Two rival civilizations are battling for supremacy. Civilization A is stronger than Civilization B and is perceived by Civilization B as a grave threat; its position, however, is more fragile than it seems. Neither side hesitates to employ espionage, subterfuge, and surveillance, because the rules of conduct—to the extent that they exist—are ill-defined and frequently contested. But the battle lines are clear: whoever controls the technological frontier controls the future.
In Liu Cixin’s science-fiction trilogy, “Remembrance of Earth’s Past”—also known by the title of its first volume, “The Three-Body Problem”—Civilization A is a distant planet named Trisolaris and Civilization B is Earth. Life on Trisolaris has become increasingly difficult to sustain, so its inhabitants prepare to colonize Earth, a project made possible by their vast technological superiority. Using higher-dimensional geometry, they deploy supercomputers the size of a proton to spy on every terrestrial activity and utterance; Earth’s entire fleet of starships proves no match for one small, droplet-shaped Trisolaran probe. Yet Trisolaris’s dominance is far from assured, given the ingenuity of the underdogs. Seeking out the vulnerabilities of its adversary, Earth establishes a deterrence based on mutually assured destruction and forces the Trisolarans to share their technology.