The Three-Body Problem

What happened in The Three-Body Problem

By Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem is a science fiction novel set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. It centers around Ye Wenjie, a young astrophysicist who witnesses the brutal persecution of intellectuals like her father during the Cultural Revolution. Disillusioned with humanity, Ye makes contact with an alien civilization called Trisolaris when she works at a secret military base with a powerful radio antenna.

Years later, various factions form the Earth-Trisolaris Movement (ETO), which believes Trisolaris can reform human civilization. Ye reluctantly becomes the ETO's spiritual leader. The novel explores the chaos of the Cultural Revolution in China, philosophical themes about humanity's place in the universe, the risks of contacting alien life, and the battle between the ETO and those trying to protect Earth from the looming Trisolaran threat. Prominent characters include Ye Wenjie, Wang Miao, police captain Shi Qiang, and Mike Evans, the ETO's strategist. A pivotal plot point involves the Trisolarans sending two protons to Earth at near light speed to halt human scientific progress.

The Three-Body Problem Chapter Summary

Chapter 1

The chapter is set in China during the Cultural Revolution in 1967. It depicts a violent struggle session against Ye Zhetai, a physics professor who refuses to repent. Despite brutal abuse from Red Guards, including his wife, Ye remains defiant. Ultimately the Red Guards beat him to death in front of his daughter Wenjie. Wenjie then discovers her mentor, Professor Ruan, has committed suicide. The chapter conveys the madness and violence of the Cultural Revolution through these events.

Chapter 2

The chapter is set in China in 1969 and centers around Ye Wenjie, a young woman working for the Inner Mongolia Production and Construction Corps. After witnessing the senseless destruction of the forests by the Corps, Wenjie is given a copy of the environmental book Silent Spring by a reporter named Bai Mulin. Inspired by the book, Bai writes a letter to Beijing criticizing the Corps' actions, which Wenjie helps copy. However, the letter puts Wenjie in jeopardy, as Bai claims she was responsible for its seditious contents. Wenjie is imprisoned and pressured to sign a false confession by a representative named Cheng Lihua, but she refuses. The chapter conveys the madness of the Cultural Revolution and explores environmental and moral themes through Wenjie's experiences.

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 takes place in 1969 and centers on Ye Wenjie, who is taken to the secret Red Coast military base after being falsely accused of crimes during the Cultural Revolution. At the base, Wenjie learns the antenna is being used for weapons research to transmit powerful electric signals. She witnesses a transmission which kills a flock of birds, indicating the dangerous capabilities of the technology. Wenjie is informed she may never be allowed to leave the base due to the secrecy of the project. The chapter explores themes of authoritarian control and the madness of the Cultural Revolution through Wenjie's imprisonment at the base.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 takes place over 40 years after Chapter 3. Physics professor Wang Miao is visited by two police officers and two military officers, who invite him to a secret meeting of the "Battle Command Center." At the meeting, Wang learns several top physicists have committed suicide recently after having contact with an international physics organization called the Frontiers of Science. One of them is a woman named Yang Dong, whose suicide note simply states "Physics does not exist."

Wang had admired Yang previously and is disturbed by her death. The military officers ask Wang, who has had some contact with the Frontiers of Science, to infiltrate the organization and gather information. Wang initially refuses, but later agrees in order to prove himself to Shi Qiang, an arrogant police captain who insults the dead physicists. The chapter ends with a military general telling Wang cryptically that humankind has been very fortunate so far, but its luck is about to end.

Chapter 5

In this chapter, Wang visits Ding Yi at his new apartment. Ding reveals that he and Yang Dong used to play pool together, which reminded them of particle collisions. Ding has Wang play pool with him, moving the table around the room but setting up the same shot each time. Wang makes the shot successfully each time.

Ding explains this is analogous to recent particle collision experiments with new high-energy accelerators, where identical experiments yielded different results each time. He says this means the laws of physics are not invariant across time and space. Ding implies this led to Yang Dong's crisis of faith and suicide.

