revolution when young Ye Wenjie watches her scientist father beaten to death by fervent revolutionaries. She is sent off for hard labor at a re-education camp, but by a strange twist of fate gets a chance to work at a top secret government project seeking out extraterrestrial life. Fast forward to the present, when nanotech scientist Wang Miao is snatched up by cops and brought to a secret meeting of military officials who are fighting an unnamed enemy -- some force that is trying to destroy the roots of human science and technology by killing scientists or driving them to suicide. Wang goes undercover in this strange conspiracy when he started playing a virtual reality game called The Three-Body Problem, which only the most brilliant scientific minds can hope to beat.

The premise is fascinating and well-grounded (as far as I can tell) in hard science. The book raises haunting questions: Do we really *want* to contact other civilizations? If you had the chance to pull the plug on the human race, would you do so? Is science truly objective and provable, or is it simply the best we can do given our limited understanding of four dimensions?

I found the novel a bit of a struggle until about halfway in. There are a lot of characters, and many of them seem like ciphers to advance the plot or mouthpieces to espouse ideas rather than living breathing people. Sometimes the prose seems like the summary of a novel rather than a novel. However, the ideas are compelling. This is about as close to "mind-blowing" as any book I've read. If you like big ideas and fantasy based on hard science, this is worth a read.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
551 reviews60.4k followers
August 4, 2020

I just rated a book 5 stars.

Just read it.

**Update now that I've read the whole trilogy!**

This is now one of my all time favorite sci-fi series. The concepts are brilliant and I fear that I'll never find anything this mind-blowing.

With that said... the books are quite sexist (the first half of the first two books are quite slow and painful) but I still recommend them if you can stomach it.

They're incredibly science heavy but anyone interested in space and first contact with aliens needs to read this!
May 7, 2022
Comparing Cixin to Arthur C Clarke, as the press did, might be appropriate.

Reread 2022 with extended review

Hostility towards science ruins everything
Ignorance and especially ideology fueled hate against science, and especially scientists who were torchbearers of the unwanted, enemy ideology are a certain way to ruin your world domination plans. No matter if Catholic church, the Nazis with their weird physics ( infodump, no required reading, and uchronia overkill: if they wouldn´t have been antisemitic, but instead anti communism, anti American capitalism, anti Muslim, etc., they would possibly have had the correct science to first build nuclear bombs. Because many people at the Manhatten project would have stayed in Germany) or, in this case, the Chinese. As soon as one bans certain science and doesn´t allow research, degeneration sets in, and keeping pace with more enlightened competitors becomes impossible. Cixin shows the historic examples and contrasts them with near future science, showing how far we came in such a short period of time thanks to the rise of science, relativizing the depressing beginning.

Epic, flowery language, which is unusual for the genre
First, this seems more like an extremely well written, average nonfiction novel, because the science comes slowly (but boy, how it finally comes), and all the metaphors and character fused and focused exposition make one as interested in the characters as in the story itself, which is amazing for a genre that often prioritizes plot and worldbuilding over protagonists. Especially towards the second half and end, this acceleration leads to a culmination of both style and world that is a rare, exceptional enjoyment in the genre.

Unique ideas
I can´t really mention much without spoilers, but this work has some mindboggling, ingenious ideas I´ve hardly ever seen in other sci-fi works, not even close. It may be Cixins´technical background that made him finetune such pearls of the genre into his work and, if I got it right, even added some innuendos to Chinese history and military tactics, although I am far from sure und too unknowing to definitively confirm that conjecture.

Drawing a (big) history picture of ones´ country
Some other authors, I am too lazy and procrastinating to remember and name them here, did already use the real, alternative, future, alternative past, etc history of their countries to give great edutainment lectures of the sociocultural, epigenetic evolution and that it could have been completely different, often just decided by one improbable random event, a prodigy inventing or discovering something, or a lunatic hate preacher made god king, leader, or elected democratic president, whatever the difference is. ( Personal opinion: It´s not as if voting all few years and having a work environment that´s just slavery with extra steps, and sometimes even free social services in Europe at least still, speaks of true sociocultural evolution. See freaking end of history drivel. It´s just less inhumane and politically correct, but it stayed a de facto dictatorship.) That´s not just entertaining, but a great way to learn more about foreign cultures too, especially with the subtle criticism and satirizing element sci-fi loves to add to everything in general and which makes it the best genre of them all.

Maybe a bit too hard for the beginning and average sci-fi reader
One prone to the genre and used or even in some theoretical concepts will enjoy it, for others it might be a bit too much, especially because so many protagonists are scientists too to make the infodumpy technobabble Elysium more credible and better and easier to plot. Skimming and scanning the theoretical, as in other less hard sci-fi works, isn´t a solution in this case too, because everything is so interconnected that one won´t get the whole picture anymore without it.

Old perspective before reading the whole trilogy:
Can´t wait to see how the other parts are, especially regarding its outstanding role in the genre
What I´ve heard, Cixin did an amazing job in connecting the whole trilogy, especially regarding the scientific, main tropes fueling this new milestone of the genre. With other of my favorite genre authors, whose perfect deliveries I do already know and love, this wouldn´t be so exciting, but because of the special, fresh taste of this first piece of orgiastic sci-fi nerdgasm, I am so looking forward to reading the next parts as unprepared and curious as I could be. And, without being narcissistic (again), this means something.

New view after having been enlightened and proselytized to just believe in the almighty Flying Spaghetti Monster:
This trilogy owns close to everything just aspiring to be a big sci fi we´re so small in comparison moment. If you can handle this epic triple, you´ll begin a never ending love affair with the best genre to rule, vivisect, and cosmic body horror them all.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Lightreads.
641 reviews533 followers
January 16, 2015
A scientist is drawn into a conspiracy involving a computer game and an old research station and extra-terrestrial life.

Translated from the original Chinese. I have to admit I read this book mostly because the way it's being talked about made me really uncomfortable. There's the contingent who want to treat it as some sort of referendum on the Chinese science fiction landscape, or Chinese literature in general, as it was a wildly successful bestseller there. Yeah, okay, tell you what – go take a look at this week's NY Times bestseller list and pick out the book we should translate into other languages for readers to judge as a referendum on all of American writing of that genre. I'll wait. And then there's the way the translator responded to criticism by making a lot of sweeping statements about Chinese writing that I have very little doubt, even in the absence of any personal expertise, are dubious at best. This book is occupying some weird space in reviewerland, is what I'm saying.

So I read it, and. Um. It's not very good. Flat characters, some shall we say eyebrow raising decisions regarding women, a lot of but humans don’t human that way, etc. Which kind of figures, since if notions of best seller can be translated, then this book is Chinese Tom Clancy. So . . . there you go.

It did intrigue me on behalf of other Chinese science fiction, though. The cultural context of this story – the asides about how communism impacted intellectual thought, for example – interested me more than anything else.

