You should absolutely read The Three-Body Problem...after watching the show

When it comes to 3 Body Problem, I think you'll enjoy both the show and the books more if you read them after checking out the Netflix series.
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, Book 1 of Remembrance of Earth's Past. Image courtesy of Tor Books.
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, Book 1 of Remembrance of Earth's Past. Image courtesy of Tor Books. /

3 Body Problem, the highly-anticipated TV adaptation of Cixin Liu's award-winning Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy, has finally arrived on Netflix, and I'm sure there will now be countless viewers who watch the show and consider picking up the books that started it all.

Should you read The Three-Body Problem? Absolutely. It's a brilliant book and testament to Cixin's incredible imagination and literary prowess that he's so expertly able to weave together philosophy, morality, hard science fiction, and sheer creative power to make a trilogy that has been heralded as a modern classic.

3 Body Problem newcomers will be better served by reading the books after watching the Netflix show

That said, and this might be an unpopular opinion, I believe that if you haven't already checked out the book series, you would be better served by reading it after watching the eight-episode first season of 3 Body Problem on Netflix. The reason being is that The Three-Body Problem, while an excellent book, can be quite intimidating when you first pick it up.

Despite loving it, I almost put it down within the first 100 pages because I found it daunting and couldn't quite get immersed in the world. I'm eternally glad I persevered because the whole trilogy has become an instant favorite of mine. But I can see why some people might DNF before the novel really gets going.

While the Netflix series streamlines Ye Wenjie's story and the Red Coast Base incident, we do find out most of details of what happened there pretty early on in the show. In the book, it's not until almost halfway through that we reach that same point. The book spends more time examinging the impact of the Chinese Cultural Revolution on the world. From there, it segues into the story of Wang Miao — a character who does not appear in the show at all, although other characters take up his role — and slowly ratchets up the tension as he discovers the mysterious virtual reality game Three Body. The show moves at a much faster pace.

Because of that, I think watching 3 Body Problem, which is designed to be accessible to newcomers, will create a foundation that makes reading the book much easier. You'll get an idea of what to expect from the storylines and overall vibe while still getting a new experience. The book will also flesh out many of the scientific concepts introduced in the show, which don't get explored as fully as they do in the source text. The experience of reading the books perfectly complements the Netflix version of the story.

The end of 3 Body Problem sets up The Dark Forest

Another reason it's worthwhile to watch the show first is that 3 Body Problem's final two episodes take some of the storylines and scenes directly from the second book in the trilogy, The Dark Forest. While leaving viewers on a significant cliffhanger hinting at what's to come, book readers can get ahead and basically jump into season 2 already just by reading the novels.

After watching the show, you'll have a grasp on the denser sci-fi concepts and be able to launch right into the story. Then you can pick up immediately where the show leaves off to see what's next for humanity and their fight against the San-Ti (or Trisolaris, as the aliens are referred to in the English translation of Cixin's books). So even if Netflix doesn't renew the series, you can find out what happens regardless by checking out the book trilogy.

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