Three Body Problem Trilogy (Book Review)

My first book review and I’m going to tackle the hard science fiction masterpiece of a trilogy written by Liu Cixin and translated by Ken Liu and Joel Martinsen πŸ˜€

In my post WWW Wednesday β€” Yay! , I said, and I quote (yes I quote myself) : “yep, you guessed it, when I finish this book I can write a review of the trilogy”.

Well, the time has come! *suspenseful music*

The way this is going to work (hopefully for all my book reviews) :

1. Summary (from Amazon or Goodreads) of each book.

2. What Worked For Me and What Didn’t Work For Me for each book in series order. This will take up the majority of the post.

3. Content warnings.

4. Final star ratings, 5 being the highest, and final conclusion. (Yes, I did tell some of you that I don’t do star ratings much, but for the sake of reviews, I will)

I will do my best to make sure that all my reviews are as spoiler-free as possible.

For today’s post, I will mention concepts that form small and / or large parts of the books, but I won’t elaborate too much, so it’ll be relatively new to you, should you choose to read this trilogy in the near future.

ARE YOU READY FOR IT? *Taylor Swift music playing in the background*

Book 1 : The Three Body Problem

Summary :

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.

What Worked For Me :

Ye Wenjie’s Motivations

  • Come on, it was for her father!
  • Her original thought : to reform, not to conquer.

Three Body

  • A virtual reality game in which the conditions of Trisolaris (the aliens’ world) are explored.

Science and Tech

  • Unfolding a proton into two dimensions and embedding circuits into its surface? Oh yeah.

Lyrical and Cohesive Prose (especially for a hard science fiction novel, more on this later)

What Didn’t Work For Me :

A little slower paced (especially compared to the other two books).

Ye Wenjie’s Capture (a little spoiler)

  • Okay, this was really abrupt.
  • How could she have been detained so easily?!?! Didn’t she have bodyguards?
  • She just had a really cool, revolutionary type line, then 5 mins later, she’s captured.

Book 2 : The Dark Forest

Summary :

In The Dark Forest, Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion-in just four centuries’ time. The aliens’ human collaborators may have been defeated, but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access to all human information, means that Earth’s defense plans are totally exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret. This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies, hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists, but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he’s the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead.

What Worked For Me :

How it shows Earth’s reaction to a confirmed alien invasion

  • It goes into the nitty gritty of everything.
  • The public’s reaction, politicans’ reactions, and the global reaction.
  • Humanity’s morals and ethics are considered in depth (Chidi, yes you, from The Good Place, I’m sure you’ll have fun lecturing people).

Worldbuilding

  • After Luo Ji fulfills his Wallfacer duty (sort of), and enters hibernation (a fascinating concept of how a person can be asleep for many years and wake up unaged), by the time he wakes up, the Earth is transformed. Beneath the surface is a bustling tree city, with buildings situated within leaves and branches. Not joking.
  • There are information windows everywhere you touch, so essentially, advertisements and news services customized to an individual.
  • Even flying cars that don’t require a human driving!

What Didn’t Work For Me :

Trisolarans’ fear of Luo Ji

  • It took me a while (and looking through Wikipedia’s plot breakdown) before I finally understood why the Trisolarans were so afraid of Luo Ji, they devised all sorts of methods to get rid of him. Rather than being hinted at, I just wish we knew through more concrete wording.
  • The same applies to Luo Ji’s discovery of the big game changer.

Book 3 : Death’s End

Summary :

Half a century after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to co-exist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent.

Cheng Xin, an aerospace engineer from the early twenty-first century, awakens from hibernation in this new age. She brings with her knowledge of a long-forgotten program dating from the beginning of the Trisolar Crisis, and her very presence may upset the delicate balance between two worlds. Will humanity reach for the stars or die in its cradle?

What Worked For Me :

 Yun Tianming’s Fairy Tales

  • These were GENIUS.
  • Simply, it’s about a long lost good prince reclaiming his throne from a bad one (the world is magical, by the way).
  • But there are several fascinating factors to this story that Yun Tianming used to try and convey to those on Earth on how they could escape the greatest threat in the universe. Namely, these factors were the soap and boat, and Needle-eye’s paintings. It had to be done this way to prevent Trisolarans from interfering.

Mini Universe

  • A fascinating concept where a world is concentrated in a tiny space but is on a loop so that it feels as though it’s endless. (That’s how I interpreted it)

Zero Homers’ Ideals (not a major part but fascinating, and doesn’t really spoil)

  • They want to reset the universe like a clock at midnight. πŸ˜€ These Zero Homers think that if they get the universe to zero dimensions, it will reset and have ten, twelve, or the original number, of dimensions back. Thus, everything will return to its utopian form, because the laws of physics would have been reinstated.

The Ending

  • It is quite bittersweet…but I loved how the ending connected back with the beginning, with Cheng Xin’s star.
  • Sophon (formerly the Trisolarans’ ambassador to Earth) reminded me a bit of Janet from The Good Place in the last few pages. πŸ˜€

What Didn’t Work For Me :

SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Defeat of the Trisolarans

  • Because the Trisolarans were the main antagonists for 2.5 / 3 books, it felt so abrupt to me when they were defeated by a dark forest strike (the greatest threat in the universe).
  • I was rather disappointed β€” one moment they were there, and the next, they weren’t.
  • Trisolarans, as I showed in my Alien post, were highly advanced in science and technology, so it felt odd that they could be defeated so easily.
  • Of course, the author could’ve been making a point to show that in the universe, which abides by the dark forest theory, nothing, not even the most intelligent of civilizations, can survive a dark forest strike. But perhaps it could’ve at least been shown that Trisolaris went out with a bang, rather than a muffle.

Now this applies to all the books : while the world and plot are extremely strong, the characterization feels a little off at times and I found it rather difficult to connect with the protagonists. However, Liu Cixin is pretty good at creating original characters, both main and supporting.

Both translators, especially Ken Liu, were able to deliver gorgeous prose in each of the three books. Here are five of my favorite sentences from Death’s End (because that’s the only book I took notes about my fav sentences for πŸ˜‚) :

The politician’s voice was lovely and sweet, as though the words were strung together by strands of blown sugar…

Time turned malleable and meandered slowly, like the fog that drifted through the bamboo groves.

The beautiful world revealed its fragility to Cheng Xin, like a lovely soap bubble floating through a bramble bush : A single touch was enough to destroy everything.

Outside the ship, the thin membrane of space-time rippled with the gravitational waves, like a placid lake surface disturbed by a night breeze. The judgement of death for both worlds spread across the cosmos at the speed of light.

Honorable Mention : One day, AA came and played a holographic movie for her. The movie, named A Fairy Tale of Yangtze, had won Best Picture at that year’s Oscars.

(even in the far off future, the Academy Awards / Oscars still exist! pretty cool, huh?)

Content Warnings :

Some usage of strong language and mature terms. Also some violence.

My Star Ratings and Final Conclusion :

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It looks like 5 stars, but my rating is 4.8 / 5. Despite the things that didn’t work out for me, I can overlook most of them due to the sheer profoundness and eloquence that Liu Cixin delivered. The characterization was full of originality, and world and plot were incredibly solid and strong. But this entire trilogy is one of a kind, and a phenomenal masterpiece.

23 Comments

  1. WOW! Amazing review and a masterpiece of a post. I can’t believe we have read so many of the same books! Great job structuring each subsection of each book, you are really good at this stuffπŸ™‚. I’ve only read the first and second books of this series, but now I want to finish it once and for all.

    Thanks for the superb review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow this is such a sweet, beautiful comment, thank you SO much!!!!! ☺️ Hey, reading two out of three of these books is really impressive, but tell me when you’re finished with Death’s End, I’d love to know what you think! Death’s End is my favorite out of the three β€” if Three Body Problem is amazing, Dark Forest is spectacular, and Death’s End is grandly epic (epic-ly grand? πŸ˜‚). Thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, sure will! You are super talented and your writing style is amazing, so keep up the marvelous work!! BTW: have you read Shadow and Bone or The Song of Achilles yet? I haven’t, but I’m really desperate for any new books at this point LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Aww thank you!! ☺️ I’m (sort of) reading Shadow and Bone now, and I haven’t read The Song of Achilles yet but it seems interesting! Haha, I know what you mean, books are a wonderful solution to quarantine. If it helps, I currently really want to read (because my actual TBR is almost at 100 books) Crownchasers, Woven in Moonlight, Crier’s War, and The Raven Boys. If you’re looking for some more epic science fiction, you might like Dune by Frank Herbert, I’m more than halfway through and it’s amazing!!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Woah, 100 books? Talk about an ‘avid reader’ lol. I think I’ve heard of(and read a little bit about) Dune. I need to get my reading mind back, rn I’m just doing another re-read of HP 😌. Quick question: Do you ever have problems with coming up with storylines or ideas after reading books? Like I’m trying to come up with a plot, but a lot of my recent book reads are influencing it A LOT. Thank you so much for responding, and once again, keep up the great workkk!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yep, especially since around the blogosphere, there are so many great book recommendations and reviews, my TBR is constantly being updated! I actually had read a half of Dune a few months ago, but I don’t think it sank in πŸ˜‚ rereading it was definitely a smart (and not lazy) move on my part *pats myself on the back* because I absorb and enjoy it SO much more…so happy reading! No problem, I’m happy to chat! Hm I wouldn’t say that recent book reads trouble me when it comes to storylines for my own work, but if I really enjoyed a particular read, I’m definitely inspired to do ‘better’ in an element that that book did really well…if that makes sense? Like Six of Crows inspired me to do better with character banter πŸ˜‚. It’s important to read good books and bad ones too, because then you can figure out what works for you and what doesn’t, and all these different elements that you pick up, along with several of your own, can definitely help to shape your writing.

