The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin is one of the best-selling science fiction novels in China and is the first Chinese science fiction novel to be translated into English for a wide-scale Western audience. The translator, Ken Liu, is himself a successful science fiction writer, and it has been nominated for the 2015 Nebula Award for Best [Science Fiction] Novel.
The Three-Body Problem is, in fact, the first book of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past Trilogy. The second book, The Dark Forest will be available in English on July 7. The story follows Wang Miao a nanomaterials researcher who is drawn into mysterious international dealings in the present day, and Ye Wenjie, a radio astronomer struggling to make it through the anti-intellectual period of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s. Connecting the two is Three Body an elaborate online computer game with mysterious origins depicting a fantastical alien civilization–one that isn’t so fantastical after all–and one that has nefarious plans for Earth.
The Three-Body Problem is steeped in Chinese history and culture, but it is not at all difficult to read, especially with the most unfamiliar parts clarified by footnotes on the part of the translator. I found it as engaging as any Western sci-fi novel and (despite a few scientific errors) filled with fresh and interesting ideas. Despite the hopping through time, the story lines of the characters mesh together well, and the suspense is excellently ramped up over the course of the book, with the occasional bait-and-switch to keep things interesting. After finishing the book, I am eager to read the sequel this summer.
My rating: 5 out of 5.