I generally have a pretty good nose for these things, though, and I smell movie deal, for what that's worth.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,099 followers
September 19, 2015
From the opening, I was struck by how much history I didn't know about China's Cultural Revolution. It might be obvious to anyone growing up in those parts, of course, but I was almost lost in that story long before I saw that there was anything sci-fi about the novel. This is a good thing. It speaks of good writing.

And then things changed. I became a frog in a pot. Small hints accumulate, surrounded by mathematical problems both fundamental and curious.

And then the MC's sanity is questioned. It's an open question that both the reader and the character must answer.

And then I got an idea. I could easily make the argument that all scientists in this novel are actually Main Characters, and indeed, that theory only becomes crystal clear later in the novel. It was a delight.

The novel is full of scientist suicides, damn odd hallucinations, all the way to a fantastic virtual reality game that draws intellectuals from around the world before devolving into a suggestive epic space opera featuring some of the most interesting aliens I've read about in a LONG time.

The worldbuilding is top-knotch-squared.

The clever uses of technology are the true highlights of the novel, and I'm upset. Why? Because the translations and publications for the next two novels are still in the future. Why am I still upset? Because I can hardly find the other works for this great author.

A grandmaster of Chinese sci-fi? I can't deny the fact. And just because I can't compare to other science fiction masters of Chinese literature is a null point. I am already a fanboy. I'll be revelling in every work I can get my hands on.

This is a fantastic example of how great science fiction can be. Truly inspiring.


This novel now a Hugo Nominee for 2015 because of the translation and introduction into the English-speaking market. It is a last minute replacement for Marco Kloos's Lines of Departure that was bravely self-removed due to the Sad Puppy 3 controversy. It wasn't his fault, and he got caught up in some seriously not-cool BS with this year's Hugo. He should be treated like any other Hugo Nominee. With respect and awe for the accomplishment it is, even though he withdrew.

On the other hand, after finding out that Three Body Problem took his place, I have to admit that it couldn't have happened to a better novel. I loved this one. It was really fantastic and it had everything I like to see in seriously good fiction.

This one might truly be my top pick for the year. It might be the one I cast my ballot on. But first, I need to read a few more Nominees. I take this very seriously. We bring our levels of joy and dedication to the ideas we thrive on. Awards are only as good as we make them. I refuse to let the Hugo become a quagmire.

Let the best novel win!

Brad K Horner's Blog
Profile Image for Julie.
950 reviews247 followers
July 10, 2015
I'm really waffling between whether to rate "did not like it" vs. "it was okay" -- I very, very rarely give out one stars, and it feels uncharitable because it was a book I wanted to like more than I did, and I want more diverse SF, but... no. I've consciously created a "not my cup of tea" shelf for this very book, however, because a lot of people seem to have liked it. Is this what hard SF is like? In which case, it reminds me of similar "I am completely unable to get interested in this" problems I had with Kim Stanley Robinson last year.

I actually started this book months ago, but wasn't feeling it after the first chapter and stopped. I picked it up again now, stubbornly ploughing through because of the Hugos, and I kept waiting for it to suddenly turn around and wow me, but... it never did. At the 80% mark, I was still waiting.

Learning more about the Chinese Cultural Revolution was fascinating, and I liked seeing its colossal effects on Ye, plus the feeling of 'science will save us' that permeates the society. Liu Cixin's imagination of an alien society was really good and unique (dehydrate! dehydrate!).

Da Shi is, hands-down, the best character of this entire book. I much rather wanted to read his tales of fighting crime, with his seedy, no-bullshit, 'I'm not a good cop, but I'm a great cop' approach. He livened up every scene he was in! Instead, this was so much like reading a physics textbook.

That's about where my praise ends, because I prefer emotional character-driven plots with some action, whereas this is a science-driven impersonal plod. Who the hell is Wang, our protagonist? After one single scene with his wife and son (!), they literally disappear for the rest of the book, and I couldn't tell you what his personality is like. He's just the viewfinder through which we see information unfold -- and unfold it does, with just reams and reams of exposition and info-dumps.

The prose is dull. I didn't so much mind it being stilted, and the dialogue carrying the remnants of its original language (a conscious effort on the translator Ken Liu's part), but it's just such a trudging plod. I highlighted a few more poetic passages that I really liked, but for the most part it leans more to clinical and dry.

I really liked the virtual reality chapters, but after all that buildup, I feel like it just fizzles out and absolutely, literally, nothing has been accomplished by the end of the book. With where the plot goes, the entire book honestly just feels like a prologue for the sequel.

I feel like the Goodreads blurb was pretty awfully off-base, touting that it has "the scope of Dune and the commercial action of Independence Day". I... what??? There is literally ONE action scene, it occurs about 90% through the book, and the characters aren't actively involved, just watching on from afar. And while the alien world/society is interestingly-written, it is nowhere near the scope of Dune.

Without characters with real depth to get attached to, I just never got hooked into this book. Ye has so much potential, but I feel like she wasn't fleshed out enough either -- people's more interesting psychological choices are left unplumbed/unexplored, meaning that I'm left with behaviour that I don't really buy, that doesn't seem natural for a human to do. Specifically:

The chronology and pacing is all over the place, too, hopping back and forth in time and as characters tell each other rambling stories. It's slow and sedate and takes forever to get anywhere -- the blurb trumps up , but even that doesn't happen in the book at all, and indeed, , so what in the world is the point of this story?

I mean, I get the point. I get that it's about humans pitted against humans, and the divisive cracks that can tear us apart even without the physical presence of an Other.

But man, I just couldn't bring myself to care. I'm so sorry, Cixin. I wanted to love it.
Profile Image for Adina .
888 reviews3,522 followers
September 6, 2017
The Three-Body Problem was the best SF novel that I’ve read so far. Admittedly, I did not read a lot of them. However, I can recognize when I encounter a special gem and this one definitely is unique in its world building. Moreover, it is very well written (and translated) which, unfortunately, it is not always the case with SF novels, especially with the classics.

The first chapters take place in the Chinese Cultural revolution and I thought to be a harrowing experience which perfectly introduced the reader in the oppressive atmosphere of the time. I do not want to say too much of the plot because I believe it is better for each of you to explore it. I went in almost blindly and I appreciated the opportunity to discover by myself how the plot develops. What I can tell is that you will read an amazing blend of Chinese history, mythology, hard SCi-Fi and well crayoned characters. If I were to reveal anything I guess this quote from the first part of the novel is pretty suggestive.

“It was impossible to expect a moral awakening from humankind itself, just like it was impossible to expect humans to lift off the earth by pulling up on their own hair. To achieve moral awakening required a force outside the human race.”

