All 3 books in the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy, ranked worst to best

With the Netflix adaptation of the series coming soon, we're ranking all of the 3 Body Problem books that inspired the show.
All three books in Cixin Liu's Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy. Image courtesy of Tor Books.
All three books in Cixin Liu's Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy. Image courtesy of Tor Books. /

The Netflix adaptation of Cixin Liu's groundbreaking sci-fi trilogy Remembrance of Earth's Past kicks off on March 21, 2024, inviting us to a world with a mysterious virtual reality and alien civilizations. Ambitious and thought-provoking, the series is 100% worth checking out either before or after you watch the new series.

Spoilers ahead for the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy

Season 1 of 3 Body Problem will primarily adapt the first book in the series, The Three-Body Problem, but it does introduce some of the concepts and storylines from the second and third books in the trilogy, The Dark Forest and Death's End, respectively.

To celebrate the arrival of this highly-anticipated adaptation from Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss, and True Blood writer Alexander Woo, we're ranking all three books in the trilogy. (There is a fourth novel in the series that has been published, but since it's not written by Cixin Liu we're not including it here.)

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Death's End by Cixin Liu, Book 3 of Remembrance of Earth's Past. Image courtesy of Tor Books. /

3. Death's End (Remembrance of Earth's Past #3)

Serving as the epic conclusion to the sci-fi trilogy, Death's End is tasked with herculean job of wrapping up the series with a satisfying ending. Given just how vital the conclusion is to the story, it's not surprising that Death's End has also become one of the most polarizing novels in the trilogy.

About 100 pages longer than both previous stories, Death's End encompasses the longest span of time (technically it takes place across millions of years), and so it often feels like multiple books in one. It's hard to believe that the first half of the novel dealing with the Deterrence Era and Broadcast Era is the same book that leads to the Bunker Era, the discovery of a fragment of fourth dimension, and micro-universes.

Don't get me wrong, I loved Death's End and unlike many fans, I thought it was a fantastic ending for the trilogy. The reason I'm ranking it in last place is because I did feel that the book started to drag around the half-way point, particularly after the Trisolarans are (mostly) eliminated as a threat. Everything revolving around the Great Resettlement and Sophon was dark and addictive to read, but once the Deterrence System is activated, it was like the wind got knocked out of the book's sails.

I wasn't as invested in Yun Tianming and humanity's course of action to prevent a photoid attack, and I also didn't find Cheng Xin to be quite as captivating of a protagonist as Luo Ji (though I did love her relationship with AA and found it to be a high point in the novel). Death's End picks up steam again toward the end during Singer's chapter and the subsequent fallout of the dimensional attack, where Cixin succeeds in crafting an incredible literary feat as he envisions the solar system folding into 2D.

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The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, Book 1 of Remembrance of Earth's Past. Image courtesy of Tor Books. /

2. The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth's Past #1)

The Three-Body Problem is another somewhat polarizing entry in this list as many feel it gets off to a slow start. I imagine those who try starting this book and don't finish it probably put it down within the first 100 pages, which would be a mistake! I was almost one of those people.

Admittedly, I didn't truly start getting hooked until Wang Miao discovers the countdown appearing on photographs and then the eventual story behind Ye Wenjie's time at Red Coast Base and her involvement with the ETO is revealed.

But overall I genuinely loved this book. It has some of the best suspense in the entire trilogy and a few of the most iconic moments as well, including the chill-inducing "you are bugs" moment, the discovery of the sophons, and everything involving Mike Evans and Judgment Day.

It's not easy to start a trilogy. There are plenty of book series out there where the first book or two is actually considered one of the weakest and then it proves a chore to convince people to keep going to get to the good stuff later in the series. The Three-Body Problem might start off a little slow, but if you give it a chance, it really does pay off and become a masterpiece of science fiction that perfectly sets up the next book in the trilogy, which is generally considered the best overall.

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The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu, Book 2 of Remembrance of Earth's Past. Image courtesy of Tor Books. /

1. The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth's Past #2)

Ask any fan of the series what their favorite book is and I would bet money that the majority will say The Dark Forest. This book introduced us to the fan-fave character Luo Ji, an unlikely hero who emerges after seemingly being plucked from obscurity and chosen to become a Wallfacer as part of an experimental project to defend Earth against the invading aliens. Because Trisolarans can see and hear everything that goes on thanks to the sophons' 24/7 surveillance, humanity creates a new project that allows four elected "Wallfacers" to come up with plans to save the human race.

The catch is that they cannot speak about these plans out loud. The only way to keep their strategies secret from the sophons is by keeping them locked inside their minds, a place even sophons cannot breach. This leads to the Wallfacers try to create bizarre and strange requests along with virtually unlimited resources to accomplish their plans as they try to execute them without anyone actually understanding what they're doing.

Trisolaris launches a countermeasure, the "Wallbreaker" program, which enlists multiple ETO members to try and figure out the Wallfacer's individual plans before they can succeed. For a book that focuses heavily on mind games, you wouldn't think The Dark Forest would be so gripping but it's a fantastic book that encompasses all of the best parts of the trilogy. This is also the book with some of the best action sequences, including the devastating Doomsday Battle and the subsequent Battle of Darkness.

Most of the things people remember most about the series are really from The Dark Forest, I mean even the name of the book itself is a massive clue as to its overall purpose and Luo Ji's involvement shapes everything about the future of humanity. Even if you're having a hard time getting immediately gripped by The Three-Body Problem, it's worth it to keep going just to get to this book.

3 Body Problem starts streaming on Netflix globally on Thursday, March 21, 2024.

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