The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu - Book Review - Kristopher Cook

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

A science fiction story that can bring something new to the table, whilst remaining innovative and exciting; sign me up.

The Three-Body Problem is about a Chinese secret operation (there are a few of those these days) that aims to control the country through strict communist leadership. Using their Red Base facility, they are trying to develop technology way beyond their current capabilities.

Head researcher, Ye Wenjie, uses the powerful technology in the Red Coast Base, to not only search for life outside of our solar system but also a way in which to communicate with it.

That’s also where the central conflict arises.

Is it safe to communicate? What happens if they track the message and decide to invade? Are they willing to trade technologies? Do they even have our dynamic infrastructures?

I got a sense that the aliens here would be similar to those mentioned in Robert Heinlein’s, Starship Troopers. A breed that is more advanced than mere humans, and wouldn’t hesitate to take over given half the chance.

Playing out in the current day is the journey of Scientist Wang Miao, who discovers an online game known as ‘Three-Body’. The game helps to answer these questions over the backdrop of ancient Chinese history.

The story is definitely a slow burner.

Scientific Calculation

There were times when the sheer amount of scientific mentions made me believe that a science PHD would be needed to understand what was happening. Fortunately, as nanomaterial researcher Wang Miao progresses through the virtual reality, more of these equations are answered.

Following along three paths; flashbacks, present-day, and Trisolarian (The Three-Body gaming environment).

The Trisolarian timeline shows the progression of China through an alternative reality in which people can be absorbed of their water, rolled up, and stored until the winter has passed. It also offers an excellent parallel between the ancient Chinese Army and the modern-day binary system used for calculating scientific probabilities.

Finding Answers

The main character, Ye Wenjie, is an excellent example of a strong female character that doesn’t just have all the answers.

Wenjie’s path is shown through flashbacks, tracing her steps through the secret base, along with her astrophysicist role.

She’s conflicted many times in her journey, none more so than at the beginning when given the choice of joining the Red Coast Base, or face execution at the gate. By joining the base, she then begins to use the situation to her advantage.

Oppression, whether that is of free speech, or the forcing of title characters into specific scenarios, is heavily noted in The Three-Body Problem. The totalitarian government is shown to be one of the major villains, pressing back against those rising up against it.

Adding to this, those in charge of the policies and peace-making, are greedy individuals. They have no regard for the suffering they inflict because of their callous actions.

On the other side, the Trisolarian’s aren’t necessarily evil just because they want a different outcome from the state. This poses an interesting question, does their need to be a good vs evil plot to remain engaging? Or can the characters move through the world according to their own motivations, which are ever-changing? Personally, I’d go with the latter.

One of my few criticisms about this book is that the pace severely slows heading into the third act. Not much action takes place, and we’re given a bit of an information dump, setting up for the finale.

The novel contains a lot of technical jargon, which in the beginning, was definitely a little off-putting. However, as the story progresses, these pieces start to fall into place, but be warned, it takes time to get your head around it all.

My other irk is the ending. Although it is conclusive enough, it’s not decisive – obviously setting up for the next in the series. I understand, from a selling point, that makes sense; leave ‘em wanting more!

Closing Thoughts

The Three-Body Problem is an excellent opener to a sci-fi trilogy that promises much more along the way. Whilst science is definitely at the forefront here, there’s a great emphasis on historical context, along with the suppression of will.

It is clear, though, that whoever controls the technological battle controls the world.

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Sena 26th October 2020 - 9:39 pm

I love this book and I really enjoyed reading your review. It’s so good.

Kristopher Cook 26th October 2020 - 9:44 pm

Thank you. I really enjoyed it too. I read it with my friend (who had the Chinese version) and as far as we could see, there were no major changes. I’m also looking forward to reading the next two.

Sena 27th October 2020 - 12:44 pm

It’s good to know there are no major changes.


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