The Culture is a group-civilisation formed from seven or eight humanoid species, space-living elements of which established a loose federation approximately nine thousand years ago. The ships and habitats which formed the original alliance required each others’ support to pursue and maintain their independence from the political power structures – principally those of mature nation-states and autonomous commercial concerns – they had evolved from.
It is also a series of 9 novels (plus a short story collection) and the place I want to go to in the afterlife. I’ve heard about it, I’ve read about, in 2016 I bought the first three books, and now I’ve finally started to read.
Tor.com has its Space Opera Week now, and it’s going to add quite a few items to my To-Be-Read pile, especially since Space Operas tend to be multi-volume endeavours. It renewed my interest in the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, one of THE great genre series that are still waiting for me, and put The Uplift by David Brin on my radar, and also reminded me that I have first two omnibuses of Saga waiting on my shelves (I wanted to wait till it’s all finished, but it’s very tempting to start right now…).
My decision to start David Drake’s Republic of Cinnabar Navy series had nothing to do with it, volume one was what I got for my monthly Audible credit this April, volume two I listen to right now, and I believe it to be an excellent example of this particular subgenre, with all its vices and virtues.
Also, a rare example of American covers being superior, the oldschool ones are original Baen, the shitty ones – relatively recent Titan version. Luckily, Audible.co.uk chose Baen for audiobooks.
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
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.