The novel can be hard on science sometimes but the aspect did not lower my enjoyment, although I was overwhelmed by some explanations as my background is mostly economics. Despite some long science passages, the narration flows beautifully and I was not bored for one second.

I am looking forward to reading the next volume in the series and I hope it will not suffer from the 2nd books syndrome.

Excellent! One of the best SF books I've read. Review to come.
Profile Image for Petrik.
687 reviews45.9k followers
September 29, 2017
3.5/5 Stars

The Three-Body Problem may be one of the most critically acclaimed Sci-Fi novels of our modern age, and in my opinion, it truly deserved the recognition for all the Sci-Fi ideas and narrative, but not for the characterization.

The Three-Body Problem, the first book in Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy by Cixin Liu, was actually something I never heard of despite its apparent popularity until I stumbled upon an interview with Barack Obama. He stated that this is one of his favorite novels, Mark Zuckerberg agreed and said the same thing, and that made me decided to give it a try. Plus, the cover for this trilogy is gorgeous. Most of you probably already know that TTBP won Hugo Award for best novel in the year 2015, it also has been nominated for many other Sci-Fi awards and there’s an upcoming movie in production already.

Pictures: Movie posters of "3Body: Once Upon a Time in Earth". Artworks by Jay Wong

The question is: does it deserved all the praise it received? Mostly yes, especially when it comes to how the book discussed a lot of relatable topics with our current societies; mostly science (d’oh), religions and human nature.

“Even if God were here, it wouldn’t do any good. The entire human race has reached the point where no one is listening to their prayers.”

As far as we know, humans have been reaching for extraterrestrial contact forever now; there’s been plenty of “sightings” or conspiracy theories but none of them are concrete proof. I’m a believer that there are another life forms outside of Earth, and there’s no doubt it will be a groundbreaking discovery when they truly make that first contact with our world. As exciting as that sounds, humans tend to forget that when they do appear, how EXACTLY will humanity react? The Three-Body Problem revolved mostly around this question and the concept of The Three-Body Problem equation—that hasn’t been solved—were used to explore motivation and behavior of humans in the face of the unknown.

“It was impossible to expect a moral awakening from humankind itself, just like it was impossible to expect humans to lift off the earth by pulling up on their own hair. To achieve moral awakening required a force outside the human race.”

The book shone light upon many historical events of China’s Cultural Revolution and several philosophies of the well-known scientists such as Einstein. The entire plot was told in two different timelines, Cultural Revolution and our modern age, both in China; the scope of the story, however, is massive. There’s a lot of limitation to what I can talk about here because the main strength of this book lies within its mystery; telling you more of the plot will definitely change your expectation, in fact, I probably already said more than enough.

One thing you should definitely know though is that this is a hard Sci-Fi, and I will not claim to understand all the scientific terms in this book. I’m not a genius or science freak here, some scientific terms did go over my head. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite good at envisioning and understanding Sci-Fi in my head, but only when it comes to something that has to do with pewpewpew (laser gun), ngungggggggg (lightsaber), boom boom wooshhh (space opera) or alternate reality stuff; the terms that go over my head mostly have to do with physics and scientific calculations. For someone who on a good day got 7/100 (don’t you dare laugh at me) on their physics final exam back in high school, stating that I understood all the scientific terms here is equivalent to saying an iguana invented iPhone; impossible.

Now, enough talking about how dumb and dumber I am with physics, my point is, despite some terms I failed to understand, I was never bored throughout my time reading this book. I don’t think it’s fair for me to judge the prose, especially knowing that this is a translated work but in my opinion, Ken Liu did an excellent job on the translation. Cixin/Ken Liu explained the required terms in understanding the plot as easy as possible, making sure that the readers fully understand the plot at least. The reason I say this book is slightly overrated is not due to the plot or scientific terms; how can I possibly judge something as overrated from something that I don’t fully understand? That’s nonsense. However, it's because of the weak characterizations.

This book is written in third person limited omniscient narrative and this direction is apt for the story that Cixin Liu tried to tell; with a lot of changes in locations and timelines combined with the withholding of information, they provided a sense of mystery that compelled the reader to continue. However, the downside of this is that the characters felt flat and devoid of feelings because we never truly get inside the person’s head. Characterizations are the most important factors in the books I read, and this book suffers from great characters to love. In fact, I'm fully disconnected from the characters that I can’t even bring myself to care whether they die or not.

Overall, The Three-Body Problem is a great book filled with imaginative ideas and intriguing plot but fell short due to its weak characterizations. If you’re a fan of heavy scientific terms, this is truly a book you must try to read. I can’t wait to see what the sequel has in store because the ending of this book made me realize that this is just a beginning to an epic Sci-Fi tale.

You can find this and the rest of my Adult Epic/High Fantasy & Sci-Fi reviews at BookNest
Profile Image for Nataliya.
781 reviews12.4k followers
December 18, 2022
This is when using a few "Expectations vs. Reality" memes could have come in handy, actually. Because I remember that this book made quite a splash in the SFF world (netted a Hugo, actually) and the reviews from my very respected GR friends are overwhelmingly glowing.

So maybe I just read it wrong, whatever that means. But…

The story set-up was actually interesting, and there were some ideas that were worth exploring: the startling naivete of believers in a bright shiny idea, and the dangers of one person making decisions that affect the whole humanity, as well as implications of science breakdown. But it is the damn execution that ruined it for me.

It's the passive detachment that persists through the entire narrative. Not only do things mostly- *just happen* to our main POV person (like those old 19th century novels where the protagonist serves just as our eyes into the story with not much agency and mostly observational powers) but there's a strange lack of emphasis on events and revelations that by all means should elicit any sort of strong response. It seems that the same amount of emotion is spent on a video game as there is on murders and possibility of alien invasion.

And the wooden, stilted, dry and choppy writing does not help.

Things are basically just chugging along from A to B to C with no drive behind it. At one point I said to my buddy reader that I have more inner turmoil and emotion picking a pair of socks to wear for the day than a character in this book realizing that truly creepy things are happening. And characters’ conclusions and motivations make ZERO logical sense to me besides that the plot needs them to think a certain way.

It's a detached monotony with an odd mechanistic cadence to it, and at times I was wondering why I am supposed to care when even the characters don't.

And then, close to the end, we get a sudden boatload of exposition with extra exposition on top, and my eyes rolled so hard I think I strained a muscle. It was almost as bad as a moustache-twirling villain explaining the plot at the end trope.

And in the end I realized I just didn’t care, and although this book is nothing but a prologue into a larger story, it seems, I really don’t care enough even to read the entire trilogy synopsis on Wikipedia.

2 stars, being generous. At least the science bits were almost cool, although exceedingly dry.

Buddy read with Alexander Peterhans. Maybe we will have better luck next time.


