ThreeBody Problem is the first chance for English-speaking listeners to experience this multiple 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.
©2006 Liu Cixin (P)2014 Macmillan Audio
“Ah, the outdoors,' Shallan said. 'I visited that mythical place once.” ― Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings
It's very difficult to describe this book. It's reminds me of the book "Spin" by Robert Wilson. It takes many strange science related events and use many characters smaller stories to relate these events, which in the end add up to something big and sinister going on. This book was apparently translated from Mandarin to English. I am 1/2 chinese, growing up up in America but my family spoke Hakka do I can't really say how well the translation is done. I will say that if I wasn't told it was translated, I would have assumed it was originally written in English by someone with a Mandarin background.
While reading, I had to do a lot of searching on Wikipedia as large portions of the story occurs during the 1960 - 1980's. I personally did not know much about the cultural revolution, youth red guard, or the period known as the Great Leap Forward, and other things that occurred in China during that time but this book made me want to find out. I don't think you have too do a lot of research to enjoy the story, for example if you don't know what a "Struggle Session" is (I didnt), the story gives you enough information to infer what it is. Though if you do a little research I personally think you will enjoy it a lot more.
The other portion of the book takes place in a modern to slightly futuristic setting. Say a state that the world could theoretically reach in the next 10 years. During this period, strange this are happening in the areas of science both in academia and industrial application. These strange things almost seem to have a supernatural force causing/guiding them from the background. To unravel the mystery a bunch of smaller stories of these strange occurrence are told from multiple characters and eventually they are slowly linked up to help you get a larger understanding.
I wish I could describe it better but like I said the closest book I've read to this type of story telling is "Spin" by Robert Wilson. The book is a little slow so I'd suggest trying to get a least 2 hours in before you decide whether you like it or not.
Luke Daniels does a great job narrating. I actually liked the fact that he didn't use a lot of Chinese accents when reading. As the bulk of the characters are Chinese and they are supposed to be speaking Mandarin, Mr. Daniels just chooses to to different voices with no accents. Rough throaty voice voice for the hard boiled detective, soft we'll spoken voice for the academic professor, nonchalant blasé voice for the lazy uncaring stay at home husband. It works well.
Two personal things I really enjoyed about this book is if you were heavy into math or science in college, this will probably trigger some memories. I learned both assembly and machine code in college and as I stated in the reviews title, there is a scene where they create a human computer using a 30 million man Chinese army holding flags to represent or/x-or, and/n-and gates. I pretty much died laughing during that scene. Wish my college professor would have made us do that when I took the class. Would've made understanding logic gates and transistors so much easier. Also this is the first book I think I've read where China, the U.S., and U.K. are all on the same side working together. While the book does show the differences in ideological views between the east and west and doesn't try to hide past and modern animosity, it does portray a situation where the governments recognize their differences and are able to work past them due to a larger issue being at stake. It was really nice to not have the stereotype of the eastern block as being the enemies. It was pretty cool for the author to imagine what could be done if east and west were able to work together as allies and equals.
Apparently this book is the first of a trilogy and I believe while all 3 books are complete only the 1st book has been translated to English. I believe the 2nd book is being translated now for written release but no word yet on a audio release. If you enjoy the book like I did please send audible a content request for the remainder of the series.
I found the narration to be a little bit harsh - voices were flat, angular and forced. There were some enjoyable moments, and the narrator seemed to have a consistent grasp of individual characters.
The story, though. Ugh. This is a classic example of a story that "tells" rather than "shows." It seems quite clear to me that the author had a pretty good idea about a science fiction concept, but no clue how to wrap a story around it. The storytelling is somewhat interesting to me as a westerner, as it offers a glimpse into another culture, but other than that small redemptive value the story is bland, childish and shallow.
The vast majority of the story is told in a style of passive observation during which the narrator simply reads an outline of plot points. Boring. This seems like an unfinished sketch of a story that did *not* leave me wanting more.
On Audible since the late 1990s, mostly science fiction, fantasy, history & science. I rarely review 1-2 star books that I can't get through
This book reminds me very much of classic "Golden Age" science fiction (Asimov, Clarke, Poul), with some interesting historical twists. Like many Golden Age books it is primarily a novel of ideas, some of which are very technical and others purely philosophic. And, it may be partially due to the translation, but it also feels like it was written by an author who was a scientist first and a writer second. - character interactions, romance, and emotion all take a back seat to the ideas in the book.
And the ideas are really interesting! The setting of the Cultural Revolution is fascinating and horrifying in itself, but it also informs the way in which the book grapples with common SF-tropes (SETI, the advancement of science, environmental degradation) in ways that make these topics feel strange and fresh. At the same time, however, while the structure of the novel (flashbacks, seemingly unusual switches in the focal characters, etc.) helps make the ideas more powerful, it creates a lot of additional alienation from the human side of the story, which was already a bit thin.
The result is a fascinating novel, but one which is not always immediately listenable and compelling. It has taken me a long time to work through this relatively short book, though I have never been particularly bored or regretful of the journey. It is completely worth a listen (or maybe a read? Perhaps some of the problems are less apparent in written form?), but it is not always propulsive. The reader is fine, but adds to the strange drifty quality of which of the work.
