Amazon's mega-programming spending spree continues, as the streaming service follows reported $250 million deal to bring a Lord of the Rings series to television with word they are looking to adapt Liu Cixin's popular Chinese sci-fi book series "Remembrance of Earth's Past" into a three-season show commitment, beginning with The Three-Body Problem. Why the comparison to Lord of the Rings, you may ask? The cost for the rights – held by Youzu Interactive Chairman Lin Qi – looks to be set at around a soft $1 billion – and that's before the first pancake's been flipped by craft services on set.
Yup. That's right. $1 billion. With a "b." Take a second and let that sink in…
Why such a huge price tag? Two reasons: an incredibly popular sci-fi book series with a storyline scope that's epic in nature, with a built in international fanbase that could catapult it to Game of Thrones levels; and Amazon, who appear to have an almost Moby Dick like obsession with finding their "own" Game of Thrones. The streaming service has shifted it programming efforts towards large, internationally-viable "tent pole" series similar to HBO's Game of Thrones, AMC's The Walking Dead and Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale.
First published in book form in 2008 (it was serialized in Science Fiction World in 2006), here's a brief overview of Cixin's The Three-Body Problem:
Set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion.
Cixin's novels received an unexpected "presidential seal of approval" in January 2017, when The New York Times Chief Book Critic Michiko Kakutani interviewed President Barack Obama about literature; in this case, the books that helped President Obama "escape" for a little while:
NYT: What are some of those books?
President Obama: It's interesting, the stuff I read just to escape ends up being a mix of things — some science fiction. For a while, there was a three-volume science-fiction novel, the "Three-Body Problem" series —
NYT: Oh, Liu Cixin, who won the Hugo Award.
President Obama: — which was just wildly imaginative, really interesting. It wasn't so much sort of character studies as it was just this sweeping —
NYT: It's really about the fate of the universe.
President Obama: Exactly. The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade. [Laughter]