Also posted on my blog.
Profile Image for Shawn McComb.
55 reviews7,824 followers
March 16, 2023
what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,630 followers
February 15, 2020
Fascinating piece of scifi by Chinese writer Cixin Liu. A surprising mix of nanoscience, string theory, and astrophysics and religion with the Cultural Revolution as a background, the story takes its protagonist Xiao Wang (the nanoscientist) into an adventure that will impact all of humanity. I liked Ye, the astrophysicist, and found Du Shi, the policeman, funny and well-drawn. As for the action and plot, it is easy to read although I got a little lost in the pure science aspects once or twice (despite being an engineer and having dabbled in quantum mechanics years ago). I am excited about reading the next two books (which I suspect will be a little like the Foundation Trilogy by Asimov) and hope you'll also enjoy this one. Note that it won the Hugo award in 2015, kind of a geek's Pulitzer if you will.

Having finished the entire series, I have to say that it does actually get better and better as it evolves. The narrative structure of this first book is a quite different than the other two but all are extraordinary.
I am reading the Cixin Liu-approved fan extension, The Redemption of Time by Baoshu now, and it is really good but you have to have finished the trilogy to follow it.

Fino's Cixin Liu and other Chinese SciFi and Fantasy Reviews
The Three Body Problem
The Dark Forest
Death's End
The Wandering Earth
Supernova Era"
Ball Lightning
The Redemption of Time (Fan Fiction approved by Cixin Liu)
Invisible Planets (Short Story Anthology)
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories
The Grace of Kings
The Wall of Storms
Profile Image for Baba.
3,615 reviews984 followers
May 21, 2022
Remembrance of Earth's Past #1: This book won the 2015 Hugo Award for Fiction despite being originally published in Chinese/Mandarin(?) in 2006! How good does a book have to be to sweep all before it at the Hugo's nearly a decade after being first published? Well. It would have to be a book as good as this one! Nanotech engineer Wang Miao is more or less compelled to infiltrate what appears to be a secret cabal of scientists, compelled by a secret military(!) alliance between NATO, the USA and China! While undercover Wang gets absorbed with the online-immersive game 'The Three Body Problem' a game that seeks to build civilisation in a chaotic world with three suns! It begins to dawn on Wang and his betters, that this game might be much much more than it seems!

A book that starts with one of the key character's Cultural Revolution trauma leading to them being exiled to a scientific research base, a base set up to reach out to possible intelligent life in the universe, was in itself astounding, interesting and uber page turning, until I realised that that was the backstory and just the opening salvo of what I feel beyond doubt will be the greatest speculative fiction / science fiction series I've read since Dan Simmons' The Hyperion Omnibus. This book takes a frank and honest look at the traumatic impact of the Chinese Cultural Revolution on the science community; what could happen to 'real police' forced to serve under authoritarian regimes; how science would most likely reach out to the stars; how the modern world breeds apathy; and most of all beautifully using real and theoretical physics to illustrate questioning the rationale that far advanced extraterrestrial intelligent life would necessarily be any more enlightened than humankind!

It was after reading Yun's review, and knowing Yun is as wary as I, to award Five Stars and super-praise a read, that I knew that this book had to be something special, and it so was! What I can only really say is just read it. Page for page the most innovative, awe inspiring, far reaching, outrageous take on hard science/speculative fiction I've ever read, a book that dares to bring science itself to the front of storytelling and making it the biggest 'character' in the story, and somehow doing it so well! One. God. Damn. Fine. Read. 10 out of 12, Five Star Read.

2022 read
Profile Image for B Schrodinger.
305 reviews672 followers
June 30, 2022
Originally published in it's native Chinese in 2008, The Three-Body Problem has now been translated for English speakers to read and enjoy. It is the first volume in a hugely successful SF trilogy that has proved to be a popular seller in China.

No matter what our opinions are on the government of China, we all know that they have a history of controlling the media. It was not so long ago that I was reading articles on how even SF stories may not be published if they contain certain themes or SF tropes that the government does not approve of such as time travel. Yet here we have a novel that Tor are willing to bring to an international English audience. So is it a matter of government restrictions being exaggerated or is it proof that art defies restrictions?

While I can think about these questions I do hit a brick wall after a short while. I'm no geography or political buff. I have no ideas on these matters. But I do know quite a bit about SF and I know a little more about science and I feel that these are the most import factors when reading The Three-Body Problem. Sure it would have been great to know what the hell was going on in those early chapters during the 'cultural revolution', but I guess I was lucky to follow the story when it delved a bit into quantum mechanics and orbital mechanics. And while a reader without this knowledge would not have a problem following the story at all and could easily skim those sections, they definitely were rewarding and offered a greater depth to the story. And I'm sure that someone with a knowledge of modern Chinese history would have felt the same.

Three-Body is essentially the story of two scientists, Ye Wenjie, an engineer working in a top-secret military base during the 1970's, and Wang Miao, a nanotechnologist in current day China. While events in current day China unfold for Wang, the story of Ye is told in alternate sections. The nature of the top-secret base is uncovered during the intricate story and don't worry, it's not a bad X-Files ripoff at all.

But I did find Wang's story much more interesting and frightening. It explores the idea of the failure of science. What happens if over time scientific endeavours consistently defy any conjectures or postulates, refuse to comply with any previously known laws and just keep on giving random and seemingly supernatural outcomes? It may sound a bit trivial here, but the more you think about it, the more frightening it is. And the author explores this and truly did convey the horror to me as the reader. The events of this book had me tense and on-edge at several points.

There really are some fascinating ideas pursued in this book and it is a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking read in the style of SF greats such as Kim Stanley Robinson and Asomiv. The style of interchanging stories with historical aspects, as well as some of the style did remind me of Murakami, but I have no idea if this is being literature racist as this is the only other Asian book I have read other than those by Murakami. It also had echoes of Neal Stephenson in that it was an intricate and baroque plot full of subterfuges and technical writing. But maybe I'm just projecting two of my favourite authors onto another book that I enjoyed.

So here is one reader that is converted to the forthcoming volumes and possibly converted to reading more international SF. Both Stanislaw Lem and the Strugatsky brothers failed to take my interest, but Liu Cixin has managed to produce something that I really did enjoy and also made me think big thoughts.

September 2016 Reread:

Nothing has changed, but I put my star rating up. It is a special read that I enjoyed just as much the second time around. Yes, there were very little surprises, but I appreciated the pacing and understood more about the characters and the history.

I saved my reading of Book 2 and 3 until they were all out. I'm too old and there are too many other books to read to have to reread a series each time a new volume comes out.

See you all for for Book 2 review.
Profile Image for Samantha.
438 reviews16.7k followers
December 23, 2017
While this is obviously a masterpiece of hard sci-fi, that is also the reason I had a hard time connecting to it. While the science behind it all is complex and interesting, I found myself glazing over many a time and detaching from the story. The characters didn't feel real to me. Aside from that, this is a book I'd love to discuss with others because I wonder how much of this book was harder for me due to cultural and historical differences I wasn't even aware of while reading.

