Book Review: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin LiuThe Three-Body Problem: What it is about

From B&N: “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.

The Three-Body Problem: What I thought

I came across this book in a book store and it looked very special, a real find. I was keen to read it soon, so I made April East-Asia month! This is the first book by an East-Asian writer that I finished this month.

It was definitely a special book, but also a little cumbersome. First of all, there was some Cultural Revolution stuff that I wasn’t interested in, but I guess it was needed, because the story did (and had to) cover that time period as well as more recent times. Secondly, there was a lot of science in this science fiction novel. I can handle a lot of science in a novel, but sometimes this went a little too far even for me. At other times, I was pleasantly surprised by a particular scientific explanation. The explanation of the three-body problem especially, in relation to three suns, was very clever.

The blurb suggested an interaction between earthlings and aliens, but it took quite a while before the aliens entered the story. This was my main attraction to the book, so that was a pity. There were some very clever ideas about these aliens (for instance, they would dehydrate when it was too cold to live on their planet and re-hydrate when the temperature was favorable again).

There were several protagonists in the book, and it was hard to feel attached to them and their story. Towards the end of the book, several chapters dealt with the aliens on their planet, trying to unfold a proton, leading to hilarious effects. This was interesting to read, but it felt a little strange to have them appear as protagonists this late in the story.

The idea of what happened on Earth when people found out about the alien contact, and the expectation that they would come to visit at some point in the future, seemed quite likely: there are of course (of course!) several factions with different ideas of what should be done, people trying to have sole access to the transmissions, etc.

While this was at times a difficult and not always interesting book, I loved the ideas that were presented. I feel reading this book was great experience, and I love the new ideas about humanity, aliens, and the future I now have been exposed to. This is the first part of a trilogy, and I both do and don’t look forward to reading the next part. I’m curious how the story continues but I do wonder whether many more great ideas can be included in the story.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 400

First published: 2006

Translated: from the Chinese by Ken Liu

I got this: bought in a book shop

Genre: science fiction


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

2 Responses to Book Review: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

  1. I’m intrigued by this book, as I’m curious about combining the Cultural Revolution with an aliens story. It’s presumably gonna get a lot more attention now it’s been bumped up to the Hugo Award shortlist, not all of which will be good attention. Your experience of it sounds a lot like my experience of Asimov: more impressed by the clever ideas than anything else. But that can still be a great read.

  2. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

    I read the book and really liked it 🙂

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