If you are interested in solid science fiction writing that makes one think while knowing it is only a small part of a bigger story I think you will really enjoy the book “The Three Body Problem” by Cixin Liu. Be aware that the is only the first book in a trilogy; but your investment in them all will not disappoint. Book one is all about the buildup to a climax and resolution found in the other two books. If none of this has scared you away yet, you may be interested in reading this series.
The book contains a well-developed story that at times may seem slow, confusing, and even downright strange. The reader is shown the story from different perspectives of time beginning in the 1970s through 1980s while a large portion is told in a near future time; a decade or so later than today. Also of note, the book was originally translated from Chinese, so there are many aspects that are focused on Eastern society than what a person having a more western worldview would expect. Many of the issues faced by the characters were events happening behind the iron curtain during the earlier parts of the book when it was told from the past. I will say that the book at times seemed slow moving, but it is worth the listen if you give it time and thought.
The overall plot outlined in book one focused on secret scientific research by the Chinese to locate extraterrestrial life using a powerful radio transmitter. Many may remember the SETI project that United States used that was similar. They would beam out a signal and await a reply which seemed like it would never happen. Those in charge of monitoring the radio replies would often sit and listen to the background radio noise day in and day out. That was the norm until one day when a reply was received from an external source. The story gets very interesting when the world either joins together to come up with a plan to welcome the alien ship bound for Earth, while another group plan to destroy this potentially evading ship. Near the end of the story, it is like the movie (or science fiction book it is based upon) The Arrival. Some want to embrace while other want to destroy the new comers; but what happens comes in the next two books.
I do not want to give the wrong impression that you can skip this book after reading the review and just start with book two; not at all. There is so much more meat to this story that I highly recommend starting from page one, you will not be sorry. The amount of detail provided in the book brings back to mind the classic science fiction writing of Clarke, etc.
I would suggest, if you are not already knowledgeable around the events happening in China during the 1960s-1980s that you do some research, it will make the book more realistic for you. I will say that at times I would half-listen to part of the book due to distractions, and I felt it was important to go back and listen to the missed parts. If you only listen at a high-level, you will miss many of the nuances written into the book. I think this is where many of the negative reviews come from; people just do not want to have to think about the story, they want to be told a story. This one takes thinking, so if you do not have the time or desire, I would not recommend this book for you.
Is it a good book? Yes, it is. Can I listen to only the first in the series and still enjoy it? Yes, you can. However, I would say that if you invest your time and effort into the first book, you will not regret completing the entire trilogy. As of this review, all three books are now available on Audible in audiobook format. The other two are nearly double the size of the first book, so think of all the science fiction fun you would be missing.
The narration was done very well and what one could expect from a well-known publisher. It was not done in a heavy Chinese accent, but the narrator did a great job of pronouncing the many Chinese words and character names. I cannot speak to the how true to the actual book the translation is, but I again would assume it to be close from what I have read posted by others.
In summary, if you are going to listen to this book, I recommend you make sure to invest time and money to complete the entire series. If not, you are only getting a third of the story in this book. The book also requires one focus their attention on it, unlike many books that can be listened too while distracted.