"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.."
My Review - Rating - 9.5/10
Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem series has an immense scope, original ideas, and a unique take on the sci-fi genre. The first book opens in the midst of China’s cultural revolution, and weaves the effect of the cultural revolution’s chaos and bloodshed on survivors of the revolution into the story. While the first book may be initially grounded in history, Liu quickly shifts to fantasy, exploring everything from the implications of human contact with a drastically different species, to dimensional manipulation and its impact on humanity and the universe, to how an interstellar humans in an interstellar environment would adapt, evolve, and devolve. Liu’s ideas are interesting on their own, but the way he explores the implications and potential side effects of his ideas, and incorporates them into the universe he created, is what makes this novel stand out. Specific examples cannot be given without spoiling parts of the books, but I was, at various points in the series, intrigued, impressed, and horrified by the implications which Liu showcases in the book. The original ideas which Liu comes up with, and novel ways in which he explores existing concepts, was definitely the most memorable part of the book for me. Another interesting part of the book was Liu’s explorations of human nature, morality, and society. While specific examples cannot be given without spoiling parts of the story, Liu explores what would cause a person to snap, to lose their faith in humanity, or to lose their humanity throughout the series, and in a variety of contexts.One objection some readers might have to this book is that there is almost no character development, however I would argue that this book makes mainly stagnant characters work. The book focuses on the development of humanity in general, and specifically human society and technology, with some of the same characters being placed into different environments. This made the book more than dynamic enough for me: while characters may stay the same, the changes to the environments they inhabit made the book feel fresh and essentially fulfilled the role which character development usually fills in a good book. I actually enjoyed this aspect of the book, as I thought it really enabled and amplified the series’ broad scope without requiring the reader to get to know a host of new characters with every time jump. Another problem potential readers might see is that there are some thinly-veiled political aspects to the series, which conform to the Chinese Communist Party's stance. A good example of this (slight spoilers) is descriptions of a society which has fully rejected hyper-masculine values, and whose men are described as extremely effeminate. The way in which Cixin Liu explores this society and the language he uses supports the recent CCP stance against "sissy men," and longstanding promotion of traditional masculinity. While I disagree with most, if not all, of the political messages Cixin Liu embeds in the series, I understand that Chinese books need to conform to Chinese standards to avoid censorship. I'd recommend readers to see this as the price one pays to read Chinese sci-fi, and decide if they still want to try the series.Overall, The Three-Body Problem was a fascinating hard sci-fi series, with a perspective and scope I haven’t found elsewhere. I’ll definitely re-read the books at some point in the future, and will look for more works translated by Ken Liu.
Find the book here