The Three-Body Problem : Three Body

  • by Cixin Liu
  • Narrated by Luke Daniels
  • Series: Three Body
  • 13 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.

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They create a computer using a 30 million man Army

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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.

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- Josh

Not in love, but definitely intrigued

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.
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- Tango

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-11-2014
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio