Thursday, April 26, 2018

Leviathan Wakes

The Expanse is an ongoing science fiction novel series written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck under the pen name James S. A. Corey. The authors appear to be quite productive, having released a new book every year since 2011.

In the series, humanity has spread out to colonize the whole Solar System. The differences in living environments and priorities have caused three factions to form: Earth's United Nations, Mars, and the Belters of the outer planets. Mixing in a powerful corporation and an alien protomolecule to profit from increases the already high tensions between the factions.

One of the review quotes on the book covers states:"This is the future the way it was supposed to be." I find that an odd choice of words from Wall Street Journal. It's a likely future maybe, but that humans still haven't learned to live in peace with each other being "the way it's supposed to be" is a rather pessimistic thing to say. The quote is probably out of context, though.

Technology isn't too far off from the present day in the series, although there is the Epstein Drive that allows more sensible travel times within the Sol system. Medical science also seems to be at the point that about anything can be fixed, like growing back a cut-off arm or healing heavy radiation poisoning, as long as you get help before dropping dead. The books don't try to explain these advanced things; they just work. The specifics don't get in the way.

The first novel of the series, Leviathan Wakes, truly kickstarts the series into motion. It's good at keeping one's interest by often switching viewpoint just as something is about to happen. Especially in the beginning the viewpoint jumps constantly and one just has to keep on reading to see how things turn out.

Excluding the pro- and epilogue, the book has two viewpoint characters: Miller, a Star Helix Security detective on the Ceres station, and Holden, the executive officer of the ice hauler Canterbury and later a captain of his own ship. The latter and his crew also appear to be the protagonists of the series.

I quite liked the charismatic Holden and the thoughtful Miller. The former has that certain RPG protagonist leadership presence that makes everyone follow him. Alex, Naomi, Amos, and Shed assume he's in the lead without any discussion or ceremony. Having been the XO on the Cant should naturally make him the boss too but the others might have as well challenged his position.

If I had to pick a favorite moment in Leviathan Wakes, it would be when Holden and his likable crew are locked up in a cabin on the Donnager, the flagship of the Martian fleet. Unknown military vessels engage the ship in battle which at first is ridiculous for who would even dare to do so. But the fight goes on and Holden and the rest have no idea what's happening except for the things they can figure out from the ship's movements and such. And then a railgun shot goes the through the cabin . . .

I really liked the space battles. There being no futuristic shielding technology means high velocity projectiles simply go through things. You just have to hope nothing important breaks when a torpedo gets past point defense cannons or railguns manage to hit. I wonder though how the ships avoid or deal with random space rocks and debris when traveling at whatever the top speeds are. You probably wouldn't want to collide with anything.

Also, the book really should've included a map of the Solar System and the locations the book takes place in. I can't remember or know the names of every moon and asteroid there is, or if a place was made up just for the book.

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