What you will not find is an end to my admiration of Liu Cixin's three-volume work The Three-Body Problem. First published in 2008, and also called Remembrance of Earth's Past, the power of this trilogy is found not only in how, for Western readers like myself, it completely reinvented the standard structure of the alien invasion story but even gave it the ring of plausibility.
The second book proposes something that had never entered my mind: Alien civilizations are all over the universe, but because the distance between each of the civilizations is so great, they can never be friendly, never cooperate; they can only assume the worst of each other. Fermi paradox asks: if there are billions of planets with technologically advanced forms of life, why have we not heard from them yet? Cixin's brilliant answer, which is found in the trilogy's second novel, Dark Forest: They are keeping their mouths shut. Silence explains our isolation. The cosmic sociological rule? Hunt or be hunted.
For anyone interested the "The Three Body Problem" series, Tencent did an adaptation of it that you can watch on Youtube. You can watch it for free, but there are a few Chinese ads. It is really good. https://t.co/ZTz5vHr63j— /dev/null (@DevNullSA) January 30, 2023
Netflix recently completed an American adaptation of the novel. It's going to be big because it's produced by the Game of Thrones team. But there is no way in hell it will hold a candle to the Chinese adaptation, which already has 30 episodes—yes, 30 episodes devoted to just the first book. The other two volumes, Dark Forest and Death's End, will each demand as many, if not more, episodes. Hollywood would never make an investment of that scale on a book that's complicated, dark in its conclusions, and, in essence, provides a solid introduction to the key ideas of a discipline that went into decline in the US around the mid-1970s, physics.
The Chinese TV series, called Three-Body, is now available on YouTube. Episodes with English subtitles stream a few days after they're dropped in China. And those who, like me, were disappointed by the recently canceled afrofuturistic Kindred for its infidelity to (indeed, almost complete disregard of) the original will be impressed by how close Three-Body—directed by Yang Lei and Vincent Yang, adapted by Tian Liangliang, and primarily bankrolled and streamed by China's tech giant Tencent—is to its source. I have yet to find a key point in the first book missing from the 30 episodes: the connection between the Cultural Revolution and stars is there, so is the theory behind using the sun as an amplifier for radio waves, so is the crucial role of nanotechnology, the detonation of a mini-nuclear bomb, the formation of pro-alien organization (ETO) and its factions, and a thorough explanation of how the information of a world-destroying weapon can be packed in the tiny space of a photon.
I must also mention the North American billionaire and madman Mike Evans; he and his repurposed cargo ship are in the opening episodes. And if you think the performance by a white actor, Kenan Heppe, of this key character in the novel is a bit stiff, imagine what those in China thought of the Chinese characters strewn across the long history of Hollywood. The television adaptation of Three-Body also includes Black Africans in the multi-national military command center that's learning more and more about the perverse sociology of our universe. Cixin not only excluded Africans but also Indians, who are included in a Chinese science fiction novel recently translated into English, Han Song's Hospital trilogy. (I will share my comments about the TV series' dramatic music—both in English and Chinese—for another post.)
Three-Body might be the best sci-fi TV series of the decade. It certainly dusts The Expanse and The Last of Us. In my mind, only Andor comes even close. But there is no science in that Star Wars series (it's all politics). As for The Mandalorian, which entered its third season with a yawn of a show, it's for children (no science, no politics, no nothing but a green baby alien). Grow up and watch Three-Body.
Nobody:— 🔥😡🤘🏾AggreDello🤘🏾😡🔥 (@theori) February 18, 2023
My Brain at 3am: 🗣️ I’VE SEEN THINGS PEOPLE WOULDN’T BELIEVE, SOON OUR PLANET WILL VANISH 😤#ThreeBody pic.twitter.com/EykqaLnuOR