...one of the most ambitious works of science fiction ever written ... The grand scale of Cixin’s story is supported by an immense quantity of research ... New technology and the science behind it are always well explained (though never boringly) by Cixin. The best bits in his books are set pieces that would be hallucinatory, or surreal, were it not that everything is described with such scientific authority ... Cixin’s view of the universe as a dark forest may be pessimistic, but his view of humanity and its future is extremely optimistic. We are not in the end times: we are babies at the foot of a long staircase. We will develop superhard nanomaterials that will allow us to build an elevator to space. We will develop rockets powered by nuclear fusion that will take us way beyond the Oort cloud. One day we will be capable of building ring-shaped artificial planets that produce their own gravitational fields. We will live in houses shaped like leaves that dangle from the branches of enormous artificial trees; we won’t carry mobile phones or smart devices since any surface can be turned into an information screen at will. Cixin constantly reminds us of our technological infancy by imagining civilisations that are way ahead of us, lighting the path.
...China has a thriving science fiction scene, and Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem is stunning, elegant proof ... it transcends expectation — not to mention borders ... The Three-Body Problem turns a boilerplate, first-contact concept into something absolutely mind-unfolding. ... The way the book's alien race seeks to assert its presence on Earth is nothing short of awe-inspiring ... This is hard SF, full of lovingly lengthy passages of technical exposition about everything from quantum mechanics to artificial intelligence. But Cixin Liu supports all of that braintwisting theory with empathetic characters and a strong action-thriller backbone ... while Ken Liu's translation is clear, tasteful, and lyrical, there's a lot of exposition to chew on. It's worth every ounce of effort. The book's well-earned suspense hinges on moral dilemmas that resonate far beyond its nationality or even its heady, abstract physics ... If The Three-Body Problem...helps bridge the gap between Eastern and Western SF, it will have performed a great duty for the literary world. But as a science-fiction epic of the most profound kind, it's already won.
Cixin Liu is the champion of Chinese sci-fi, and his The Three-Body Problem... is The War of the Worlds for the 21st century ... What makes Mr. Liu’s novel different from its Western competitors in the alien-invasion line is not its hardware (though it is full of strange ideas, like how to construct a human computer using 30 million people, each with a white and a black flag ...The difference seems to be a kind of patience, seeing things long-term ... One can’t fault the ambition, nor the still-unshaken conviction in the powers of science. Sci-fi fans often boast about their favorite genre’s diversity and universality. Now they have a classic example to point to. Not a page-turner, but packed with a sense of wonder, coupled to human experiences few of us have had to face.
Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem is one of the most surprising novels I’ve read in recent memory. Not because it’s full of twists and turns (though it is), but because it’s so different from what I’ve come to expect in modern science fiction, in terms of narrative and storytelling techniques. Perhaps most surprising to me is that a novel structured and told in this manner is one of the bestselling novels I’ve ever heard of ... While there’s certainly plenty of plot movement, this is almost an aggressive text in the way it refuses to invite you in. At the same time, it’s extremely readable, digestible, and riveting. It’s very hard sci-fi, which is to say that it’s deeply rooted in actual science, or at least theoretical possibilities ... The Three-Body Problem is a novel of ideas, much like Asimov’s novels. There are characters, and I enjoyed them, but many of them are more shells and shades than fully developed people ... This is a very different literary tradition than the one we’re used to, with very different goals and expectations ... a powerful, sometimes quite funny, sometimes surprisingly emotionally resonant, novel full of enormous ideas and ambition that also seems indifferent to your expectations ... It’s a novel that challenges you to think. Or rather, it demands you think. It demands your attention, and it will reward you for it ...
The Three-Body Problem pits those who despair of humanity and figure mankind is doomed to extinguish itself anyway...against those who worry about the possibly much worse consequences of this very foreign invasion, by an advanced civilization that probably sees humans as the equivalent of bugs ... Liu offers a variety of adventure along the way ... And the clash of those who believe in science and those who seek to undermine technological advancement ...makes for decent tension. The ends to which people are willing to go is not always entirely convincing -- there are a couple of rather casual murders along the way -- but there's a good amount of good-versus-evil ambiguity. Liu spreads everything a bit thin, and the story clearly has a way to go beyond this...but there's a lot crammed in here, keeping the reader engaged (if also occasionally off-balance). Liu tries too hard with some of the characters ...and doesn't really offer enough personal background to make any of them feel very real (or three-dimensional ... they're all pretty flat). But there's enough in the mix -- including some interesting theoretical ideas, including about the meeting of very different civilizations -- to hold one's interest, and make one curious about what comes next.
