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Netflix’s 3 Physique Downside Present vs Liu Cixin’s Books: 5 Key Areas of Variations

Netflix’s 3 Physique Downside Present vs Liu Cixin’s Books: 5 Key Areas of Variations

Since its release, the Netflix series 3 Body Problem has been garnering rave reviews from both critics and those who like sci-fi shows. The series is based on The Three-Body Problem, a sci-fi novel by Chinese author Liu Cixin. With the popularity of the series and the fame that the book commands, the internet is eager to know how the book stands vs the 3 Body Problem show.

Before getting into the explanation of this important question, it is pertinent to understand what the book series is about because, frankly, it is a complex story.

Published in 2008, The Three-Body Problem is the first of Liu’s three-part Remembrance of Earth’s Past series — the other two being The Dark Forest and Death’s End.

Liu’s trilogy, the third of which was released in 2010, became a cult hit in China, which eventually led to its popularity outside of the country following its English translation by American sci-fi writer Ken Liu in 2014.

The following year, Liu Cixin became the first Asian to win the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Novel.

What is the Netflix show 3 Body Problem about?

Three Body Problem
(Image: Courtesy of NETFLIX – © 2023 Netflix, Inc./IMDb)

The 3 Body Problem premiered on 21 March 2024 to critical acclaim. The series, created by Game of Thrones (2011–2019) showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss with Alexander Woo of True Blood (2008–2014), is about an impending alien invasion of Earth. But this is not the kind of alien invasion that Hollywood fans have seen countless times.

In 3 Body Problem, detailed scientific explanations, debates, brainstorming and interpersonal threats abound. Yet viewers are intrigued because the suspense of the aliens about to invade and the backstory of how they came to know of Earth is incredibly engaging.

The title of the first book (and the Netflix series) comes from the real-world mathematical conundrum that has remained unsolved for centuries. It specifically deals with astronomy, wherein scientists attempt to determine the motion of three celestial bodies moving only under the influence of their mutual gravitation. Due to the complexity of the motions of the bodies over longer timescales, it is believed that it is next to impossible to find a concrete solution to the three-body problem.

At the heart of the story lies this complexity. However, the actual problem isn’t being faced by the humans; it is the alien world grappling with the three-body problem. The reason is the aliens, known as San-Ti in the Chinese language and Trisolarans in the English translation, once lived on a planet named Trisolaris, which had three suns. Due to the interplay of the orbits of the planet with these suns, the environment on the planet became unstable, forcing them to flee.

Despite their predicament, they are technologically far more advanced than Earth. Thus, when they come to know of our planet, which is stable because it has only one sun, they prepare to colonise it for their survival.

The book and the series dive into how a dark period in China’s history, the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, led to a key character triggering the events that would eventually bring the Trisolarans to Earth and how humanity broke apart with some wanting the planet destroyed and others preparing to defend it.

There are quite a lot of explanations regarding several elements in the book as well as the series. To summarise, the impending arrival of the aliens leads to the formation of a secretive but powerful group known as the Earth-Trisolaris Organization (ETO). Factions within the group emerge due to differences in beliefs, with the Adventists wanting Earth’s complete destruction and the Redemptionists wishing to help the aliens find a solution to their home world by solving the three-body problem through a virtual reality video game called Three Body.

There is also a third group, the Survivors, who simply wish to survive. Much of the focus is on the Redemptionists, whose actions could help Earth escape its fate at the hands of Trisolarans. 

3 Body Problem show vs book: Major areas where things differ

Not all characters in the Netflix series are Chinese

3 body problem book vs show
(Image: Courtesy of NETFLIX – © 2023 Netflix, Inc./IMDb)

The biggest and most obvious point in the 3 Body Problem book vs show comparison is the portrayal of the characters.

While nearly all characters in the book are Chinese, which is understandable for obvious reasons, several key characters in the show have been replaced to include greater representation.

“This is very much a story about humanity, and humanity’s struggle with a seemingly unsolvable mystery that snowballs into a full-on existential crisis,” Benioff told Tudum. “So we wanted to represent, as much as possible, all of humanity. We wanted people from all over the world. We tried to make this a very diverse, international cast to represent the idea that this isn’t just one country’s struggle; it’s a global struggle to survive.”

The one major character who has been left unchanged is Ye Wenjie (Zine Tseng/Rosalind Chao). It is Ye whose experiences during the Cultural Revolution made her so bitter with humanity that when she used her position at a secret Chinese alien research base to connect with the Trisolarans fully aware that doing so would lead to Earth’s doom.

Her daughter in the books is named Yang Dong, but she is named Vera Ye (Vedette Lim) in the series. In the books, Yang’s father is Yang Weining, but Vera’s father is Mike Evans (Ben Schnetzer/Jonathan Pryce) in the series.

