Review: The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth's Past Book 1 of 3)

The Three-Body Problem - Cixin Liu, Ken Liu

The Three-Body Problem was originally written in Chinese and has been translated to English.  I read the English translation, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  The story had its quirks, but it held my interest well.  One of the fun aspects was definitely getting a little taste of Chinese culture and history, since I know appalling little about China.  The translator has added a few footnotes to help explain cultural references that wouldn’t make sense to many readers from other countries, and the author also had a few footnotes to explain some science concepts.  The book wasn’t overloaded with footnotes; there were 35 in all and they helped add some clarity to the story.


This is one of those books where, early on, you are given a lot of questions and then the answers are slowly revealed throughout the book.  This makes it difficult to describe the plot in any detail without spoiling all of the fun of seeing everything revealed for oneself.  I’m going to confine myself to describing one of the first plot elements that started the string of questions: something is going on with scientists throughout our world.  Many of them are committing suicide.


This is more of a plot-driven book than a character-driven book.  The characters were interesting and believable, but this was not a book where I became really invested in the characters.  The story was the real draw.  I did think there were some aspects of the plot that didn’t really fit together correctly.  One of the larger issues I had will have to be described within spoiler tags…


The virtual reality game was entertaining to read about, and it engaged me mentally, but it didn’t seem logical within the context of the plot.  What was the real purpose of the game that would justify the resources that would have been required to develop and operate the game?  We know the purpose wasn’t to figure out what the problem on Trisolaris was.   Obviously the game developers already knew the problem because they used the name of the theory as the name of the game.  I don’t think the purpose was to figure out a solution to the three-body problem, because the game seemed to be run by the Adventist faction.  That faction didn’t <i>want</i> a solution because they didn’t want anything to dissuade the Trisolarians from invading Earth.  There did seem to be an attempt to use the game as a way to recruit people who would support their goals, but surely this game was not the most efficient way to find those people?  For one thing, why did they need to recruit people anyway?  Trisolarians certainly seemed to have things pretty well under control on their own thanks to the sophons.  And if they were trying to recruit people, why would players of this game be more likely to be receptive to the cause than, say, your average asylum escapee?  The game seemed more like an intellectual exercise than anything.  Experiencing a simulation of what Trisolarians had to live with might inspire some empathy, but that empathy is not going to cause most people to want to sacrifice humanity and let the Trisolarians have Earth.

(show spoiler)


This is the first book in a trilogy, and it doesn’t really resolve anything.  It does not end in a cliff hanger though, and it answered all the main questions brought up throughout the story.  It left me very curious about what will happen next, so I plan to jump right into the second book.