A TV adaptation of Chinese sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem is in development

A TV adaptation of Chinese sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem is in development
Image: Tor Books

China’s biggest science fiction novel, The Three-Body Problem, is being developed for a potential television series, according to CX Live. If it happens, it’ll come after the massive success of another big sci-fi adaptation from the country, The Wandering Earth.

Chinese entertainment company YooZoo Entertainment holds the rights to the series, and it’s apparently working on an adaptation of the book. CX Live discovered a publicity form submitted to the Chinese government that lists the production details of the proposed series, which will apparently run for 24 episodes and could begin shooting this September. A source confirmed to The Verge that the form is legitimate and that the company has been working on developing the series. Should the series begin filming, this development would be the latest step forward in adapting the novels for film or television.

Written by Cixin Liu in 2006 — and translated into English in 2014 by Ken Liu — The Three-Body Problem was a breakout hit from China’s science fiction scene, winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015. It begins during China’s Cultural Revolution when a dissident scientist is exiled to a remote research facility. While conducting research, she makes the first contact with a hostile alien species known as the Trisolarans that live on a planet in a chaotic solar system and immediately make plans to take over the Earth. In the modern day, the novel follows a professor and a detective who are investigating the deaths of several scientists, and they discover a group forming to prepare for the arrival of the Trisolarans.

The book is the first of an ambitious trilogy (The Three-Body Problem, followed by The Dark Forest and Death’s End), in which Liu explores not only the impending invasion of the Trisolarans, but the brutal nature of the universe as other advanced alien species compete for space and power, stretching all the way to the end of time. A fan-written entry in the series, The Redemption of Time, is due out later this summer.

The novel has been adapted before: Chinese director Fanfan Zhang shot a film version a couple of years ago, but that was shelved due to a number of issues. (A person familiar with that effort said it was bad.) Last year, a report from the Financial Times suggested that Amazon had spent upwards of a billion dollars on the rights for the show, but YooZoo says that it remains the sole rights-holder and that it still had plans to produce an adaptation. However, it’s not hard to imagine a series debuting in China and making its way to a streaming platform like Amazon or Netflix.

Interest has surged recently following the adaptation of another Cixin Liu story, The Wandering Earth, which recently began streaming on Netflix. That film, which required extensive special effects and props, demonstrated that the Chinese film industry could handle a big-budget science fiction flick. Given that The Three-Body Problem is the biggest genre novel to come out of China, it could show that The Wandering Earth wasn’t a one-hit wonder and pave the way for more adaptations from the country.