Cixin Liu, The Three Body Problem

When you see the world around being broken, corrupted and manipulated, would you use the chance to destroy it? Do you believe that humanity is marred beyond salvation and total extermination is the best solution to the existing problems? Would you betray your kind and act as a tool in annihilation of your kind?

Essential book information

  • Author: Cixin Liu
  • Translated by Ken Liu
  • Name of the book: The three-body problem
  • A TOR book, published by Tom Doherty Associates Book, New York
  • 2014

Basic plot summary (amazon)

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.

My praise and critique

This book was my first ever experience with the Chinese sci-fi. The book won Hugo Award in a category Best Novel in 2015. I stumbled upon it by accident when my e-book app suggested it as a recommendation based on my previous readings. 

I ordered complete series (3 books, including the one I was reading) just some 30 pages into the book. And I could hardly wait to receive and read the books in the comfort of my home.

I was mesmerized by the foreignness of this piece of literature. We Europeans value the individual and are so concerned about our self-esteem. The mentality of the society where it is proper to sacrifice the individual towards the goals of the whole nation is hard to understand. I could feel how my principles protest against the situations described in the book —combined with an interesting perspective of the possible initial contact with an alien civilization. I enjoyed every page of the book. 

Cixin Liu introduces a lot of characters, and their Chinese names do not make the task of following up easier. Luckily, I have vast experience with reading Dickens, who is famous for throwing whole roman worth of characters in the first five pages of his books.

What I appreciated is the fact that the explanations of complicated astrological, mathematical and physical questions were provided in a very understandable language. I was able to understand them—even reading the book in English, which is not in my native language. 

My recommendation

The Three-Body Problem is a good read and a book to be kept on my bookshelf. Theories it suggests are complex and intriguing, and I will not be surprised if I’d feel the wish to return to it after some time. I would then re-read it again, to see what I have missed in the first wave of excitement.

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