Saturday, April 28, 2018

Caliban's War

Book two of The Expanse, titled Caliban's War, includes three main viewpoint characters in addition to Holden. Chrisjen Avasarala, a UN high up, gives insight to Earth's politics while Praxidike Meng, a botanist on Ganymede, brings in a more personal take on happenings as he tries to find his daughter who gets kidnapped at the beginning.

The fourth protagonist, Robert "Bobbie" Draper, a Martian marine, is the most likable one of the new ones in my opinion. Her really cool power armor may have something to do with it too.

I think the novel's coolest part is in fact when Bobbie single-handedly takes over a ship. Even without the suit's gatling gun she is practically invincible because the crew has no weaponry that can harm her. And guns that are able to damage the armor have to be pretty hefty too as is apparent in the third book which I've already read.

Even a high power sniper rifle's only hope is to crack the suit's visor. It takes explosives or another suit to really stop one I guess. It's quite ridiculous how overpowered they are in an uneven fight.

In Leviathan Wakes, the protomolecule flew into Venus with the whole Eros asteroid and all the human biomass it had gathered on the station -- to do whatever it's going to do. That wasn't all of it, however. The corporation experimenting with it, Protogen, also starts doing trials on military applications elsewhere and everything naturally goes wrong. Holden and his crew -- now flying the Rocinante, a Corvette Class fast-attack ship "salvaged" from the Donnager -- are of course in the middle of things.

I like how all the new viewpoint characters always end up meeting at some point. It makes sense, though, since they don't appear in the following books. Or at least they haven't done so thus far. Maybe Corey will start revisiting them in further volumes if/when the formula of introducing new ones starts to get repetitive.

After reading Caliban's War, I watched the first 2 seasons of the Syfy show based on the books. I have to say that I didn't like it one bit. I don't mind it not having Belters as tall as described in the novels or lacking zero g scenes. But what bothers me is the myriad number of odd changes they did.

The show mixes in the second book right away but doesn't get even near to its ending in season 2 finale. Avasarala has nothing to do and so they had to make completely new scenes to justify her presence before the second book's events. And the scenes are dull too. Her actress, Shoreh Aghdashloo, also constantly reminded me of Mass Effect 2 where she is Admiral Shala'Raan. Her voice is very recognizable.

As is Elias Toufexis's. He plays a quite the random, short-lived non-book character in the show. I don't get his inclusion at all.

And Bobbie's cast is terrible. Frankie Adams is not menacing at all. She is like a moping college girl instead of a well trained marine.

But the worst crime in the show is what they did to James Holden. He completely lacks the charisma and righteous naivety the character has in the novels.

In the show, he isn't the Canterbury's XO. The ship also ignores the distress signal, which doesn't sound like the Belter way at all. They're all about helping each other to survive in the harsh environment. Holden is from Earth but uncharacteristically to his book self agrees with the decision.

He does in the end decide on a whim to bring back the log of receiving the call after it was deleted and thus force the Canterbury to go to the signal source after all. All that changes his later crew's chemistry. Amos is outright hostile towards him, especially after he learns about the rogue decision.

The Canterbury shuttle they end up in after the ship's destruction also gets its communications damaged and Holden can't do his system wide broadcast in which he suspects Mars and which causes tensions to rise. I think that was a huge plot point in the books and a defining moment for Holden. Excluding it from the show doesn't make any damn sense.

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