In the end, the book offers much of the best of speculative fiction (reflections on big ideas, amazing scenes, a sense of wonder), but has some of the key weaknesses. For me, it was a completely worthwhile trade-off, but you may think differently.
With little doubt this is the best audio book I have ever listened to and ranks as one of the best books I have read. Being a huge Iain M Banks fan that is saying something.The narrator was simply brilliant. Narrators like Luke Daniels make movies seem shallow and unsatisfying. When coupled with a writer like Cixin Liu and the superb translation by Ken Liu.. unlike Cixin I don't have the words to describe this level of the art form. Listening to this book was a wonderful experience.
The exposure to the Chinese way of thinking and problem solving.
When the detective takes a drunk professor Wong and the physicist to the field outside the city and shows them the locust plague...Absolutely beautiful piece of prose. Mind altering.Also the end... don't want to give too much away. Just brilliant.
It changed my western bias about Chinese thinking and gave a very different perspective of China. Living in a developing country that has 11 official languages I am no stranger to cultures other than my own and I can relate to the seduction of ideology and theology.
As Michael Stipes of the rock band REM wrote: "Mythology; seductive, and it turned its trick on me, but I have just begun to understand..."
I liked how the author demonstrated that amidst the extremism and irrationality it is the steadfastly rational that ultimately hold things together and that ultimately there are no heroes
The ending also provoked a strong reaction... lol. You'll see.
I worry that a sequel will ruin the story. As much as this book cries out for one... In fact it throws a little tantrum for one... Ok maybe that last bit was me.. :P
3 Body Problem isn't terrible, but it's only the introduction to a trilogy. It cannot stand on its own in any way, which made me feel angry and cheated as a reader. The entire book is really only a reveal. Like an origin story without a subplot. By the end of the book the baseline for the rest of the series has been established, that's all.
I don't find that acceptable as a reader, sorry. The rest of it is passable, and I will read the next two so that I actually get any resolution, as there is none to be found in this book. So I guess everyone wins right? The reader reads more books and the writer gets to sell more books, or something.
This one is definitely worth the credit. If you like Vernor Vinge, David Brin, Greg Bear, and speculative "hard" sci-fi, get this book.
One warning--the names are bit hard to follow. Many Chinese names in the book sound exactly alike, and so it can get a bit tricky to decipher the action in certain passages. I mean, all the Chinese language in the book was translated into English, so it might have actually been a better idea to give the characters slightly easier names to follow. As it stands, however, there's parts of the book where different characters seemed to be named "Shen" and "Shin" and "Shoe" and "Yoo". You get used to it after a while.
Besides that, however, the book is downright amazing. I can't give away the cool ideas buried in the story, but each one of them felt authentic and yet startling in a way that I don't encounter in the typical sci-fi space opera. The closest Western author I could identify with this book would be Vernor Vinge, and even he's a bit "conventional" compared to Liu.
Anyway, I read a lot of science fiction, and this one is right up there at the top of the list. Buy it already!!
That frequent business traveller that is either reading on the Kindle or listening to it through Audible on my phone. Talk literary to me.
Outstanding narration. The range of voices from this narrator is impressive.
This book is unique. Imagine a deep forward looking science and technology focus with philosophical underpinnings. As a stereotypical white American male, I found myself reflecting on the author, his experience, Chinese culture and game theory.
I enjoy translated fiction for the self reflection aspects. This is not a book that will reinforce your existing bias.
The book has two halves, a hard-sciences laden mystery with moral underpinnings and a reveal featuring Sci-fi/futurist explanation and philosophical quandary. The greater your understanding of popular recent science, the more you will appreciate.
Overall, this is a unique, nerdy, and delightful experience.
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
No science fiction works without a great plot/concept driving it and The Three-Body Problem has zero problem on that score - an experiment, done out of a kind of desperation, actually results in first contact with an interstellar alien community and sets up a pending crisis. But even a great concept still needs good characters, setting, and fluid writing to make for a great sci-fi read.
I didn't have much trouble with setting. This first book of a trilogy draws on the Chinese Cultural Revolution, past and current geopolitics, and current and theoretical quantum physics to set the stage for the saga - interesting, with plenty of potential to sustain the trilogy. My only quibble with the setting used was with the sequences that take place within an on-line game. It is in the game that characters attempt to resolve the Three Body Problem and I found those segments of the book to be rather dull and confusing. No doubt some of the information in those sections will come into play in later books, but they read like bad dream sequences where you don't have any context to make sense of what is going on. And, there is no plot or character development happening during those passages so I just wasn't engaged during those sections.