Wang presses Ding for more information, but Ding refuses to elaborate further. He gives Wang the address for Yang Dong's mother and cryptically states "that is the question" in reference to the laws of physics, alluding to Hamlet's famous line about the nature of existence. The chapter explores themes of existential crisis and the limits of human knowledge.

Chapter 6

Chapter 6 of the book is set in the present day and centers on Wang Miao, a nanomaterials researcher. Wang begins seeing a mysterious countdown in his vision that continues to tick down second by second. The numbers even appear in photos he takes. Wang tries different cameras but the countdown persists only in photos he takes, not his wife or son. Desperate, Wang seeks help from Shen Yufei, a member of the Frontiers of Science organization.

Shen cryptically tells Wang to stop his nanomaterials research project. When he refuses, she says the entire universe will flicker for him as a demonstration. Pan Han, another Frontiers member, also warns Wang and Shen to stop their activities. Meanwhile, Shi Qiang, a police officer, keeps tabs on Wang's movements. The chapter explores themes of madness and the supernatural through Wang's unsettling experiences with the countdown.

Chapter 7

The chapter centers on Wang Miao's experience playing the Three Body video game. He meets two characters, King Wen of Zhou and his follower, who are traveling during a chaotic era in the game world. The sun rises and sets randomly, making it hard to survive. King Wen claims he can predict the stable eras when the sun is regular.

They reach Zhao Ge where King Zhou rules. King Wen presents his calendar system to predict stable eras but it proves inaccurate. Another character, Fu Xi, believes the sun is a god. In the end, three stars appear indicating an extreme cold era is coming. The chapter explores philosophical themes about predicting and controlling the seemingly random world.

Chapter 8

Wang visits Yang Dong's mother, Ye Wenjie, at her apartment. Ye shows Wang her daughter's room, which is simple and decorated with birch bark. Wang sees a childhood photo of Yang Dong looking frightened under a large antenna. He also finds Yang's childhood notebook with abstract drawings.

Ye reminisces about Yang's gifted but isolated childhood. Wang tries to console Ye about her daughter's suicide. Before Wang leaves, Ye arranges for him to visit an observatory run by her former student to observe the cosmic microwave background. She also gives Wang ginseng, concerned about his health after recent stressful events. The chapter provides more background on Yang Dong and her mother while portraying Ye's warmth and thoughtfulness.

Chapter 9

Wang visits an observatory run by Ye Wenjie's former student, Dr. Sha Ruishan, to observe fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation. Sha is skeptical but helps Wang set up the observation. The data shows a 5% fluctuation occurring as predicted, confirmed across multiple satellites and telescopes. This indicates the universe itself is flickering. Using special 3K glasses that make the radiation visible, Wang sees the red glow of the universe pulsing irregularly overhead.

The flickering countdown continues, with only around 1000 hours remaining. Wang contacts Shen Yufei but she claims not to know what will happen at the end. Shi Qiang finds a shaken Wang outside a church and mocks him for being another victim of the Frontiers of Science.

Chapter 10

In this chapter, Wang meets with Shi Qiang, a police officer who has been following him. Shi takes Wang out for food and drink, during which Wang recounts his strange experiences with the flickering universe and countdown. Shi shares his theory that there is a coordinated effort by an unknown enemy to undermine scientific research through various means. He believes fundamental research like Yang Dong's poses the greatest threat to them.

Shi encourages Wang to continue his research as a form of resistance. He also suggests Wang play the Three Body game, which Shi believes is connected to these events. Before leaving, Shi tells Wang to remember his "ultimate rule" that anything weird is suspicious, and that there is likely someone behind Wang's experiences even if they seem inexplicable. The chapter provides more background on the unfolding mystery and Shi Qiang's perspective on events.

Chapter 11

Wang returns to the Three Body game world, where he meets Mozi on top of a pyramid. Mozi explains that civilization has risen and fallen multiple times over thousands of years. He shows Wang the frozen corpse of Confucius, who tried and failed to predict the sun's movements.

