The Three-body Problem by Cixin LiuThe Three-body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Three-body Problem

byCixin LiuTranslated byKen Liu

Paperback | January 12, 2016

Pricing and Purchase Info

$20.56 online 
$22.50 list price save 8%
Earn 103 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Available in stores


"Wildly imaginative, really interesting." -President Barack Obama on The Three-Body Problem trilogy

The Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience the Hugo Award-winning phenomenon from China's most beloved science fiction author, 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.

The Remembrance of Earth's Past Trilogy
The Three-Body Problem
The Dark Forest
Death's End

Other Books
Ball Lightning (forthcoming)

CIXIN LIU is the most prolific and popular science fiction writer in the People's Republic of China. Liu is avwinner of the Hugo Award, an eight-time winner of the Galaxy Award (the Chinese Hugo), and a winner of the Chinese Nebula Award. KEN LIU (translator) is a writer, lawyer, and computer programmer. His short story "The Paper Mena...
Title:The Three-body ProblemFormat:PaperbackDimensions:416 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 1.11 inPublished:January 12, 2016Publisher:Tom Doherty AssociatesLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0765382032

ISBN - 13:9780765382030


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Engaging I found this book very engaging and entertaining. Mainly plot orientated, it doesn't focus too much of character development, which I appreciated as I find that majority of science fiction have poorly written characters. I'd rather see a lack of character than cheesy ones.
Date published: 2018-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting It's a really interesting, just sciencey enough take that utilizes history really well, and while it has a large cast of characters, it doesn't really feel like it. It can be slow at times, but it's interesting so I wanted to keep moving forward to find out what happened next This is definitely "hard" sci-fi as there is a decent bit of math/logic problems and less "it just kinda works but no one knows how". I can'r read Chinese but I think the book benefits being translated by another Chinese author, the language is great.
Date published: 2018-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from really great book if you love science i barely read sci-fi as a genre however my dad recommended this book to me, and if you really enjoy scientific thought and methodology in a literary context this book is for you. when reading abt scientific discovery it is also important to have a context, cultural and historical, to understand ideology of the time and why it might give rise to certain conclusions and the fact that the book provides such context as well is especially well done, in my opinion
Date published: 2018-07-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It really depends on you It is a good / bad book depending on your preferences. There is a certain cultural gap to adapt before understanding the writing style and the way the character dialogues progress. Like watching an anime for the first time (for western people, that is). It may be a good excercise to read the author notes and the translator PS at the end of the NA version before reading the book. If you do that, you will have a better understanding that certain details are “lost in translation” due to cultural differences. If you do that, and feel confident about it, then add another star to this review. If you are looking for flow, a consistent pace, then The Three Body Problem may not be for you. Certain chapters will flow, while others will feel like a rock chained to your ankle.
Date published: 2018-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Astonishing Sci-fi A novel that explores the possible reactions to first contact with aliens and alien invasion, The Three Body Problem brilliantly weaves together imaginative concepts, the unfolding of a breathtaking story and some deep commentary on the nature of humanity, science and life in the cosmos. The writing is vivid and nuanced, the mystery is engrossing, and the pacing is fluid. The revelations at the end of each of the books in the series are riveting. The series is bound to become a classic of science fiction. It masterfully evokes that combination of awe and terror in the face of the perplexing cosmos.
Date published: 2018-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic hard science fiction! Really, really good. The writing style can be a little difficult to get into because the story is very slow paced. I absolutely loved the blend of physics and narrative!
Date published: 2018-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love this so much So good! Definitely not entry level, but if you're into hard sci-fi, this is for you. The characters are great, the premise is great, the setting is great, and I'm super excited to read the next book.
Date published: 2017-08-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not for Everyone This is not my usual type of book, but after reading the blurb and seeing a lot of good reviews, I picked this book up. It was very rich in detail (maybe a little too much for my liking), I liked how it introduced some historical cultural background. The plot was intriguing. It seems like the story was told through unrelated pieces but it really comes altogether in the end. But it was a bit too long and descriptive for me.
Date published: 2017-07-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really Enjoyed it I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. Although I wasn't a big fan of the narration jumps from time to time, it was a good read. I'm mostly sad that I cannot read the book in its original text, since I cannot read Chinese.
Date published: 2017-04-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I loved this I bought this last week and I really enjoyed it.
