The Three-Body Problem Reading Order

Netflix loves to make original adaptations of books from foreign authors. Hence, a new show has been ordered and should be completed in 2023, based on the epic science-fiction trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past, aka The Three-Body Problem. 

The trilogy was written by Liu Cixin, a Hugo-winning Chinese author, and then a fourth book was added subsequently, written by Baoshu, but with help and support from Liu. The books are an absolute masterpiece, so if you want to have a bit more insight before the show hits Netflix, here’s everything you need to know about The Three-Body Problem, including its reading order.

How many The Three-Body Problem books are there?

There are three books in The Three-Body Problem series. The actual name of the series is Remembrance of Earth’s Past, but it’s often referred to by the name of the first book in the series: The Three-Body Problem. There’s also a fourth book added to the series by another author later, happening in the same universe as The Three-Body Problem trilogy.

The Three-Body Problem books in order (at a glance)

As I’ve mentioned, there are three books in The Three-Body Problem series, written from 2006 to 2010. In 2011, a fourth book was written by another author, with the support of Liu Cixin, the author of the original series. The four books are as follows:

  1. The Three-Body Problem (2006) by Liu Cixin
  2. The Dark Forest (2008) by Liu Cixin
  3. Death’s End (2010) by Liu Cixin
  4. The Redemption of Time (2011) by Baoshu

The first book was, by far, the most popular one, so people often refer to the whole series by the name, The Three-Body Problem, even though the real name of the series is Remembrance of Earth’s Past.

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What is the best way to read The Three-Body Problem books?

The best way to read The Three-Body Problem books is by publication date, meaning in the order that the author was releasing the books. Although you might understand the sequels individually, it would be best to read The Three-Body Problem (2006) first, as most of the setting, world-building, and explanation of the situation comes in the first book.

The Three-Body Problem books in order (by publication date)

The Three-Body Problem (2006)

Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. 

Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt or to fight against the invasion.

Description: The Three-Body Problem is the first book of the series. It’s a sci-fi novel depicting the initial contact with alien intelligence and how it divided humanity right through the middle – on those who want to embrace the contact and those who wish to fight it off. 

There’s a reason why Liu became one of the most popular Chinese authors of today, and even the most popular modern authors, like George R.R. Martin, gave the book high praise

“A breakthrough book… a unique blend of scientific and philosophical speculation, politics and history, conspiracy theory and cosmology.”

The Dark Forest (2008)

Synopsis: Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion — four centuries in the future. The aliens’ human collaborators have been defeated, but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access to all human information, means that Earth’s defense plans are exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret.

This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. 

Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists, but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he’s the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead.

Description: This is the second novel in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past series, dealing with the aftermath of the first book. The imminent threat was taken care of, but it’s far from being over. I personally liked The Dark forest even more than The Three-Body Problem book, and I hope it’ll be included in Netflix’s adaptation.

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Death’s End (2010)

Synopsis: Half a century after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. 

With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to co-exist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent.

Cheng Xin, an aerospace engineer from the early 21st century, awakens from hibernation in this new age. She brings with her knowledge of a long-forgotten program dating from the beginning of the Trisolar Crisis, and her very presence may upset the delicate balance between two worlds. Will humanity reach for the stars or die in its cradle?

Description: Death’s End was meant to be the final book of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past series, and it was critically acclaimed by both The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. It was a great conclusion but quite an ambiguous one that left a lot open. Hence – the final book on this list…

The Redemption of Time (2011)

Synopsis: In the midst of an interstellar war, Yun Tianming found himself on the front lines. Riddled with cancer, he chose to end his life, only to find himself flash-frozen and launched into space where the Trisolaran First Fleet awaited. 

Captured and tortured beyond endurance for decades, Yun eventually succumbed to helping the aliens subjugate humanity in order to save Earth from complete destruction.

Granted a healthy clone body by the Trisolarans, Yun has spent his very long life in exile as a traitor to the human race. Nearing the end of his existence, at last, he suddenly receives another reprieve―and another regeneration. 

A consciousness calling itself The Spirit has recruited him to wage battle against an entity that threatens the existence of the entire universe. But Yun refuses to be a pawn again and makes his own plans to save humanity’s future…

Description: Set in the universe of the New York Times bestselling Three-Body Problem trilogy, The Redemption of Time continues Cixin Liu’s multi-award-winning science fiction saga. This original story by Baoshu―published with Liu’s support―envisions the aftermath of the conflict between humanity and the extraterrestrial Trisolarans.

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Where to read The Three-Body Problem books?

The Three-Body Problem books are incredibly popular, so there shouldn’t be a problem in acquiring them. Your local library probably has a copy, but if not, you can get it in paperback/hardcover or ebook form on Kindle or other sites like Book Depository.

You can also get it on Audible in audiobook format, as well as on Scribd.

Do you need to read The Three-Body Problem books in order?

You could understand every book on its own to a degree, but there are constant references to events that had already happened, as well as the character growth, etc. Therefore, the best way to read The Three-Body Problem books is in order of publication, the way the author intended the series to be read. That way, you’ll get the most out of the reading experience.

Are The Three-Body Problem books connected?

All three books are connected with some characters and plots. The only exception is the fourth book, written by Baoshu, that’s set in the aftermath of everything happening in the trilogy. Still, despite it not being a part of the original series, it’s still rather connected to the first three books.

Will there be more The Three-Body Problem books?

The initial trilogy is finished, and the author had no further plans of making more books in the same series. However, it’s not excluded, as Liu Cixin is still an active author, so he might just decide to give the series a fresh look with a new book.

  • Luka loves psychological thrillers, horrors, and mysteries. However, high fantasy and fiction are his primary interest, especially Tolkien's Middle-earth universe, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and Marvel universe. Amateur filmmaker, screenwriter, cinematography, and trivia enthusiast.