Mozi believes the universe is a machine inside a hollow sphere. He built a complex mechanical model to simulate the universe's motion and predict the sun. Wang questions flaws in his theory. Mozi is confident his model will predict a new Stable Era, and civilization rehydrates based on his calendar.

But after 17 days, the sun still hasn't risen. Suddenly an immense sun appears and burns everything. Mozi's calendar failed. Wang returns to reality disturbed. He visits Ye Wenjie, who shares her past at the secret Red Coast military base.

Chapter 12

In this chapter, Ye Wenjie is transferred to the Monitoring Department at Red Coast Base. She learns this department uses advanced technology like computers and software to intercept enemy communications and track satellites. Commissar Lei explains they brought Wenjie to help with interference from solar activity, but now want her to gain a full understanding of Red Coast's capabilities.

Chief Engineer Yang resists telling Wenjie more, worried she'll never leave the base once she knows its secrets. But Commissar Lei trusts Wenjie and shares details of the monitoring system's work. Wenjie is disturbed to find Red Coast abandons tracking an American satellite and makes strange non-functional transmissions.

Suddenly Wenjie is called before the base's senior officers, with Commissar Lei now distant and harsh. He says they lied about Red Coast's purpose and will finally tell Wenjie the truth. Wenjie realizes this means she'll be trapped at the base forever. Yang warns she can still refuse, but Wenjie resolutely agrees to learn Red Coast's real nature.

Chapter 13

Chapter 13 provides selected documents detailing the secret Red Coast project that Ye Wenjie learns about at the military base. The documents reveal Red Coast was established to search for and attempt contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. The project involved building a system to monitor radio frequencies across a large range of the galaxy and transmit coded messages. The documents show leaders hoped contact with alien civilizations could provide an outside perspective on humanity and lead to technological progress. However, they also recognized the danger if superpowers monopolized contact. Drafts of messages to send into space aimed to portray a balanced picture of human civilization. The documents provide critical backstory on the Red Coast project central to the book's plot.

Chapter 14

In Chapter 14, Wang Miao visits Ye Wenjie and they discuss the secret Red Coast project she worked on, which was established to search for and attempt contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. Ye explains how the project involved building an advanced system to monitor radio frequencies across the galaxy and transmit coded messages, with the aim of portraying a balanced picture of human civilization to potential alien civilizations. However, the project was ultimately unsuccessful and shut down due to lack of continued interest and funding.

Ye recounts how the base's operations shifted to unrelated astronomy research before being decommissioned. She reflects philosophically on how the search for extraterrestrial intelligence shaped her perspective on life. The chapter provides critical backstory on the Red Coast project central to the book's plot through Ye's firsthand account. It explores profound themes about humanity's place in the universe and the difficulties of searching for intelligent life beyond Earth.

Chapter 15

In this chapter, Wang Miao logs into the Three Body game world as Copernicus. He attends a meeting with scholars including Galileo, Aristotle, and Leonardo da Vinci. Wang presents his theory that the world has three suns, explaining the unpredictable stable and chaotic eras. The scholars criticize his theory as unproven. Suddenly, a knight rides in warning that the world is ending in a tri-solar day. Wang sees three giant suns in the sky incinerating everything. The chapter ends with an announcement that Copernicus revealed the universe's structure, advancing civilization for the first time in the game to level two.

Chapter 16

In this chapter, physicist Wang Miao is urgently summoned by police captain Shi Qiang to discuss a threat made against mathematician Wei Cheng's life. Wei recounts his unusual history, including his natural talent for math, lazy personality, time spent at a temple, and meeting his wife Shen Yufei, who provided him resources to work on solving the three-body problem. Wei then explains his evolutionary algorithm approach to the problem before revealing Shen recently threatened him to continue his research or be killed.

Shi Qiang leads a team including Wang and officer Xu Bingbing to search Wei and Shen's home, but they find Shen murdered. A suspect flees the scene. Wang learns Xu is monitoring the Three Body game, but she reveals little. Wang obtains Wei's research before leaving. Wei cryptically warns Wang that humankind's luck is ending and not even God can save humanity now. The chapter explores grand themes about the limits of human knowledge and impending existential threats through the three-body problem, the game, and the mysterious murder.