Date published: 2017-03-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A solid first outing for this trilogy Originally published in Chinese in 2008, Liu Cixin's The Three-Body Problem has now been translated for English speakers to enjoy. This was my first translated book and was quite accessible in my opinion, the only difficulty I had was the pronunciation of character names and keeping those characters straight. This novel is a combination of hard sci-fi and history of China's cultural revolution. Liu uses the “three-body problem” of classical mechanics to ask questions about human nature and civilization and how it all changes when we make first contact.
Date published: 2017-03-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Sooooooo science-y VERY science heavy Chinese science fiction dealing with the idea of whether other life in the universe would be friend or foe and what we deserve as a civilization. 2.75/5Ok
Date published: 2017-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Chinese Sci-Fi The Three-Body Problem is part first contact novel, part cyberpunk and part The Lives of Tao. As the story comes together, these parts form a very intelligent and intriguing novel. The scope of the story steadily grows as the climax of the novel approaches. [I don't want to spoil anything so I'll leave the plot discussion for elsewhere - like the comments, if you have questions] The characters give a view of the very culturally different time and place of China, from its cultural revolution to 'present'-day. Some characters, such as Ye Wenjie, show how the cultural revolution affected the scientific community within China, and ultimately becomes the primary motivation for the decisions she makes in the novel. Other characters, mainly Wang Miao, work in the present day China and gets caught up in murders and machinations that are far above what he knew possible but his scientific mind does not allow him to ignore what is happening around him. Da Shi, a Chinese cop, would seem out of place in the story but he provides a lot of humor and the everyday-man insight into the story. If there's anything to complain about its that the level of science may be a deterrence to some readers. Even before discussions of multidimensional objects and string theory, which I admit is a bit beyond my knowledge, there is lengthy exposition about solving differential equations and how computers work. I don't think it should negatively affect the story but, at times, the book reads more like a scientific journal (sometimes exactly like a scientific journal). I can't speak much to the translation quality of the book, but there are frequent footnotes that explain the Chinese cultural references that, I assume, had no reasonable translation into english or that would take pages to explain something that was a part of life in China. And I thank Ken Liu for that, because it explains some of the inner workings of China that I didn't know.
Date published: 2017-01-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Deserving of a Hugo I have to echo the sentiments of the review below: slow build but good payoff. The book jumps around to a variety of characters for the first 1/4 and has you wondering what they have in common and why we're hearing about them. But as the book progresses it becomes clear and the early character meandering helps to build atmosphere. I've already ordered the second one in the series.
Date published: 2016-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hard Sci-Fi That Is Not For the Faint of Heart I just spent a week with this hard science fiction, Hugo-award winning novel from Chinese author Cixin Liu and I have to admit my . <i>The Three-Body Problem</i> had me putting off tasks to pick it up, stuck with me throughout my day, and was always a pleasure to read when I sat down with it. With that said, this isn’t a novel I’d easily recommend to everyone. This isn’t a review that offers a pan-recommendation along with its 5-star rating. Indeed, this review seeks to help an intrigued reader decide if this book would be a good fit for them and their reading taste. <b>Hard Sci-Fi</b> The premise of <i>The Three-Body Problem</i> is that an alien civilization receives a message from a Chinese scientist in the 1970s and plans to come to Earth, naturally, for a good old-fashioned invasion. I know, I know. You’ve read this story before, right? I assure you that this is a wholly original take wherein the aliens don’t even make a proper appearance for the entire novel. Instead, <i>The Three-Body Problem</i> is more concerned with its titular problem, scientific history, cutting edge scientific theory, and a fair smattering of ludicrous science near the novel’s end. This novel revels in its appreciation of science and a bit of brushing up on introductory physics would not go amiss. However, if you don’t recall the mathematical expression that governs the motion of two celestial bodies in a vacuum, you need not worry. Cixin Liu (and his translator, Ken Liu) does a fantastic job in explaining basic and high-level science concepts in clear language. Although there were times in which I had to set the book down to interpret, these moments were largely towards the end of the book where the science gets really out there. I was also less than impressed with the video game within the book that serves as an introduction to the alien civilization. Roughly, each time the game is booted up the player is greeted by an ever-advancing Earth-based representation of scientific progress. So, at first you meet an ancient Chinese king, but eventually you hang out with Einstein. This grew on me after the first few chapters set in the game. Liu uses these sections to convey the difficulty of the scientific problem at hand, show reverence for science history, and introduce the civilization in an innocuous way. <b>Space & Time</b> One of the things that really sets this reading experience apart from traditional science fiction is that it is really, really Chinese. The first 100 pages deal mostly with the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In fact, after 100 pages I realized that I was enjoying that material so much that I wouldn’t have minded if aliens never stopped in. Of