        Whew, that was long…hope this helps 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thank you soo much! This helps a lot. You have so much knowledge on books, its amazing. Haha, I really should continue to read Dune, but I kind of found the beginning boring(I really need a refresher on it). And there are so many times where is read a book and it just doesn’t sink it! That is super relatable. Like, for example, when I first read the Kane Chronicles, or my attempt at The Hobbit (unsuccesful lol). I will take this into account, once again thanks for the advise!πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

      6. My pleasure, I’m glad you found it so! Haha, books are very much my cup of tea πŸ˜€ Dune is a little heavy, but esp for a science fiction novel, has great characters. I’ve only read like 4 or 5 of Rick Riordan’s books πŸ˜‚ and I remember liking The Hobbit but my eyes bugged out when I realized that an upcoming chapter was 30 PAGES. Also…I tried getting into The Lord of the Rings, but the first 10 pages are literally huge paragraphs of elf history, and I just couldn’t get into it? Maybe I’ll try again, but there are a bunch of other books clamoring on my plate that are more appealing to me at the moment. It also helps A LOT if the author’s prose is distinctive and cohesive β€” this can make the book in question a lot more understandable.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. OMG don’t get me startteedd on Lord of the Rings lol I swear I opened it and then closed it in a manner of 30 seconds. I agree with you about the author’s writing style., especially in the beginning of a series. You don’t want to start out by giving meaningless background info, but you also don’t want to start out by over informing the reader. As an author, you want the reader to be eager to continue reading, so you can use that information for suspense or plot points rather than framing it all in the beginning. It might not be as feasible or facile as the reader to read a book where they are immediately uninterested. Authors need to signpost what they are going to do beforehand, so they can imagine exactly what they are writing.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Haha LOL πŸ˜‚ Definitely, info dumps are just…no. It’s so much better if they weave in relevant details throughout the story. Seems like you know a lot about this too! *why so many books start out with some sort of action*

        Like

      9. I love it when authors start in a normal atmosphere, but you know that its a fantasy so you are waiting for something supernatural to happen. Its normal, until its not.(ex. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson ig). Or when authors start at the end of a book and the whole book is trying to figure out how it relates to the start. You should definitely try to read some more Rick Riordan, I think it helps put more of a ‘realistic’ feel to your own characters, and its just a book for when you are bored and don’t want to read Sci-fi.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. Magical realism is definitely a genre I want to read more of β€” it’s so interesting when a certain world treats magic as something normal, and something incorporated into their daily lives. Ooh scattered timelines in books make for even more interesting reads, but it has to be done well, or it’ll be confusing. Haha, good to know! Riordan does make compelling characters, and weaves mythology into his books quite well.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. You are absolutely right about scattered timelines. Confusing scattered timelines are just…confusing. I love how Riorsan is able to incorporate comedy in his books, even in the tough moments for the hero, there is still a lot of attitude and development inside themselves. Sci-fi novels are great, but I see that a lot of them are repeats of past books. Still, sci-fi is amazing in itself.

        Liked by 1 person

      12. If you’re doing a scattered timeline, it really does have to make sense and benefit the plot. I do like how Riordan uses humor, but for one of his books, I felt that the humor got in the way of the book actually making an impact. Then again, most of his books are genuinely funny in the right places. Really? I’ve read a lot of hard science fiction this year, and am just an avid sci fi reader in general, but I think each has their own unique take or spin on various concepts, making the genre all the more fascinating…

        Liked by 1 person

      13. Sci-fi is very unique in itself, don’t get me wrong. I think that a lot of the books revolve around the same idea in general. They take their own spins, but its easy to see the similarities between books. I still love sci-fi, though I feel like reading too much is vindictive of book selection. The genre is wonderful, but sometimes I think I need a break from sci-fi rounded books. Again, love the conception of most sci-fi books. I agree fully with you on Riordan’s humor. Some books are kind of overshadowed because of the humor, and in some moments, humor is not the best way to exoress whats happening. Seems like we both love books a lot πŸ˜€.

        Liked by 1 person

      14. Ah, I see what you mean. Yes, much sci-fi revolves around space opera or AI / robots / machines. A wise course of action could be to choose the most interesting, unique, and well received books from the sci-fi genre or subgenres, as then you will be getting the best of that category and narrow down the number of books. This is a good way to make sure that you aren’t neglecting other great books in other genres. I agree β€” while science fiction is typically my go to genre, when I finish especially heavy ones, I find myself looking for a softer contemporary or fantastical piece. Expansion of reading taste is essential to a well rounded reading diet (lol what an interesting way to put it). Definitely, humor when done well adds another level of intrigue, but when it isn’t, it leaves the reader a notch more disconnected with the story than before. Books are some of the best form of entertainment, and we can gain broader perspectives from reading, I’m glad we’re finding much to discuss! πŸ˜€Β 

        Liked by 1 person

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