Chapter 17

In this chapter, Wang enters the second level of the Three Body game. He finds himself in ancient Egypt where Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz are having a swordfight over who invented calculus. John von Neumann stops them, saying their fight is pointless when civilization has no future unless they can predict the sun's chaotic movements.

The three go to meet Qin Shi Huang, who has an army of 30 million men. Von Neumann demonstrates simple logic gates using soldiers, explaining how combining many gates could form a massive human "computer" to do the calculations needed to predict the suns' motion. Qin Shi Huang agrees and forms a giant human motherboard computer with his army.

After some trial and error, the computer successfully runs and spends over a year computing the suns' orbits for the next two years. Newton presents the results to Qin Shi Huang, saying they indicate a stable era is imminent. But it turns out three suns are aligned, causing disaster through extreme gravity. Everything rises into space as the atmosphere dissipates.

Qin Shi Huang dies as Von Neumann explains his ideas for electronic computing. The civilization is destroyed. The game states this culture reached advanced science but still failed to quantitatively analyze three-body motion. Wang is then invited to an in-person Three Body game meetup.

Chapter 18

In this chapter, Wang attends a meetup for Three Body players. There are six other players there, including a famous scholar, a novelist, a software company executive, a power company executive, a reporter, and a doctoral student. The meetup organizer, Pan Han, arrives and greets the players, saying Three Body is meant for elites who can understand its meaning.

The players discuss their appreciation for Three Body's profound themes. Wang secretly texts police officer Shi Qiang that he's spotted murder suspect Pan. Shi says to play along but not overdo it. Pan claims Three Body's world of Trisolaris really exists, and describes the Trisolaran-formation computer made of reflective beings communicating through focused light.

When asked how they'd feel if Trisolaran civilization entered our world, several players express nihilistic views welcoming external intervention in human affairs. The software executive and power executive object, but Pan expels them from the game and meetup. Pan declares the remaining five are now comrades with shared ideals. The chapter explores philosophical themes about human nature through the players' discussion.

Chapter 19

In this chapter, Wang enters the Three Body game world and finds the setting has advanced to a more modern era, with skyscrapers and the UN headquarters. He meets Einstein, now a homeless violinist abandoned by God. Einstein explains a past disaster - the "great rip" - where Trisolaris was ripped into two pieces by the gravitational pull of the three suns passing close by. One piece became a moon, while life eventually recovered on the planet's main piece.

Wang learns civilization has now advanced technologically but is doomed, as the three-body problem has been proven to have no solution. The pendulum monument is built as a tombstone for this lost hope. The UN leaders explain finding frozen stars aligned with Trisolaris means the planet will likely fall into a sun as the suns' gaseous layers expand and contract. With no future left on Trisolaris, the only hope is to find a new world to emigrate to. The chapter ends as the pendulum swings while civilization again collapses, but with the stronger foundation to head for the stars.

Chapter 20

In this chapter, Wang enters the Three Body game world and finds himself in a desolate landscape with only human heads covering the ground as far as he can see. He realizes all the Trisolarans on the planet have gathered here and are staring up at the sky silently. Wang looks up and sees a square formation of over a thousand stars moving slowly overhead in synchronous orbit.

Wang learns this is the Trisolaran Interstellar Fleet, built to travel to the closest star system just 4 light years away at 1/10 the speed of light. The crowd cheers as the ships accelerate and depart, bathing Trisolaris in light. Though they won't live to hear the results, the Trisolarans hope their descendants will colonize a new planet in centuries to come.

Wang watches the fleet shrink into the distance as a single star before disappearing. The game states the Trisolaran Expedition has begun and will take over 400 years to reach its destination. The game concludes, directing players who remain committed to attend a real world meetup of the Earth-Trisolaris Organization.