course, as the novel goes on it does an excellent job of weaving together the threads from the Cultural Revolution and the impending invasion. This Chinese-based sci-fi is a breath of fresh air, and it’s a shame that China’s most popular sci-fi author has never made the jump to English before. Not only is it set in a different part of the world from most sci-fi you’ll encounter, but it also feels remarkably different in writing style and plot development. Where other novels skim over the nitty-gritty of the science behind spectacle, <i>The Three-Body Problem</i> spends pages making sure the reader knows what to expect. This never feels obnoxious; on the contrary, it is refreshing to see an author convey a concept in such understandable language. Though the novel alternates between the time of discovery during the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the present day story, it never feels random. There are stretches where I spent 50 pages in the present, took a brief 10 page detour into the past, only to return for a lengthy bit set in the present. The story unfolds rather than following a strictly predictable path. Instead of predictability, it seems guided by logic. You don’t know about Y, but once you know X, Y follows much more easily. This all makes for a read that is compelling because it makes the reader feel as if they are hot on the pursuit of the central mystery. <b>The Three Dimensional Character Problem</b> You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned the cast of characters, and there’s good reason. I’m not the first reader to note this, but the lead characters in <i>The Three-Body Problem</i> are pretty flat. Indeed, Wang Miao may be a brilliant nanotechnology researcher, but I’d be hard pressed to tell you much about his personality. Instead of driving the plot, Wang reacts to it. I never felt that the decisions he makes in the novel were guided by his belief system. He’s kind of like the cart on an on-rail amusement park ride. The ride sure is thrilling, but you’re unlikely to remember much about the cart. Now, normally I’d be roasting this book alive for having such weak characterization. I mean, why read a book if you don’t care about the characters? <i>The Three-Body Problem</i> genuinely makes the case for having a fairly empty lead. I kept thinking during my read that I could imagine being in Wang’s shoes, pulling back the curtain on yet another mystery. It is genuinely impressive that Liu is able to pull off, at least for me, the sensation of feeling like you’re in on the mystery that would be lost with a stronger character. <b>Conclusion?</b> This novel doesn’t end with resolution, though you could conceivably just read this novel and come away with a complete story. Of course, there are two more novels in the series that will delve further into the impressive, exciting, and pessimistic world that Liu has created. I’m hoping for some better-developed characters, but will happily continue on if the subsequent books are as mentally stimulating as this. <b>I’d suggest tackling this one if you are interested in a headier science-fiction story that eschews typical western plot, makes your brain twist and turn into weird shapes, and makes the case for more translated SFF.</b>
Date published: 2016-11-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good story line but hard to read I've long suspected that governments carry out secret projects. In this novel, author Cixin Liu imagines the Chinese have sent their own alternate message out into space and they received a response. The general public know nothing of this, though one group seeks to use this knowledge for their cause. While I enjoyed the essential plot of the story, there was a sense of not understanding that hounded me through the entire book. It started with not knowing about the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, and then not being able to follow the scientific explanations. A paragraph or two explaining the basic of the Cultural Revolution would have helped immensely or at least assured me that I knew all I needed to follow the plot. The author is obviously quite a bright man, though I felt he had trouble writing about science in terms that a non-science reader could fully understand. The plot makes sense even if the reader doesn't understand all the science, but for me, I hate skipping paragraphs for that reason. I want to read and understand the entire book. Professor Wang Miao is almost an interesting character. He doesn't want the role he's been forced into, though he realizes he has no choice but to make the best of it. Police Detective Shi Quang stopped short of being an amazing character that you loved to hate. I didn't make an emotional connection with any of the characters in the book. Their personalities didn't emerge during the telling. I don't know whether this is the fault of the author or they were lost in translation to English. Unfortunately this book was not a winner for me. I did finish reading as I wanted to learn what happened, but I have no desire at this point to read the next instalment in this trio.
Date published: 2016-06-18

Editorial Reviews

"Wildly imaginative, really interesting." -President Barack Obama on the Three-Body Problem trilogy"A breakthrough book . . . a unique blend of scientific and philosophical speculation, politics and history, conspiracy theory and cosmology." -George R. R. Martin, on The Three Body Problem"Extraordinary." -The New Yorker, on The Three Body Problem"Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed." -Kirkus Reviews, starred review, on The Three Body Problem"A must-read in any language." -Booklist, on The Three Body Problem"A meditation on technology, progress, morality, extinction, and knowledge that doubles as a cosmos-in-the-balance thriller.... a testament to just how far [Liu's] own towering imagination has taken him: Far beyond the borders of his country, and forever into the canon of science fiction. - NPR, on Death's End"The best kind of science fiction, familiar but strange all at the same time." -- Kim Stanley Robinson, on The Three Body Problem