I think I have discovered that hard sci-fi is not for me, as I need more of a connection to the story and characters, but I'd recommend this for any science buff.
Profile Image for John Mauro.
Author 5 books511 followers
May 1, 2023
My complete review is published at Grimdark Magazine.

Against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution, Ye Wenjie’s father is a well-accomplished physics professor at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing. His embrace of Western science—including the work of Einstein and Bohr—leads him to be accused of embracing reactionary ideologies. He is beaten to death by students from the Red Guard in front of his terrified daughter. Ye Wenjie herself later becomes persecuted and imprisoned for embracing Western thought. She is saved by two military scientists working at the Red Coast, a top-secret space program by the Chinese government, who recognize Ye Wenjie’s outstanding abilities as a physicist.

The core idea of The Three-Body Problem draws directly from Stanisław Lem’s 1961 sci-fi classic, Solaris, which considers whether a planet that orbits two suns can support the evolution of life. In Solaris, the two suns have vastly different intensities, causing the climate of the orbiting planet, Solaris, to vary drastically depending upon which of the two suns is currently closer. The resulting climatic fluctuations cast doubt upon whether Solaris has a climate consistent enough to support biological evolution, which requires relative climatic stability over millions of years.

In The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu ups the ante by introducing a third sun to the problem. The orbital path of a planet around three suns poses a complex mathematical problem that has eluded solution for hundreds of years. In The Three-Body Problem, the orbiting planet, Trisolaris, experiences periods of relative stability punctuated by periods of sudden climatic chaos.

Throughout its planetary history, Trisolaris has undergone hundreds of stable periods, where society has achieved varying levels of scientific and technological development, only to be wiped out by sudden climate changes. The Trisolarans have evolved the ability to dehydrate themselves to survive through these periods of chaos, but they have finally determined that the only way their society can survive in the long-term is to colonize another inhabitable planet with a more stable climate. Compared to Trisolaris, the pale blue dot we know as Earth looks rather enticing.

Beyond its excellent treatment of scientific principles, The Three-Body Problem raises several important philosophical questions, the deepest of these being: Is humanity worth saving? As Ye Wenjie becomes one of the leading scientists searching for extraterrestrial life, her experiences during the Cultural Revolution have molded her views on the value of humanity.

Read my full review at Grimdark Magazine.
Profile Image for Matt Quann.
651 reviews385 followers
September 29, 2020
I just spent a week with this hard science fiction, Hugo-award winning novel from Chinese author Cixin Liu and I have to admit: I'm impressed.

The Three-Body Problem had me putting off tasks to pick it up, stuck with me throughout my day, and was always a pleasure to read when I sat down with it. With that said, this isn’t a novel I’d easily recommend to everyone. This isn’t a review that offers a pan-recommendation along with its 5-star rating. Indeed, this review seeks to help an intrigued reader decide if this book would be a good fit for them and their reading taste.

Hard Sci-Fi

The premise of The Three-Body Problem is that an alien civilization receives a message from a Chinese scientist in the 1970s and plans to come to Earth, naturally, for a good old-fashioned invasion.

I know, I know. You’ve read this story before, right?

I assure you that this is a wholly original take wherein the aliens don’t even make a proper appearance for the entire novel. Instead, The Three-Body Problem is more concerned with its titular problem, scientific history, cutting edge scientific theory, and a fair smattering of ludicrous science near the novel’s end. This novel revels in its appreciation of science and a bit of brushing up on introductory physics would not go amiss.

However, if you don’t recall the mathematical expression that governs the motion of two celestial bodies in a vacuum, you need not worry. Cixin Liu (and his translator, Ken Liu) does a fantastic job in explaining basic and high-level science concepts in clear language. Although there were times in which I had to set the book down to interpret, these moments were largely towards the end of the book where the science gets really out there.

I was also less than impressed with the video game within the book that serves as an introduction to the alien civilization. Roughly, each time the game is booted up the player is greeted by an ever-advancing Earth-based representation of scientific progress. So, at first you meet an ancient Chinese king, but eventually you hang out with Einstein. This grew on me after the first few chapters set in the game. Liu uses these sections to convey the difficulty of the scientific problem at hand, show reverence for science history, and introduce the civilization in an innocuous way.

Space & Time

One of the things that really sets this reading experience apart from traditional science fiction is that it is really, really Chinese. The first 100 pages deal mostly with the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In fact, after 100 pages I realized that I was enjoying that material so much that I wouldn’t have minded if aliens never stopped in. Of course, as the novel goes on it does an excellent job of weaving together the threads from the Cultural Revolution and the impending invasion.

This Chinese-based sci-fi is a breath of fresh air, and it’s a shame that China’s most popular sci-fi author has never made the jump to English before. Not only is it set in a different part of the world from most sci-fi you’ll encounter, but it also feels remarkably different in writing style and plot development. Where other novels skim over the nitty-gritty of the science behind spectacle, The Three-Body Problem spends pages making sure the reader knows what to expect. This never feels obnoxious; on the contrary, it is refreshing to see an author convey a concept in such understandable language.

Though the novel alternates between the time of discovery during the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the present day story, it never feels random. There are stretches where I spent 50 pages in the present, took a brief 10 page detour into the past, only to return for a lengthy bit set in the present. The story unfolds rather than following a strictly predictable path. Instead of predictability, it seems guided by logic. You don’t know about Y, but once you know X, Y follows much more easily.

This all makes for a read that is compelling because it makes the reader feel as if they are hot on the pursuit of the central mystery.

The Three Dimensional Character Problem

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned the cast of characters, and there’s good reason. I’m not the first reader to note this, but the lead characters in The Three-Body Problem are pretty flat. Indeed, Wang Miao may be a brilliant nanotechnology researcher, but I’d be hard pressed to tell you much about his personality. Instead of driving the plot, Wang reacts to it. I never felt that the decisions he makes in the novel were guided by his belief system. He’s kind of like the cart on an on-rail amusement park ride. The ride sure is thrilling, but you’re unlikely to remember much about the cart.

Now, normally I’d be roasting this book alive for having such weak characterization. I mean, why read a book if you don’t care about the characters? The Three-Body Problem genuinely makes the case for having a fairly empty lead. I kept thinking during my read that I could imagine being in Wang’s shoes, pulling back the curtain on yet another mystery. It is genuinely impressive that Liu is able to pull off, at least for me, the sensation of feeling like you’re in on the mystery that would be lost with a stronger character.


This novel doesn’t end with resolution, though you could conceivably just read this novel and come away with a complete story. Of course, there are two more novels in the series that will delve further into the impressive, exciting, and pessimistic world that Liu has created. I’m hoping for some better-developed characters, but will happily continue on if the subsequent books are as mentally stimulating as this.

