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

Caliban's_War

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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Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes

This might be my new favorite Sci-fi series. It has just enough science-y, techno space stuff that it feels believable but it isn’t too dense. Everything reads plausible and is easily understood.

Humanity has conquered the stars! Or at least our own solar system. Earth is maxed out and so humanity has moved out to other locations. Mars, where the people are all working hard towards terreforming and settling the notoriously difficult planet. And the people living out on the Belt, called “belters” by most people, who most treat like second-class citizens at best and non-human slaves at worst. This is definitely a book that looks at what it would mean to actually grow up in a zero G environment. What sort of changes would humanity go though? how would others treat you if you no longer looked 100 percent “human”? The answer, of course, is terribly.

Earth views themselves as the top dogs. This is where we came from and they have the most resources for living comfortably. What they don’t have is space. We have taken all the available space and now most people on Earth don’t even work anymore. Mars on the other hand are tough and resourceful. Everyone who is on Mars is working for a single goal: Colonizing and terreforming the planet. They view the Earthers as weak and lazy. They gained their independence from Earth a while ago and now Earth and Mars are stuck in a Cold War. Each of them stands to lose everything if they fight it out, so they just pretend everything is fine between them and plot to out gun the other.

Then there are the Belters. They have grown up on The Belt and as such their bodies have changed. They have heads that look to large with extremely long bodies and limbs. They have lived so long in zero G that they can’t go to Earth anymore, they can’t handle the gravity. They also do all the mining work and terrible jobs and most people treat them like slaves.

Jim Holden is our main character. At the start of the book he is the XO of an ice hauling ship called The Canterbury. He is relaxed, sarcastic, and doesn’t take anything very seriously. As the book opens they are attacked and tragedy occurs and a small band of people must pull together to survive.The other characters in the group are: Naomi, a Belter engineer who is smart and tough. Alex, the navigator from Mars who is nice and easy-going. Amos, a mechanic who is nice on the surface but has a deep anger just under the surface. I found myself really rooting for Holden and his small crew. They have their differences, and they do fight a lot but when needed they pull together and have each others backs. In the end they become a small family who would literally die for each other.

The other character I consider a Main Character is Miller. Detective Miller is a Belter who lives on Ceres Station and tries to uphold the Law. Or at least keep people from killing each other. He has been doing this job for a long time and it has worn him out and turned him very cynical. He is given a kidnapping job, a rich couple wants him to find their daughter and ship her home. He just shrugs and takes it. Another shitty job to do in a shitty place. This story-line is very noir. Through the days of searching he grows to respect and even love the missing girl, Julie Mao. She is tough and is a true believer in the rights of the Belters to be treated better than slaves.

I liked that the authors went with different viewpoints for each chapter in a very Game of Thrones style. Since I am used to the style I found it very easy to follow and I was never confused about the plot. Which was a good thing because this plot MOVES. After SPOILERS The Canterbury is blown up END SPOILERS  the plot never really slows down. Twists and turns come fast and steady, and I never felt the book drag at all. The separate plot threads in the book come together very nicely in the end in a very thrilling way and leaves us with a nice hook for future books.

I found all the characters to be believable and compelling even if I wasn’t sure I liked them much. The plot moved quickly and once I started reading I couldn’t put it down! I am extremely excited and happy I started this series. I was on the hunt for a lighthearted space adventure and that is exactly what I got here. A fantastic Book!