(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)
Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to Second Rendez-Vous by Jean Michel Jarre (Spotify, YouTube).
I started reading Liu Cixin's work about two years ago when Ken Liu announced that his translation of Taking Care of God had been publish by Pathlight Magazine. I was completely blown away. I immediately began searching for more stories by Liu Cixin: Mountain, The Wandering Earth, The Longest Fall... With each one of them my admiration for the Chinese author grew more and more. To the point that I began doing something that I don't remember having done before: I stopped reading his stories because I feared the moment that I finished them all and had no more to read and enjoy.
Thus, you can imagine that my expectations were unusually high when I finally had the chance of reading The Three-Body Problem. A novel by Liu Cixin! A dream come true! Could it be as awesome as his amazing novellas and short stories? It turned out that it was even more awesome. Even more amazing. Even more packed with sense of wonder and mind-blowing ideas.
Liu Cixin finds in The Three-Body Problem the space to explore an incredible number of themes and topics. From the Chinese Cultural Revolution to the implications of the first contact with an alien civilization; from espionage and politics to quantum physics; from virtual reality to the dynamics of celestial bodies. And it works seamlessly, with a perfect sense of pace, with jaw-dropping revelations and surprising twists at just the right moment.
In The Three-Body Problem you will find mysteries, conspiracies, incredibly advanced technology, deep philosophical questions and larger-than-life characters. I don't want to give too much away because I wouldn't like to rob you of the pleasure of discovering Liu Cixin's amazing imagination and wild speculations, but I'll just briefly mention that, for instance, some of the chapters (set in a virtual game that is especially important to the plot) reminded me of Neal Stephenson when at his best.
I love this book so much that I find it really difficult to see any flaw in it. I admit that, being more reliant on ideas and speculation and not so much character-driven (though that could also be disputed), the novel might not be to everybody's taste. However, if you usually enjoy hard SF or like your stories to be packed full of sense of wonder, you are going to love The Three-Body Problem.
About Ken Liu's translation (for which I had the distinct honor of being a beta-reader) I can only say that it is perfect. I reckon it is not an easy task to convey both the most subtle aspects of the impact of the Cultural Revolution on the Chinese society and the way the most simple logical gates can be used to build even the most advanced computers, but Ken Liu manages to make it seem a child's game. A novel as amazing as this deserved a superb translation. And it did get it.
All in all, I cannot recommend The Three-Body Problem highly enough. It is, in my opinion, one of the best novels that has been published in 21st Century and one that any SF fan will enjoy immensely. And you know what is the best part of it all? That it is only the first book in an incredible trilogy. I have already had the chance of reading Death's End, its final installment, and, although I thought I simply wasn't possible it is even better than the The Three-Body Problem. I finished it several months and I still cannot stop thinking about it.