The Three Body Problem is a Chinese science fiction, which I admit was part of the appeal to me. I have been hearing about it off and on for years. It has won many awards. It is one of the few, if not only Chinese science fiction to gain such acclaim in the west.
Light spoilers ahead, you have been warned.
There are three main threads. The first starts in the communist revolution of China. The second is a video game modeled after the life of an alien race, and the last is set in modern times.
The first thread, set just after the revolution, defines why things are the way they are and provides an important context for the rest of the novel. Even before the big payoff the setting is interesting (if depressing) in its own right.
The video game in some ways is the most interesting. It uses human references and metaphors to tell the story of an alien race. Trying to understand what the game is about and why it is telling is part of the fun of the book.
The modern thread is more about watching outcomes then anything else. Things have been in motion for decades. Wang (main character) is trying to figure out what is going on.
One of the large ideas of the book is how people deal with knowing there are aliens. One of the ideas is that the type of aliens doesn’t matter. The fact that they exist is all that matters.
The science is impeccable. It was vitally important that the author understand how the process of science works for the plot of the book and he pulled it off easily.
The book is very good. It was a pleasure to read such a well thought out story that had so many layers.