If you’ve read the English translation of Liu Cixin’s Hugo-winning novel The Three-Body Problem, then you know the book — the first in a Chinese trilogy called Remembrance of Earth’s Past — is a deep, almost Dune-esque dive into the world of sci-fi, with a healthy undercurrent of politics and epochal social forces framing its often-stark narrative.
The book, along with its companions The Dark Forest and Death’s End, has spawned a massive fan following in China, and no small number of devotees in the U.S., where even former President Barack Obama has endorsed the “wildly imaginative” series.
Now word is coming, via a report in Financial Times, that Amazon may be negotiating for the rights to adapt the series for its Amazon Video service. If so, it would have to snag the trilogy out from under China’s YooZoo Pictures, which has reportedly stalled development on its own film treatment for the first book.
More interesting, perhaps, is the price Financial Times reports Amazon is willing to pay: $1 billion for a three-season series. It’s a massive amount of money, massively dwarfing the $250 million the service reportedly paid for the rights to a multi-season production based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
The Three-Body Problem juxtaposes relatable human problems, especially in the tumultuous social context of Liu’s China, with problems no Earthling ever could see coming. The target of political persecution, protagonist Ye Wenjie has her hands full as a branded traitor and seditionist, narrowly evading government capture until, years later, an alien planet responds to the radio-signal messages Ye, an astrophysicist, has furtively been sending.
What Ye does to assure there'll be ongoing communication with her interplanetary pen pal is too good — and too deliciously wicked — to spoil, but it makes for a setup where the stakes are insanely high from the very beginning…and then go much, much higher.
Amazon has yet to acknowledge the report, but already Chinese entertainment outlets are responding with measured enthusiasm, evidently with the conviction that Amazon has the resources — and the know-how — to do what YooZoo Pictures, so far, hasn’t.
If you’ve read The Three-Body Problem (which takes its name from a very real conundrum posed by Newtonian physics), we’d love to hear your thoughts on how a television adaptation might work. Hit us up in the comments and let us know if Amazon — or anyone — can bring Liu’s mindbending novels to life on the small screen.