Published: 2006 in Chinese, 2014 in English
Genre: science fiction
Length: 399 pages
Setting: China in the late 1960s and present day
Summary: We flip between two time periods and stories. In the 1960s, we are in the midst of the Cultural Revolution. Academics, in particular, are targeted for reform. Ye Wenjie’s parents are both theoretical physicists and she is sent to the country for reform. Later, she enters a highly classified scientific outpost trying to make contact with aliens. They succeed and make contact with the Trisolarians. Ye decides to help the aliens take over the Earth because she’s fed up with humanity’s problems. In the present day, Wang Miao is brought in to a secret international government meeting where he hears evidence of a war going on. The governments of the world have finally realized there’s a group working with the Trisolarians to prepare the Earth for their arrival in a couple hundred years. Wang is drawn into the group via the Three-Body Problem, a video game used as a recruitment tool for the Trisolarians. His nanotech material is used to stop the humans working with the Trisolarians and find out their plan. However, a Trisolarian fleet is still on its way to Earth.
Final thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this book on multiple levels. At first, I enjoyed the novel setting. I don’t know much about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, so even the mundane beginning felt new and different. The translator added several notes to the text to clarify pieces of the story that someone well-versed in Chinese history would understand, but your average Westerner would miss.
The author takes his time bringing the science fictional elements into the story, but they blend seamlessly once they’re added. The Three-Body Problem was the perfect recruiting too. It would select for a certain type of individual. I found the scenes within the game fascinating and the mathematical problem compelling.
It’s definitely a different kind of first contact story. We haven’t even seen the aliens, and only a few have exchanged information with them, and yet human culture is changing. Now what’s going to happen since the powers-that-be know the aliens are on their way in 400 years? What can we do to prepare over that time frame, with the Trisolarians interfering in some of our basic science research? I definitely need to read more to find out!
Awards won: Hugo Award in 2015
Title comes from: The Trisolarians live in a trinary system. The name comes from the difficult mathematical problem of trying to predict a planet’s orbit around the three suns.
Reading challenges fulfilled: book #73 for the year
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