Chapter 21

In this chapter, Wang attends another Three Body game meetup with around 300 attendees, including many elites and celebrities. A device depicting the three-body problem is displayed. Wang recognizes Pan Han, who admits to murdering Shen Yufei for being a traitor. Arguments erupt over Pan's actions and the Adventists faction.

The ETO commander, revealed to be Ye Wenjie, arrives and condemns Pan's unauthorized killing. An ETO member reveals the Adventists' secret plan is to destroy humankind. Ye states the Adventists have betrayed the ETO by distorting communications with Trisolaris.

Ye has Pan executed for his betrayal. She greets Wang Miao, who is disturbed by the events. Ye says she will continue telling the history of the Red Coast project. The chapter explores the internal divisions within the ETO and develops the themes of human nature, morality, and the risks of contacting alien civilizations.

Chapter 22

In this chapter, Ye Wenjie continues her work at the secret Red Coast military base, researching ways to eliminate interference from solar activity that disrupts the base's monitoring operations. She makes little progress, but stumbles upon a discovery while reading about radio outbursts detected from Jupiter - the outbursts appear to be amplified versions of the interference Red Coast receives.

Further investigation leads Ye to a startling realization - the sun can act as a giant amplifier for radio waves, with its internal "energy mirrors" reflecting and amplifying signals over 100 million times. She confirms this by aligning past interference with the Jupiter outbursts. Excited, Ye requests using the base's transmitter to further test her theory by broadcasting at the sun, but is denied for political reasons.

Undeterred, Ye secretly aims a high-powered test transmission at the sunset. But results are inconclusive, showing no echo as expected. Her colleague Yang tries to console her after the failed experiment. In the end, Ye obtains records of Jupiter's radio outbursts, but they do not match the interference as she had hypothesized. The chapter conveys Ye's pioneering spirit and passion for science, while exploring profound themes about humanity's place in the universe.

Chapter 23

In this chapter, set in the 1970s, Ye Wenjie continues working at the secret Red Coast military base as a technician. After marrying her colleague Yang out of gratitude, Ye sinks into depression, disillusioned by the madness of humanity. One night, she detects and deciphers a radio transmission from the nearby star system Alpha Centauri. The messages warn humanity not to respond, or Earth will be invaded. Ye realizes the sun can amplify radio signals. She secretly transmits back, asking the aliens to come conquer Earth. Later, Ye learns she is pregnant. The chapter conveys Ye's despair about humanity as well as her pivotal decision to invite extraterrestrial intervention.

Chapter 24

In this chapter, Ye Wenjie finishes recounting to Wang Miao and the ETO members the history of her first contact with the Trisolarans. Wang asks how the ETO then grew to its present scale, but Ye says that is a story for another time. Wang asks about the countdown he has been experiencing and its connection to his nanomaterials research. Ye explains the Trisolarans fear his research could allow large-scale space construction, threatening their plans. Before Ye can explain more, Shi Qiang and an army unit raid the ETO meeting.

Shi Qiang threatens lethal force, as the ETO has turned against humanity. Three ETO members grab metal spheres claiming they are nuclear bombs and demand Ye Wenjie's release. Testing confirms one sphere is indeed a bomb. Shi Qiang distracts the woman holding the bomb, shooting it and causing a contained detonation. In the ensuing gunfight, many ETO members are killed or captured, including Ye Wenjie. Shi Qiang is contaminated by radiation but survives. The chapter depicts the decisive raid against the ETO while further developing the themes of humanity's struggle against the alien threat.

Chapter 25

In this chapter, Ye Wenjie is interrogated about the deaths of Lei Zhicheng and Yang Weining while she was working at the secret Red Coast military base. Ye recounts how Lei discovered the extraterrestrial communication she had received and replied to. Lei threatened to implicate Ye and her husband Yang if she did not cooperate to let Lei take credit for the discovery.

Ye pretended to agree but secretly loosened the ground wire at the base, forcing Lei to go repair it. When Yang also went to help, Ye cut the rope suspending them, causing them to fall to their deaths. Ye calmly reflects that she did it to further her goal of contacting extraterrestrials, not caring about the consequences. The interrogator understands the difficult situation Ye faced and ends the interrogation, having Ye sign her statement.

