Chinese Sci-Fi Novel, ‘The Three-Body Problem,’ Hits American Bookstores

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Aliens are invading Earth, and there are two Chinese camps: one that welcomes the alien invasion and one that wants to fight it.

That is the story line of “The Three-Body Problem,” a science-fiction trilogy written by China’s Cixin Liu, the first book of which will hit American bookstores Nov. 11 in English translation.

The trilogy, which was awarded the Galaxy Award, China’s top honor for science fiction, has already sold more than a million copies in its original Chinese, making it the best-selling work in this genre in China in decades. It tells the story of a civilization in another solar system that is facing extinction and chooses to invade the Earth to save itself.

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Author Cixin Liu ZACHARY BAKO FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Mr. Liu explains that the “three-body problem” is a term borrowed from physics that involves two objects in space interacting in a predictable fashion, rotating around each other as a result of their gravitational pull. But when a third object is introduced, it makes their interaction more complicated.

The “three-body problem” points to the complexity of our environment, says Mr. Liu, a power-plant engineer who was born in 1963 and came of age during the tumultuous years of China’s Cultural Revolution, when most Western books were banned.

Liz Gorinsky, who edited the English translation of the “Three-Body Problem” at Tor Books, says Tor took an interest in the books because they came highly recommended from smart American and American-Chinese science-fiction writers. In addition to being “very different than anything you would expect from an American science-fiction novel,” she says, the translation offers readers an interesting cultural perspective.

“China is in the news a lot, but there aren’t many direct cultural exports being published as part of mainstream media,” Ms. Gorinsky says. “Obviously, you can’t get the Chinese cultural perspective from just one author, but there are relatively few opportunities like this to see what the modern Chinese social landscape is like,” she says.

Reference: Wall Street Journal,

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