The flow of the writing feels a bit choppy, but I would chalk that up to the fact that this is a translation. The translation seems pretty good in that the meaning is clear, but English and Chinese are such very different languages there is bound to be some loss of fluidity. Ultimately, my biggest difficulty with The Three-Body Problem is the characters. The book starts with Ye Wenjie during the Cultural Revolution and she is a very interesting character throughout the book and the only character that is ever really fleshed out. Much of the book is from the POV of Wang Miao, a character that gets little back story and is hard to connect with, and none of the other characters is more than sketched. The Aliens may have some potential in the sequels, but ruthlessness is about the only characteristic they show in this first book.
Luke Daniels does his normal phenomenal job of creating great character voices which is a huge help with a book with unfamiliar names and he adds much to making this a good listen.
Bottom line, The Three-Body Problem is challenging, but intriguing and I will listen to the sequels when Audible has them available.
The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history
I was tempted to believe that a lot of the things Liu writes in this book, particularly the parts about the Cultural Revolution, came from personal experience, but in interviews, he cautions readers not to infer too much about his personal views from his novels. Instead, he want readers to focus on the universal truths within the narrative.
"I hope that one day, American readers will buy and read Chinese science fiction because it's sci-fi, not because it's Chinese," he says. "The calamities we face in science fiction are faced by humanity together."
I listened to this as an audio book, and I very much liked the voices Luke Daniels gave to the different characters, particularly the police detective, Shi Qiang. This character adds a lot of humor and is often a stand-in for the reader. Unlike many of the other main characters, he is not a scientist, so the scientist characters have to explain things to him—and to us, the readers—so that we understand the implications of the plot. Big Shi’s philosophy, “Anything sufficiently weird must be fishy,” helps ground the story in reality, a necessity when the ideas being bantered about include “unsolvable” physics problems, bizarre computer games, and multi-dimensional universes.
One large section of the book that really blew my mind was the description of how, within a computer game world, a character created a computer made up of (computer-generated) human beings. It is one of the most imaginative things I have ever read, I simply cannot do justice to describing this part of the book; you have to read it to experience it.
Having said that, other than the description of the human computer, I found most of the passages describing the computer game to be overly long and boring. That is my main complaint about the novel and the reason I am giving it four stars instead of 5.
I’m not sure how well some parts of the book would translate to the big (or little) screen, but the way the “good guys” find to destroy the headquarters of the “bad guys” is really incredible on both the visual and scientific levels. I won’t say more in order not to spoil the surprise.
There’s also some very excellent explanations of what it would be like to live in a universe that had more dimensions than our 3-dimensional world. I was glad that I had read “Flatland,” it really helped me appreciate this section of the book. Like Abbot before him, Cixin does an incredible job using analogies to explain these complex physics concepts in a way that a non-scientist can grasp.
A little bit like Ender’s Game, the big reveal of what is really going on takes place in the very last chapters of the book, and it’s worth the wait. The last few sentences are incentive enough for me to want to read the second book in the trilogy.
This book was suggested to me as being an amazing story on the level of Neal Stephenson's Seveneves. After 5 1/2 hours into a 13+ hour story I'm still wondering when something, anything, is going to happen. There are snippets of suggestions that something will eventually be revealed, (another alien race apparently) but I'm tired of waiting. And I'm certainly tired of waiting through yet another session of the protagonist playing a virtual reality game, also called "Three Body".
I keep reading other reviews telling me to stay with it, keep listening. It will eventually get good. But what does that say about the book if they have to tell you "It's Ok, eventually it will get better."
In years of using Audible I've only returned one book. This may well be my 2nd.
The narration was excellent.
The story was both absorbing and frustrating at times and I sometimes found it difficult to connect the different elements of the novel. At times I was left thinking 'oh, how did that happen'. Or 'what's the connection'
Some sections consist of long narratives about 'hard' science. I don't know if this was real or imaginary physics, but it took application and concentration to stick with those sections.
The end of the book wraps up the story without leaving one thinking things gave just stopped in limbo.
This book is a translation from the Chinese original. Perhaps that explains some of its minor shortcomings.
Would I listen to it again? Yes I would.
I really had my hopes up and was expecting a slow burner. But it's really the last two hours I enjoyed the book, the rest spent waiting for it to get good.
wish it had been longer, will look for more from this author and narrator, recommend
Good narration with clear vocal character definition. You have to suspend disbelief at some point but well worth the time
"Interesting and odd"
Definitely got better. I enjoyed it more as it went on. Still has an oddness to it, although I think it probably is meant to be delivered with more humour than the narrator gave it.
excellent story and a wonderful way of handling complex material. very good and nuanced translation.
"Very technical hard Sci fi"
Great story, but didn't get too stuck up on the details. If it was a book I would have re read some parts to understand it more. The story line was jumpy but that's not a criticism, as it's quite common but difficult to understand the narrative at times. It all comes together at later points and returning themes and characters can be quite enjoyable. For. Fans of complicated hard Sci fi. Some. Great ideas and explains the technical parts very week.
It's structure was quiet unique I suspect that is due to it originating in another language.
Abstract concepts explained with such amazing clarity. wonderful. If you like computers or science, you'll like this book
loved it... a little hard to get into, however compulsive listening after. Once I finished I immediately bought book 2 which had a different tone but is becoming my favourite book of the year! Well Done
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