Nemesis Games, the fifth installment in the Expanse series, made me believe in miracles. Like Rocky Balboa, the two authors: Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck first achieved a huge success with their very good debut, followed by a decent second book in the series. Then they hit the bottom of terrible writing with novels no. 3 and 4, and now they have come back from there, writing a solid, entertaining and intriguing fifth installment. A miracle, no less. Writers who actually listen to their readers. Or maybe the upcoming SyFy series based on their novels gave them a new motivation? One way or the other, Nemesis Games almost gets back to the level of Leviathan Wakes, and I for once am quite happy about it :). Continue reading
I’ve mentioned before that the fourth installment in the Expanse series gets better than the terribly weak third. I was wrong.
Well, not entirely wrong – there are moments when Cibola Burn gets the breath and panache of the first two installments, but these are few and far between.
But let’s start from the beginning – where, in the light of the big events ending the previous book (which I won’t detail here ;)), passengers from an old decrepit ship fly to a habitable world and, in violation of all international laws, settle there. This wouldn’t be a problem, if not for a scientific expedition sent by a big bad Earth corporation, which goes to exactly this same world. Of course, inevitable fight ensues and bodies drop dead right and left. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. When humanity gets a chance to reach the stars, every single living soul wants to squat on the same rather uninteresting planet and fight for scarce resources. That’s how humans roll. At least according to Corey.
So, it’s Wild Wild West once more. No laws, just teeth and claws. Galactic ships on the orbit, armed forces down the gravity well, and lots of very frustrated people who think they can do whatever they damn well please. Obviously, this new Wild West needs a sheriff, and fast. And that’s precisely where Holden and Rocinante come into play.
As promised, I bring you the review of the third installment in the Expanse series. It started so well with Leviathan Wakes, it got slightly worse but still quite readable with Caliban’s War, and then it reached the bottom (wherever it is in space) with Abaddon’s Gate.
If I wanted to sum up Abaddon’s Gate in one sentence, I would say that that’s what you get when you expand a meticulously planned trilogy into five books. Contrary to Gordon Gekko’s famous saying, greed is not good. Not at all.
It’s not that I’m irritated with this book. Although I am, even if I know that I really shouldn’t care less. Abaddon’s Gate is not only terribly b o r i n g. It has not enough action, and what it has gets mired in a quagmire of improbable actions and decisions, papery, one-dimensional characters, and a flood of pseudo-intellectual tirades that made me want to erase the book from my Kindle (I don’t know what I would do to the paper version. Maybe tear out all Melba and Anna POVs. Maybe chuck it all into fire and gleefully watch it burn. Or maybe just leave it on a bench somewhere and let it poison someone else’s day).
James S. A. Corey is actually two people, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. The former is a productive writer, author of over a dozen novels and multiple short stories. The latter is (or rather was, before becoming a half of James A. Corey) mostly known for his collaboration with George R. R. Martin.
The writers banded together to to create a sf pentalogy which would illustrate the painful and cumbersome process of humanity’s reaching out to stars. Forget that at the start it was supposed to be a trilogy – one does not collaborate with George R. R. Martin and escapes unscathed ;).
The whole series is already out. The final installment, Nemesis Games, hit the shelves not a full month ago, and SyFy is already making a TV adaptation called The Expanse and scheduled for airing in December. I guess there’s no better time for a short analysis J. I’m currently in the middle of book three, so eventually there will be part 2 of the review, covering remaining three novels. But for now – just the first two: Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War.
Leviathan Wakes was nominated for both Hugo and Locus awards. It’s a soft sf/space opera. Soft, which means that we don’t get lengthy descriptions of technological innovations or social changes inevitable in further stages of human evolution. Well, actually we don’t get any descriptions of that sort; the first installment is essentially a mystery drama in a sf wrapping. The second – a political drama in a sf wrapping. And it’s not a complaint – I’m simply stating facts, so that nobody mistakes The Expanse series for a new Asimov or Heinlein, or Clarke. Because Leviathan Wakes, and, to a lesser extent, Caliban’s War, have their own merit, and their own joys, as soft space operas.