I’d suggest tackling this one if you are interested in a headier science-fiction story that eschews typical western plot, makes your brain twist and turn into weird shapes, and makes the case for more translated SFF.

**The second book is better than the first! You can find my review of The Dark Forest here!
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
March 27, 2017
I liked this and there is no doubt that this is a science heavy, brilliantly produced and contemplated, highly original SF novel from a physics understanding Chinese author that was good enough to win a slew of awards including the Hugo.

But I like to watch Ridiculousness. I like Travis McGee. I like Mickey F****** Spillane. Beer and pizza and a bug zapper is quality entertainment.

“Conan – what is best in life?”

Three Body Problem did not have near enough axe welding barbarians or laser beams for my taste.

Liu Cixin’s wildly popular, speculative fiction gem was first published in China in 2008 as 三体 (I guess – that’s what it says on Goodreads) and I enjoyed the English translation written by Ken Liu (himself a very talented writer) published in 2014.

Liu begins in the late 60s during the Chinese Cultural Revolution and then moves forward in time to a near future where a strange virtual reality game replicates an even stranger reality.

And the aliens.

Maybe I would have liked this more if I were a physicist. A very smart commentator opined that perhaps Westerners don’t get the subtle nuances of a writer whose cultural background is not based upon the individual but rather is more attuned to a gestalt perspective.

“Brilliant and entertaining “
– Dr. Sheldon Cooper.

Profile Image for David Brin.
Author 324 books3,110 followers
November 17, 2014
The Three-Body Problem is part one of an award-winning trilogy by Liu Cixin — and is arguably the best Chinese science fiction novel ever translated into English. Liu uses the “three-body problem” of classical mechanics to ask some terrifying questions about human nature and what lies at the core of civilization.

The series explores the world of the Trisolarans, a race that is forced to adapt to life in a triple star system, on a planet whose gravity, heat, and orbit are in constant flux. Facing extinction, the Trisolarans plan to evacuate and conquer the nearest habitable planet, and finally chooses a candidate/victim when it intercepts a message—from Earth. The Three-Body Problem has been translated into English by award-winning writer, Ken Liu (author of books such as The Grace of Kings). Take a look at Stephan Martiniere's way-cool cover for the coming Tor Books edition!)

Special note… The Three Body Problem deals very closely with the issue of SETI and the Fermi Paradox and whether we should shout "yoo-hoo!" into the cosmos -- a quandary about which I've also written, from time to time.

But the biggest news is this proof of the maturation of Chinese science fiction into the top ranks of thorough and fascinating thought experimentation. I’ve long maintained that the health of an enlightened and progressive society is measured by how vibrant is its science fiction, since that is where true self-critique and appraisal and hope lie. If so, the good news stretches beyond China!
Profile Image for Metodi Markov.
1,338 reviews315 followers
July 10, 2023
Българските читатели имат отчаяна нужда от модерни, умело написани и смели фантастични книги. Такива, със съвсем малки изключения достигат до книжния ни пазар толкова рядко, че всяка прилетяла бяла лястовица се превръща в мини сензация.

Като верен почитател на жанра, формирал част от личните ми книжни предпочитания в края на осемдесетте и през деветдесетте години на миналия век, давам на "Трите тела" от Лиу Цъсин много висока оценка - и историята, и героите са чудесно развити и така успяха да задържат интереса ми до края на тази първа част от трилогията. Признавам, не разбрах всичко от физиката в книгата, но схванах общите идеи на автора и това само засили удоволствието ми.

Лиу Цъсин е вплел в интригата на този роман много интересни проблеми, върху които си струва човек да си поблъска главата. Очаквам развитието на клопките заложени пред човешката цивилизация от събитията през "Трите тела" в следващите два романа да е отново майсторски изпипано!

Интересно би било и да се научи, как се е промъкнала тази книга покрай жестоката комунистическа цензура, властваща в червен Китай и в този момент.


"В Китай всяка по-възвишена мисъл е обречена да се сгромоляса на земята. Гравитационното поле на реалността е твърде силно." (важи не само за там)

"Защо човечеството няма вродени знания за законите на Вселената?"

P.S. Преводът на г-н Стефан Русинов от китайски е чудесен и допринася много да се насладим напълно на това отлично четиво!

Тук можете да чуете интересните размисли на преводача за книгата и неговата работа по нея:

Profile Image for Rachel the Book Harlot.
175 reviews45 followers
June 28, 2015
2.5 stars

There has been an enormous amount of buzz and accolades surrounding Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem. It has been nominated for numerous awards, including a 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Does it deserve all the hype? In some respects I can see why it has garnered so much praise. The science is fun, there are some interesting philosophical concepts, and the world-building is also interesting. However, that for me is where the praise ends. Where the book fails is in the basic fundamentals of what makes a good story: writing, characterization, pacing, and plot. Harsh, I know.

The characters are flat, the writing is lifeless and choppy, the pacing is slow as molasses in some places, and some of the dialogue is downright terrible. There are instances where the author awkwardly uses dialogue to info dump:

"Professor Wang, we want to know if you've had any recent contacts with members of the Frontiers of Science," the young cop said.

"The Frontiers of Science is full of famous scholars,and very influential. Why can't I have contact with a legal international academic group?"

There are also weird instances where characters behave like stage actors, having side conversations with one another in order to provide the audience with info while other characters in the scene pretend not to listen. Strange and awkward.

Despite these problems, the story does start out interesting enough with the character of Ye Wenjie during the Chinese Revolution. However, it later jumps to the modern day, through the point of view character of Wang Miao, where its problems can no longer be ignored and the story fizzles.

Perhaps it is unfair of me to heap such harsh criticism at the writing since this is a translation from the original Chinese. Maybe these issues do not appear in the original? I cannot be sure, and if someone has read the original I'd love to hear your thoughts. But, as it stands I can only go with the version I've read. Sorry, book. You had some interesting elements, but not enough to overlook the problems.

Final Rating: 2.5 Stars
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
September 27, 2018
This Hugo Award winning SF novel by Chinese author Liu Cixin is delightfully intelligent and complex, and I really appreciated the authentic Chinese characters in the story and the insights into China's history and culture. The novel is also a little slow and dry in parts, with a certain formality that (I would guess) echoes the original Chinese writing style. I also had some trouble keeping all of the characters straight in my head; most of the characters have Chinese names, and the names tended to blend together in my brain, partly due to my lack of familiarity with that language and partly because characterization isn’t really one of the strengths of this book.

