Caliban’s War (The Expanse #2) by James S.A. Corey


James Holden and his crew are back in another adventure in The Expanse series!

On Ganymede things are going pretty well. We have engineered a way to make enough food to feed the whole system. Women from all around the solar system come here to have their babies because of the lower radiation levels. And it’s all about to be ruined.

The book opens with a platoon of Martian marines as they observe the movements of their Earth counterparts on Ganymede, soon both teams are attacked and slaughtered by a “monster” that can only be a part of the protomolecule. A protomolecule that is currently changing Venus in strange, upsetting, and fascinating ways ever since it crashed in the last book.

James Holden and his crew have been spending their time keeping the peace for the OPA, hunting down pirates and just generally being space cops.It has been a year since the last book and Holden isn’t taking the horrors of Eros very well and has adopted a more shoot first, question later approach to cleaning up the system.

Really the whole crew is more likable in this story. Most of them have settled into their characterization and are just more comfortable with each other here. They seem better connected and more like a true family and close friends. When they do have disagreements (such as Naomi’s understandable reaction to new gunslinger Holden) they are handled well and they speak to each other like the grown-ups they are. There is no unnecessary manufactured drama here, you can clearly see why each character feels the way they do. Naomi wants her altruistic, short-sighted, yet lovable Holden back and Holden is deeply affected by what he saw and experienced on Eros. This has led him to be very afraid and he reacts to that fear by becoming more ruthless and cold.

A job dropping off much needed supplies on Ganymede after the destruction finds the crew helping a scientist search Ganymede (and later the system) for his lost and possibly kidnapped daughter. When we first meet him Prax is a hollow shell of the man he used to be. He is frantic and starving, the loss of his livelihood and the kidnapping of his daughter have done a number on his psyche. The whole book finds him to be nervous and a bit trigger happy, although he gets better slightly throughout the book.

This is also the book that introduces two characters who might be my favorites. Chrisjen Avasarala and Bobbie.

Avasarala is a deft politician from Earth. She is cold and calculating when she needs to be and warm and inviting when she needs to be. She moves through the political sphere with the ease of a long career and woe betide anyone who crosses her. She is also hilariously foul-mouthed. It is a very great juxtaposition: a kindly grandmother and a foul-mouthed sailor. She makes me laugh and then turn around and vow to never get on her bad side.

Bobbie is a Martian marine soldier who you meet in the beginning of the book. She is very tall (because of her low G upbringing) and very imposing. I suppose most people write her off as just a meat head, but she gets some great moments in this book to prove her intelligence and worthiness as an ally to Avasarala.

Both characters are great additions to the cast in these books and I hope they come back into the later books as well.

This is another excellent entry into this series. It is fast-paced, and engaging. The characters are all fleshed out a lot and have understandable conflicts. I am really looking forward to reading the next book!


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