The cropped cover for Liu Cixin's "The Three-Body Problem" (translated by Ken Liu) Credit: Tor Books

Want to Read ‘The Three-Body Problem’? Here’s Where to Start

3 Body Problem, Netflix’s adaptation of the internationally acclaimed novel by science fiction author Liu Cixin, is premiering this January on Netflix. If the series is half as good as the original book, then it’ll be an epic, mind-bending adventure.

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But what if you can’t wait until January to dive into the world of Trisolaris and its attempt to take over Earth? Looks like it’s time for a trip to your local library!

Here are all the books in Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past series, so you know which order to read them in.

Book 1: The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
(Tor Books)

The novel that started it all! The Three-Body Problem begins in China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. When disillusioned astrophysicist Ye Wenjie discovers intelligent life out in the cosmos, she makes a reckless decision: she sends them a message. However, Ye’s actions set off a chain of events that culminate in a terrifying threat. The alien race she contacts is on the brink of destruction, and in their search for a habitable planet, they’ve set their sights on Earth. The Three-Body Problem is bursting with fascinating scientific concepts, some real and others fanciful. It’s a cerebral, engrossing read.

Book 2: The Dark Forest

Cover of The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin
(Tor Books)

In The Dark Forest, the Trisolarans are on their way, and Earth is scrambling to mount its defense. While the Trisolaran fleet makes its way across the vastness of space, sociologist Luo Ji finds himself unexpectedly at the center of the United Nations’ strategy against the invasion. Instead of brute force, though, that strategy involves much subtler methods of resistance. Although the sequel is slower than its predecessor, the concept of “cosmic sociology” is intriguing, and Luo’s explosive revelation at the end will leave you reeling.

Book 3: Death’s End

Cover of Death's End by Cixin Liu
(Tor Books)

Death’s End continues the series’ meditation on cosmic sociology. It takes place across six different eras of human civilization, stretching from medieval Europe to the far reaches of space in the distance future. As humanity faces the Trisolaran threat and extends its reach to the stars, the series reaches an unforgettable climax.

Bonus novel: The Redemption of Time by Baoshu

Cover of The Redemption of Time by Baoshu
(Tor Books)

Liu Cixin finished his story with Death’s End, but one fan, writing under the pen name Baoshu, wrote a novel set in the same universe and posted it on a fan fiction forum. That novel was so good that, with Liu’s blessing, it went on to be published in both Chinese and English. The Redemption of Time focuses on one character from Death’s End, Yun Tianming, who disappears midway through the novel. Boashu uses this story to imagine what happened to Yun. The Redemption of Time isn’t critical to understanding the core events of the original trilogy, so you don’t have to read it to understand the rest of the story—but the world of The Three-Body Problem is so fascinating that you might find you can’t help it.

(featured image: Tor)


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Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>