It begins in the 1960s, during the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. A respected professor is beaten to death by three young women who are Red Guards, and his astrophysicist daughter, Ye Wenjie, is eventually shipped off to a remote mountaintop where a government-sponsored group is secretly exploring the possibility of electronic communication with aliens. Eventually it actually works - but there's a clear possibility of danger to all of humanity. Ye Wenjie makes a fateful decision. We then jump forward some 40+ years, where the story picks up again with the fallout from that decision, though we're favored with a few more flashbacks to the sixties.

This novel is not going to be every reader's cuppa tea, but I think readers who like intricately plotted hard (VERY hard) SF novels should definitely give this series a try. I flailed and almost gave up when I hit some chapters that involve lengthy, detailed descriptions of a video game, a very odd role-playing game on an alien world (yet with human characters). But I powered through, and once all the pieces started fitting together, it got fascinating. I'm up for book #2!

Full review to come.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,339 reviews442 followers
April 7, 2016
Alright. I read this wrong. It's all on me.
I've got my Cone of Shame and am headed to the Shame Corner right now.
It was nice being out for awhile but we all knew I couldn't stay out for long.

I'm not sure if something was lost in translation, if I'm just really not good at science, or if I am waaaaay too American, but whatever the case, I did not enjoy this.

Well, I did, but only through maybe the first half. Then it got tedious, then it got boring, then it got downright ridiculous, and then I stabbed my ears out so I wouldn't have to listen anymore.

The story follows two timelines and characters that you know are going to intersect.
It starts with (phonetically-spelled, based on the reader's terrible pronunciation): Astrophysicist Yeah Wen-Sia who sees her father killed by three fanatic teenage girls when he won't deny science during the Cultural Revolution. Then, her favorite and best teacher commits suicide, her mother, who is terribly unstable, abandons her, and her sister has joined the Revolution and is a fanatic in her own right. Ye is angry and carries this anger with her to the woods where she is employed in deforestation at the base of Red Coast Station which is, essentially, a military base with a huge satellite that sits up on top of a hill and is fairly inaccessible and anyone who even strolls near will be shot.

The second storyline is that of (phonetically-spelled, based on the reader's terrible pronunciation) Wong Meow, owner of zero personality. He's a nanotech/biology somesuch researcher scientist in the current day who is alarmed when the nation's top physicists and other brainy sorts start committing suicide. I don't really remember, if I ever actually knew, how he falls into all of this, but he gets involved, via a tough-as-nails cop named Dah Shee, with a sort of investigation into the larger scope of the problem that is causing these scientists to kill themselves.
Through a series of not-noticeable events, Wang finds out about an online game called Three Body and he decides to play. It's a weird game that follows civilizations as they grow and then collapse on a world where there are three suns and these suns pose a real-life (like, real to our lives) mathematical quandary called the Three Body Problem in which three things whiz around a stationary object (I think. I may be making the stationary object up) but each has a different kind of orbit and they're sort of random and you must find the pattern of their zoomings to predict when they'll be close to each other or the object and when they'll be farthest apart, etc. How can you track the movement of these three bodies to predict what they'll do next, is the question. At any rate, if you solve the Three Body Problem in the game, you win. Only really smart people can play this game, obviously. People whose brains think in spatial relationships and numbers at all hours of the day, I assume.

There are more characters but these are the main two and their lives intersect and things happen.

Before I spew forth my list of what I misunderstood, I'm going to share what I thought I was going to read.

The Direction In Which I Thought This Book Would Go:

What Actually Happened and Why I Lost Interest:

And here are the things I just did not understand at all:

Ok, so, it's obvious this went WAY over my head. Way way way over. I'm probably too inculturated in Western SciFi to be able to appreciate what I listened to. And, by the way, what I listened to was crap because, yet again, the narrator is some white dude who doesn't speak Chinese. Also, he made the Chinese tough-as-nails cop's voice alternate between a NYC beat cop accent and a Texan accent. It was bizarre. I did not enjoy that at all.

I've read several of the other five-star reviews here and I've yet to find any enlightenment on my misunderstandings. I'm just seeing a lot of people going nuts over how amazing this is and I can't understand, even from their glowing reviews, what they read that I didn't.

This is the first in a trilogy. I feel like I should listen to them all just to find out if any of my questions are answered but I'm not really into self-torture so probably, I'll pass.
Profile Image for Warwick.
841 reviews14.6k followers
January 6, 2018
In an afterword, Liu expresses his opinion that science fiction should not be used to make social commentary but should instead restrict itself to playing with ideas of science and technology. I was surprised to see that because Three Body had struck me (tentatively, since I know little about China) as an especially Chinese novel, with much to say about how societies should be organised. The portrait of an ‘authoritarian’ alien civilisation, where individuality is repressed in favour of homogenous common benefit, seemed almost too obvious a comment on Communism, especially when juxtaposed, as it is here, with historical scenes of the Cultural Revolution.

Whether you accept his protestations or not is unlikely to affect your enjoyment of the novel, which blends historical tragedy with the kind of slow-burning first contact story that harks back to the golden age of the 1940s and '50s in the US. Perhaps the most fascinating scenes in the book, and certainly the eeriest, are those set within a virtual-reality computer game which is concerned with the practical implications of the three-body problem in physics; these chapters seem grand and bleak and impressively inhuman in scope.

Less successful, perhaps, are the interpersonal relationships and the motivations of the characters in general. The plot hinges on the assumption that, faced with a particular challenge to their scientific and existential ideas, vast numbers of people would deliberately opt for suicide, both personally and in terms of trying to destroy their entire species. This seemed a little infeasible to me, though perhaps it's just a more Chinese way of looking at things. Either way, it makes for a curious and unusual plot. (An interesting companion read might be Adam Roberts's Yellow Blue Tibia, which used first contact as a way of writing about Stalin's Russia.)

The translation, from (the unrelated) Ken Liu, is excellent on a sentence-by-sentence level, though apparently he rearranged some of the chapters for an English-speaking audience, which I can't say I approve of.
May 25, 2020
“Is it possible that the relationship between humanity and evil is similar to the relationship between the ocean and an iceberg floating on its surface? Both the ocean and the iceberg are made of the same material. That the iceberg seems separate is only because it is in a different form. In reality, it is but a part of the vast ocean.”

Reading this book was an incredibly enriching experience. Sci-fi is one of my favourite genres, but I have to admit that sometimes books in this category can be a little "superficial" and mainly for entertainment purposes. I believe this author reached peaks comparable to Asimov with this work! I couldn't put this book down, and I even read whole sections of it more than once for pure pleasure (and also some because I couldn't understand what he was saying 🤣 I'm not a quantum physicist so yeah 🤣). What a ride! A true work of genius.

As for the three different settings of the book, the contemporary one, the historical one (set during the chinese revolution) and the "sci-fi" one (of which I am not going to talk to prevent spoilers), I was intrigued by the first, extremely interested in the second, and absolutely mesmerized by the third. The length of the novel and the ability of the writer created a world so well-built and immersive that I felt catapulted in an other dimension. Until now, only a few sci-fi books have given me a similar experience, and they are all "classics". I truly believe this one to be a modern classic already.

Finally, the richness of the purely sci-fi aspect of it, is so imaginative and revolutionary that I am sure I will think about it for years to come. Some sections of it reminded me of pioneer texts like Flatland (if you've read both books, I am pretty sure you know of which part I am talking about). I would like to write more, but really I don't want to spoil this experience to anyone! I can only recommend with the greatest enthusiasm to read this book as soon as possible! 🙃

note: I just finished re-reading this book and I can confirm 100% that this is a masterpiece!!! Can't wait to go on with the series.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews39 followers
February 24, 2022
三体 = Trisomy = The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #1), Liu Cixin

The Three-Body Problem is the first novel of the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy. 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.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز هجدهم ماه فوریه سال2022میلادی

عنوان: سه جرم کیهانی کتاب نخست از سه گانه یادآوری گذشته زمین؛ نویسنده سیکسین لیو (سیشین لیو)؛ مترجم شهناز ص��علی؛ ترجمه از متن انگلیسی؛ تهران، کتابسرای تندیس؛ سال1398؛ در416ص؛ شابک9786001825798؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان چین - سده21م

دومین و سومین رمان از این سه گانه: «جنگل تاریک» و «پایان مرگ» هستند

در پس زمینه انقلاب فرهنگی «چین»، یک پروژه نظامی پنهانی سیگنالهایی را برای برقراری تماس با بیگانگان به فضا میفرستد؛ یک تمدن بیگانه ی در آستانه ی نابودی سیگنال را میگیرد و میخواهد به زمین یورش کند؛ در همین حال، بر روی زمین، اردوگاه‌های گوناگونی به شکل‌گیری آغاز و برنامه‌ریزی می‌کنند

نقل از متن: (اتحاد سرخ به مدت دو روز مرکز فرماندهی بریگاد سرخ بیست و هشت آوریل را مورد حمله قرار داد؛ پرچم‌های سرخ آن‌ها بی‌امان در اطراف ساختمان بریگاد سرخ در اهتزاز بود، همچون آتشی که ولع بلعیدن جنگل را دارد؛ فرمانده اتحاد سرخ نگران بود البته نه به دلیل مقاومت بریگاد سرخ در برابر آن‌ها؛ چون در حدود دویست نفر افراد بریگارد سرخ بیست و هشت آوریل در برابر سربازان‌ کهنه‌کار‌‌ اتحاد سرخ، سربازانی تازه‌کار و مبتدی بیش نبودند، گارد سرخ اتحاد سرخ در آغاز انقلاب پرولتاری بزرگ در ابتدای سال1966میلادی تشکیل شد، و با داشتن تجربه‌ ی پر جار و جنجال تورهای انقلابی در سراسر کشور و صف‌آرایی عظیم دیدار با رئیس «مائو» در میدان «تیانانمن» آبدیده و ورزیده شده بود؛ فرمانده اتحاد سرخ از ده دوازده اجاق آهنی داخل ساختمان می‌ترسید، که پر از مواد منفجره بودند، و به وسیله ی چند چاشنی الکتریکی به هم متصل شده بودند؛ فرمانده آن‌ها را نمی‌دید، اما مثل آهنی که کشش آهن‌ربایِ نزدیکش را ردیابی می‌کند، وجود مواد منفجره را حس می‌کرد؛ اگر مدافع گارد سرخ سوئیچ را می‌زد، انقلابیون و ضد انقلابیون، همگی یکجا، در گلوله ی آتشی عظیم می‌مردند؛ و از جوانان گارد سرخ بریگاد بیست و هشت آوریل، واقعاً چنین دیوانگی‌ای برمی‌آمد؛ در مقایسه با مردان و زنان سرد و گرم چشیده‌ ی اولین نسل گارد سرخ، این شورشیان جدید، یک گله گرگ روی زغال آتشین و دیوانه‌تر از هر دیوانه‌ای بودند.)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 04/12/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا.شربیانی
Profile Image for Blaine.
781 reviews653 followers
June 9, 2021
To effectively contain a civilization’s development and disarm it across such a long span of time, there is only one way: kill its science.
The Three-Body Problem is a very original story, and one that’s rather difficult to describe. Set in the present, in flashbacks against the backdrop of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and at some points in cyberspace, this novel tells a tale of humanity’s first contact with an alien race.

I have read reviews stating that The Three-Body Problem feels Chinese. I can’t say whether the book feels Chinese (though it is set there) or whether it’s just this writer’s style. I can say that this book is hard sci-fi, like a Crichton novel on steroids. There are extensive sections in which various physics or computing concepts are laid out. They all serve the plot well, but this style will not be for everyone. Especially since the main weakness of the book is characterization. There is really only one fully developed character (Ye Wenjie), and one entertaining sidekick (Da Shi). Otherwise, the characters are generally passive and largely forgettable.

The Three-Body Problem is a plot-driven story about big ideas. I love that it is very pro-science: science is the hope for humanity, and stopping earth’s scientific progress is the goal of our enemies. I can see why it won the Hugo Award for best science-fiction novel. I will definitely read the second book in the trilogy. Recommended, and highly recommended if you enjoy hard sci-fi.
Profile Image for Frank Hidalgo-Gato Durán.
Author 10 books221 followers
May 8, 2021
Sexta: Bravo! Realmente una magnífica obra. Gran derroche de conceptos metafísicos constatables en esta obra. Es ciencia ficción dura, de hoy, ningún blablabla, pura materia gris e información trascendental. Me ha encantado! Fuente de inspiración pura!Pronto comienzo con la segunda parte!

Quinta: Muy bien documentado. Conceptos científicos ( ingeniería y metafísica )muy bien amarrados y defendidos a la hora no sólo de su exposición sino tambien en su manejo al convertirlos en ciencia ficción creíble.

Cuarta: Me gusta mucho! Pero ya estoy esperando el momento en que el autor desacelere un poco el “hype” ya que con esto se consigue desarrollar un gran final. Vamos viendo 😊👍

Tercera: Este libro me está... encantando! Cumple con mis constantes necesidades de desarrollo, crecimiento y expansión de mi red neuronal hacia el cosmos! La magia del conocimiento!!! Mi trilogía no está nada mal señores... nada mal!!!! Continúo.

Segunda: Vaya! Me está gustando mucho! Os lo juro, hasta ahora me va recordando a mi trilogía!, en el estilo, la proyección y construcción de la historia y su narrativa. Continuamos!😊👍

Primera reseña: Comienzo con este libro del cual me han tambien hablado mucho y dicen que es muuuuyyy bueno, premiado con el premio Hugo. Como siempre,lo puntúo al final. A ver qué tal! 😊👍
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