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The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem (original 2008; edition 2016)

by Cixin Liu (Author), Ken Liu (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,9121602,963 (3.72)207
Title:The Three-Body Problem
Authors:Cixin Liu (Author)
Other authors:Ken Liu (Translator)
Info:Tor Books (2016), 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:chinese fiction, SF, cyberpunk, Kindle, R2019

Work details

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (2008)

  1. 31
    Anathem by Neal Stephenson (storyjunkie)
    storyjunkie: There are stylistic and societal-implications similarities between the English translation of The Three-Body Problem and Anathem, despite being of very different worlds, and deep into different scientific areas.
  2. 11
    Blindsight by Peter Watts (electronicmemory)
  3. 00
    Tau Zero by Poul Anderson (br77rino)
    br77rino: I put this because both books are what I would consider hard science fiction.
  4. 00
    Contact by Carl Sagan (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Stories about man's search for intelligent life in the universe with elements of hard science

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English (152)  Catalan (2)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (160)
Showing 1-5 of 152 (next | show all)
Wow, what can I say. It was well written, or at least the translator was awesome. If you like Hard Sci-fi and you don't care much about developed characters you can get attached to or sympathize with at all...then this is a book for you. I would be fine with the science, if I had the characters. This book does not.

I heard people complaining about [b:The Martian|18007564|The Martian|Andy Weir|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1413706054s/18007564.jpg|21825181] and it having too much with the science talk and tech speak. If you had a problem with that, do not read this book...SO much more, crazy more and denser.

I was at least 1/3 of the way through the book before I even began to get a idea of what was going on. There is a LOT (100 pages or so) of setting the stage with 1960's Chinese history, cultural revolution etc, then lots of cloak and dagger trying to get to the point. Only then, another 100 pages on; finally it starts to come together. But, even that takes a while.

I didn't hate it, but I definitely didn't love it and I won't read on in the series. ( )
  Amelia1989 | Jun 10, 2019 |
Much of the story in this Hugo-winning novel from China's leading SF writer takes place in present-day (and relatively-recent-past) China and is quite different from what western SF appreciators are used to. The plot draws plentifully from astronomy, theories of physics, virtual-reality game playing, and scenarios for contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. The last few tens of pages, in particular, are stunningly imaginative, setting the stage for two sequels.
  fpagan | Jun 10, 2019 |

The Three-Body Problem is honestly one of the most bizarre books I've read in a long time. I tend to like bizarre books. I appreciate when authors take risks and try out something unusual and new that might not work over a safer route.

Sadly, for The Three-Body Problem, bizarre is not really a good thing.

The Three-Body Problem's main problem is not, in fact, the three-body problem. It's that the book's characters have no personality. The only exception to this is Da Shi, whose personality starts and ends with "sass" (this isn't a bad thing). Everyone else is startlingly bland and blank. Wang in particular is a bland, boring ass. He ignores his wife and child, frequently pulling all-nighters in pursuit of his research and leaving them wondering where he is. When he does pause to consider the female half of the species, he limits his romantic musings to Yang Dong, a female physicist who he never spoke to but he saw her once backlit by a sunny window and she was really pretty (wut). Wang is supposed to be our main character but he really has no personality or character traits beyond "bad husband". The same goes for everyone.

It's pretty clear that Liu is just not interested in his characters, even a tiny bit. He's here for the science. Too bad for him I'm a humanities girl, through and through. I could actually deal with the science, except it's explained in a fairly confusing way (how protons can disrupt a hadron collider is beyond me). But the real issue with ignoring the characters is that so much of this book depends on character decisions.

The plot of the book mainly turns on Ye Wenjie's decision to betray humanity to the Trisolarans. While I intellectually understand Ye's decision--her father was murdered in the Cultural Revolution, she suffered horribly in prison and was treated with distrust and disrespect at the base because of her father's criminal status, and she watched the beautiful forest surrounding the base get pointlessly destroyed by zealous Red Guards--I also don't understand Ye at all. Her character is entirely swathed in mystery. The camera, per se, is incredibly distant from the narrators throughout the book, which means the reader gets little to no insight into the POV character's thoughts. Rather than exploring Ye's mental and emotional state, Liu simply demonstrates the abuse she endures over the years until she finally snaps and contacts the Trisolarans a second time. But why? Who is Ye, really? What does it say about Ye and her ETO comrades that they would condemn humanity to destruction in favor of an alien overlord they know nothing about? Liu isn't interested in any of these questions, even though they should be the focus of the narrative.

Books without real characters can only work when the characters are entirely ancillary to the plot, and when the plot is entirely independent from the characters. Then it doesn't matter that the characters are essentially cardboard cutouts, because they are just a tool to give us the plot and world of the book. But The Three-Body Problem turns entirely on human decision, and is therefore not that kind of book. Consequently, it simply doesn't work.

I haven't read many Chinese novels, so I can't comment on whether this is Liu's fault or whether his writing is typical for Chinese novels and I'm missing some kind of cultural translation. But I think it's the former. Liu's writing reminds me of Michael Crichton (at least in The Andromeda Strain which is the only Crichton book I've read). He's in it for the plot. Or really, the science.

But that's not how I like my sci fi. I prefer the Ray Bradbury school, where the science is imprecise and frequently plain wrong because the science isn't the point. Science is a tool to further the characters, plot, and theme. Sci fi is never about the science. Because at the end of the day, I'm still a humanities girl. And fiction is always so much more interesting than science. ( )
  miri12 | May 31, 2019 |
I was excited to be able to read a science fiction novel set in China and this one was great. From the effects of the Cultural Revolution on scientists, to a Chinese SETI program, nanotechnology and virtual reality - it's a roller coaster ride. The characters may have been a little flat in contrast to the ideas but the ideas carried the story along just fine. ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
It's not the type of science fiction I normally read, and it's not perfect. The characters feel pretty stock, and the plot sometimes jumps forward too quickly, and it can be disorienting. But Liu has such an imagination when it comes to scientific possibilities, and when he juxtaposes that against the history of modern China, it becomes a captivating and unique piece of sci-fi, and I'm very happy it exists. Science fiction always benefits from new perspectives. I'll be reading the next one for sure. ( )
  xiaomarlo | Apr 17, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cixin Liuprimary authorall editionscalculated
刘 慈欣Authormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Hasse, MartinaPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Liu, KenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martinière, StephanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roubicek, BrunoNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tavani, BenedettaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple award winning phenomenon from China's most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin. 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. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.… (more)

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