Changes include Clarence Shi (Benedict Wong). The character in the novels goes by the name Shi Qiang, nicknamed Da Shi. He is a police officer in Beijing in the books, but a member of the Strategic Intelligence Agency (SIA) in the series. The SIA, on the other hand, is led by Thomas Wade (Liam Cunningham). Unlike the middle-aged Irishman Cunningham, Wade in the books is a young American and appears only briefly.

Similarly, some of the characters in the show have been fleshed out unlike how their original Chinese characters in the books appear. Some others are composites of several characters or completely new.

All three books have been adapted for 3 Body Problem season 1

(Image: Courtesy of ED MILLER/NETFLIX – © 2024 Netflix, Inc./IMDb)

It is difficult to keep track of where the series shifts between the three books. Yet it is clear from season 1 of 3 Body Problem that it has already included elements from the second and the third novel in the series.

The first five episodes are largely from the first novel. Starting with the sixth episode, the show begins including plotlines and characters that happen or appear only in The Dark Forest and Death’s End. The events in the two follow-up novels are set years into the future.

Events such as the death of Vera and her realisation that her mother caused the crisis that Earth faces in the modern day happen early on in the series, but it is only her death and not her knowledge of her mother’s act that is part of the first book. 

There is a difference in how the Three Body game is played

Chinese Netflix Show
Image: Courtesy of NETFLIX – © 2024 Netflix, Inc./IMDb

The 3 Body Problem TV series on Netflix and the book do not differ in the core subject — the mathematical three-body problem. But they do differ in how the protagonists try to solve it.

For instance, even though the representation of the game, which emulates the world of Trisolaris, and its purpose are similar in both the books and the series, the tools used to do so are completely different.

In the books, the game is played using a virtual reality (VR) suit by the key characters who want to find the solution to the three-body problem. In the series, however, it is a VR headset instead of a suit.

Key protagonists are different in the books

The Three Body Problem
Image: Courtesy of ED MILLER/NETFLIX – © 2023 Netflix, Inc./IMDb

Another major point in the Netflix series 3 Body Problem vs the smash hit book it is based on is that one character from the first book has been segregated into around three key characters in the series, a protagonist in the second book is already in the show, and one new protagonist is based on a character from the third book.

Liu’s protagonist in the present-day part of the first book is Wang Miao, a nanoscientist who gets involved as a player of the Three Body game. His characteristics and actions are diluted into primarily three characters in the series, all of whom are original. These are Auggie Salaza (Eiza González), Jin Cheng (Jess Hong) and Jack Rooney (John Bradley).

In the second book, the main protagonist is scientist Luo Ji. This character is changed to Saul Durand (Jovan Adepo) in the series. Will Downing (Alex Sharp) is the fifth protagonist, who is based on Yun Tianming from the third novel Death’s End.

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Together, the five characters in the show are referred to as Oxford Five and are shown as students of Vera Ye. No such thing exists in the books.

Moreover, Jess Hong’s character Jin Cheng also has the characteristics of Cheng Xin, who is one of the main characters in Death’s End.

The Sophons have a representative form in the show

3 body problem
Image: Courtesy of NETFLIX – © 2023 Netflix, Inc./IMDb

The purpose of the Sophons in the books and the series is the same — to prevent people on Earth from developing their science until the arrival of the Trisolarans. This is because the aliens, though they are only around four light years away, cannot travel at the speed of light, and it would take them over four centuries to reach Earth from the time they were made aware of the planet by Ye Wenjie in the 1960s.

The Sophons are, thus, sent by the aliens to create disillusionment in the minds of the people on Earth, spy on them, and make them distrust science as well as their governments.

In the novels, the Sophons are basically subatomic particles, which the Trisolarans have learned to unfold in higher dimensions. The Sophons can travel several times faster and have, thus, already arrived on Earth by the time of the events set in the modern day. They are shown to have infiltrated particle accelerators to prevent humans from getting proper scientific results. They also send a very short cryptic message “You are bugs” to humans worldwide.

A key difference in the series is that the Sophons communicate with the humans through video calls, an aspect not present in the books. And while they are formless and shapeless in the novels, the Netflix series shows at least one Sophon (Sea Shimooka) appearing like a woman with a sword on her back.

(Main and Featured images: Courtesy of ED MILLER/NETFLIX – © 2024 Netflix, Inc./IMDb)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

– Does 3 Body Problem follow the book?

Yes, Netflix series 3 Body Problem largely follows the first book. However, it has several elements and characters from the latter books.

– Is The Three-Body Problem a series of three or four books?

The Three-Body Problem is the first in a series of three books, which are together known as the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy.

Is The Three-Body Problem book based on a true story?

No, The Three-Body Problem book or the trilogy it is part of are not based on any true events.

Source: Prestige Online

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