The Three-Body Problem

By: 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.

Auuster's Takeaway

The Three Body Problem is a SciFi book that, in my opinion, incorporates technology that is not too far out in the future. At first, the story is quite confusing because many allusions are made towards the Chinese audience. The translator has eased this by adding many footnotes to help us understand the message Liu Cixin is try to convey. This is one of the reasons I love world literate, as it is a window into another culture.

Back to the book. The story is a dual timeline story that explores the three-body problem and why it is important to solve the problem. In the present, top researchers of the world are committing suicide with no motive. Their suspicious deaths have led a detective, Shi Qiang, to a group called “Frontiers in Science” which has a list top scientists, including those that have passed away. To solve this mystery, Shi Qiang contacts a person on that list, Wang Miao who is a nanomaterials researcher. Their investigation leads them to the discovery of the three-body problem. Essentially a game that’s asks players to solve the three-body problem. The game asks players to determine when habitable conditions occur as a planet is in orbit around three moving suns.

In the past (second timeline), the story follows Ye Wenji during the Cultural Revolution in China. She became an operator at the Red Coast Base. The Red Coast Base is a large radio antenna used to transmit and receive signals to and from extra-terrestrials. One day she receives a message with an alien civilization and thus begins he conversation with another world. It turns out this world is a technologically advanced world, but its living conditions are very unpredictable as their planet, Trisolaris, orbits three suns (sounds familiar). The story ends with the revelation that the Trisolarians have sent an invading army towards Earth. To ensure that humans cannot protect their planet, sophons were sent to kill off researchers that would advance human defences.