Chapter 26

Ye Wenjie returns to work at the secret Red Coast military base after the birth of her daughter Yang Dong. She sinks into depression and loneliness. Some local children come to the base seeking Ye's help with their studies. Ye begins tutoring them, finding meaning in helping the village youth. After Ye is politically rehabilitated, she returns to work at Tsinghua University. She visits her mother Shao Lin, now remarried to a high-ranking official. Shao remains distant from Ye. Ye tries to locate the former Red Guards involved in her father's death. Three of them meet Ye but show no repentance, claiming they were also victims. Ye realizes her faint hope for humanity is gone. Her conviction to seek superior civilization elsewhere is renewed.

Chapter 27

In this chapter, Ye Wenjie travels with a task force to find a site for a new radio astronomy observatory. They visit a village in the remote Northwest where an American man named Mike Evans has been living for three years, planting trees to save an endangered swallow species. Evans explains his ideology of "pan-species communism" which values all life equally. Ye admires his dedication but the site is rejected due to concerns about the poor locals.

Three years later, Evans contacts Ye asking for help. She returns to find the villagers logging the forest he planted. Evans has inherited billions from his father but feels it's futile to use the money to protect the environment given humanity's destructive nature. Ye tells Evans about her experiences at Red Coast Base and making first contact with the Trisolarans, an alien civilization. Evans agrees to work with Ye, seeing contact with superior extraterrestrials as the only hope for saving Earth's ecology.

Chapter 28

In Chapter 28, Ye Wenjie is invited to visit a university in Europe. Upon arrival, she is taken by helicopter to a massive ship called Judgment Day in the Atlantic Ocean. On board, Mike Evans greets her and confirms he received a message from the Trisolarans using the frequency and coordinates she provided years ago. Evans reveals he has gathered the first members of the Earth-Trisolaris Organization, a group that aims to reform human civilization by inviting the Trisolarans to Earth. The ETO believes the Trisolarans can curb human madness and evil to create a harmonious world again. Evans declares Ye the commander in chief of the ETO. Surrounded by chanting crowds, Ye accepts the position and vows to do her best. The chapter depicts the formal establishment of the ETO and Ye's reluctant leadership role in the movement to invite extraterrestrial intervention on Earth.

Chapter 29

Chapter 29 details the factions within the Earth-Trisolaris Movement (ETO). Many ETO members are elites who have lost hope in humanity and idealize alien civilization. The Adventists most despair humanity while the Redemptionists aim to save Trisolaris. The Three Body game spreads Trisolaran culture and recruits new ETO members. A third faction emerges - the Survivors, who aim for their descendants to live after the Trisolaran conquest. The ETO grows rapidly semi-openly as governments underestimate them. Ye Wenjie leads spiritually but is uninvolved in operations. The factions conflict but Ye tries to maintain unity. Alienation from humanity and adoration of aliens drive the ETO's growth despite Trisolaris being lightyears away.

Chapter 30

In this chapter, Ye Wenjie is interrogated about her communication with the Trisolarans. She reveals that the Adventists had intercepted and withheld some of the messages from Trisolaris, but she does not know the contents. The interrogator presses her for more information about the messages, but she insists she cannot provide details.

The conversation then shifts to discussing the various factions within the Earth-Trisolaris Movement (ETO). Ye reflects on how the movement grew beyond her control, with factions like the Adventists and Redemptionists developing extreme views she did not intend. The interrogator points out Ye had planned to eliminate the Adventists from within, but did not attack their base on the Judgement Day ship likely because it contained the intercepted Trisolaran messages.

Ye then reveals that until recently, Trisolaris had only communicated with Earth via radio signals. However, six years ago Trisolaris accelerated two protons to near light speed and shot them towards Earth as a kind of "lock" to halt human scientific progress. She explains the protons arrived at Earth two years ago but does not elaborate on how two protons can stop human science. The chapter ends with physicist Ding Yi speculating to Wang Miao about advanced civilizations' ability to manipulate micro dimensions and particles.