...a science-fictional novel of ideas, somewhat in the tradition of mid-twentieth-century American SF. Readers seeking subtle portrayals and development of multidimensional characters should look elsewhere, as should those averse to brief expositions of ideas in contemporary physics. What The Three-Body Problem offers instead are audacious, mind-expanding extrapolations of known science, fascinating fictional commentary on the interplay of science and politics in present-day China, and storytelling on a grand, wildly ambitious scale. Such stories, if done as well as this one, can evoke a response all but unique to the genre: an awe at nature and the universe SF readers call a 'sense of wonder.'
Like Isaac Asimov, Liu is far more interested in science than character development, and his heroes and villains are all thinly written. Liu constantly tells rather than shows when it comes to his characters’ motivations ... The novel also delivers physics-based scientific explanations, often in large and pedantic text dumps when characters are discussing or experimenting with technology ... That clunky text means The Three-Body ProblemThe Three-Body Problem sell a million copies in China just might not translate here. The result is a book that offers a unique perspective on science fiction, but isn’t much fun to read.
As long as plenty of the pyrotechnics of advanced technology are included, dedicated sci-fi readers may not mind if Liu's characters are mono-dimensional, living only to explore the universe ... Some readers may find the author's explanatory postscript more enlightening than his fiction. Certainly another postscript, by translator Ken Liu, and his choice of words and footnotes explaining Chinese puns and historical references interest me more than Cixin Liu's imaginary deep space.
Given a graceful and accessible translation by multi-award winning author Ken Liu for its 2014 US release, [The Three Body Problem is] a unique tale of first contact and alien invasion set against the tumultuous political history of Liu’s homeland and the most mind-bending speculative frontiers of theoretical physics. It’s far from perfect, but in its best moments is so unlike anything hard SF has thrown at us before that no dedicated reader of the genre should overlook it ... But the book is uneven. The majority of its characters are either weakly developed or not especially developed at all ... All of the book’s in-game scenes are utterly dazzling spectacle, and if the Chinese movie studios that are planning to film this entire trilogy actually have the resources to pull them off, I’ll be stunned. But Wang himself, as a viewpoint character, is quite simply boring ... Also — and I understand this may be an unavoidable artifact of the translation — almost all the characters speak in rather stilted and much-too-mannered dialogue. It’s also the case that for every brain-boggling and reality-bending setpiece, there is exposition infodumping mountains of level-9000 science on us The Three-Body Problem aims high and then higher, which ought to be the goal of science fiction generally. While its breathtaking vision is occasionally tripped up by shortcomings in storytelling, it remains a true achievement by an important writer on the global SF scene.
All the ingredients are in place for a truly great science fiction story ... But the pieces are greater than the whole, because the story depends for its effect on a sympathy with both Ye Wenjie and Wang Maio that it doesn’t do enough to achieve. To hold back certain revelations until the end of the story, much of Ye’s actions and emotions at Red Coast are obscured, making her a cipher for much of the story. And Wang is unfortunately little more than a plot device, a character who walks around experiencing the plot and feeling things because the plot requires it ... The science is very convincing and up to date, but as a science fiction novel The Three-Body Problem feels like something written in the days of Asimov and Clarke. Devotees of hard science fiction will find a lot to like, since many modern science fiction novels don’t have even half the ideas on display in The Three-Body Problem, but the characterization is too contrived for the story to have the emotional impact it deserves.
This novel is a rare treat in several ways. First, it is translated from Chinese, a language from which the West doesn’t often get provocative science fiction. Beyond that, this highly deserving blockbuster in China serves as a crash course in both the historically important Cultural Revolution of the mid-twentieth century and the basics of astrophysics ... The narrative will grab readers’ attention with its passionate and fascinating critique of early Communist China, augmented by translator Liu’s lean but informative footnotes for the likely uninformed English readers. But the high-minded premise is really just a vessel for a collection of surreal and hauntingly beautiful scenes that will hook you deep and drag you relentlessly across every page. This is a must-read in any language.
Fans of hard SF will revel in this intricate and imaginative novel by one of China’s most celebrated genre writers ... Liu impressively succeeds in integrating complex topics—such as the field of frontier science, which attempts to define the limits of science’s ability to know nature—without slowing down the action or sacrificing characterization. His smooth handling of the disparate plot elements cleverly sets up the second volume of the trilogy.
Strange and fascinating alien-contact yarn ... Jaw-dropping revelations build to a stunning conclusion. In concept and development, it resembles top-notch Arthur C. Clarke or Larry Niven but with a perspective—plots, mysteries, conspiracies, murders, revelations and all—embedded in a culture and politic dramatically unfamiliar to most readers in the West, conveniently illuminated with footnotes courtesy of translator Liu. Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.