Chapter 31

In chapter 31, Shi Qiang and Wang observe the operation to capture the Judgment Day ship at the Panama Canal. Two pillars with nanofilament wires called a "zither" are erected across the narrowest point of the canal. As Judgment Day passes through, the filaments slice through the ship into over 40 segments, wrecking it. Soldiers rush in to capture the ship and prevent fires and destruction of the sought-after Trisolaran data.

Later, Ye Wenjie is interrogated about her views on Trisolaran civilization. She admits she knows little of their society but hoped they were morally superior to humanity. The interrogator reveals they captured Trisolaran messages from the Adventists on Judgment Day, about 28 gigabytes worth, far more than expected. He says the content shows Trisolaran civilization is nothing like Ye imagined. Ye is stunned and wants to know more.

Chapter 32

The chapter provides insight into the Trisolaran civilization through the perspective of a listener working at a listening post to detect signals from space. The listener intercepts a message from Earth and is enthralled by the idea of the beautiful paradise planet. However, he realizes contact with Earth spells doom for one of the two civilizations. In a pivotal moment, the listener transmits a warning back to Earth urging them not to respond, at great risk to himself and Trisolaran society.

The listener is brought before the Trisolaran princeps, who acknowledges the listener's actions may have deprived Trisolaris of its only chance at finding a new home. Their conversation explores perspectives on the cold, survival-driven nature of Trisolaran civilization versus the beauty and freedoms of Earth. The princeps lets the listener go due to his old age, but intends to show him that Earth cannot be saved. The fleet is prepared to embark for Earth despite the uncertainties. The chapter provides philosophical insights into both Trisolaran and human civilization.

Chapter 33

This chapter focuses on the development of the sophons, microscopic intelligent computers made by unfolding protons into higher dimensions, by the Trisolarans. After some failed experiments, they succeed in unfolding a proton into two dimensions to create an intelligent computer called Sophon One. They wrap the unfolded proton around the planet as a giant circuit board to etch the sophon's circuits. Sophon One can see into 3D space and follow commands. The Trisolarans continue developing more sophons, eventually creating a quantum sensing formation with four sophons. They launch Sophon One and Two to Earth, where the sophons will infiltrate particle accelerators and interfere with physics experiments to block scientific progress. The chapter provides critical backstory on the sophons, which become a pivotal part of the overarching plot. It explores grand themes of manipulating the very small to control the very big.

Chapter 34

In this chapter, Wang Miao and Ding Yi are drinking together and feeling hopeless about humanity's future, believing the sophons have doomed scientific progress. Police captain Shi Qiang joins them and takes them on a drive to see locust-infested wheat fields. Shi points out the locusts as an analogy - despite humans' efforts to eradicate them, locusts still thrive, showing how life endures against seemingly impossible odds. Watching the undaunted locusts renews Wang and Ding's sense of hope. They realize that while humans may seem like bugs relative to the superior Trisolaran civilization, bugs have never been truly defeated. The chapter conveys themes of the tenacity and dignity of life in the face of existential threats. Wang and Ding regain motivation to keep striving despite the challenges ahead.

Chapter 35

In Chapter 35, Ye Wenjie visits the ruins of the secret Red Coast military base where she once worked. She climbs Radar Peak by herself despite warnings, consumed by her own fading vitality. At the peak, Ye finds only a patch of tall grass where the base once stood. The buildings and roads have been dismantled and buried. A large metallic antenna base and small memorial tablet are the only traces left of Red Coast.

Ye recalls the pivotal moments at Red Coast, like when she ended the lives of two soldiers, and when she made first contact with the Trisolarans by transmitting into space. As sunset approaches, Ye stares westward, thinking of the bloody sunsets she watched from this spot. She whispers that the sun is setting on humanity itself. Ye is filled with darkness and despair after learning the true brutal nature of Trisolaran civilization. The chapter conveys a sense of tragic end and lost hope through Ye's visit to the now-vanished site of Red Coast Base.