Saturday, May 5, 2018

Abaddon's Gate

I didn't take an immediate liking to Abaddon's Gate, the book three of The Expanse. It features a plot element I dislike quite a bit: a bad guy scheming against the good guys who are completely oblivious while you as the reader get to see everything unfold, frustrated that you can't do anything about it.

Clarissa Mao, one of Jules-Pierre Mao's daughters, swears to take revenge on James Holden for causing her father to get jailed for his orchestration of the protomolecule incident. She is immensely resourceful in her quest and reminded me of her sister, Julie Mao, in the prologue of Leviathan Wakes.

Even with the whole revenge thing she is likable or should I rather say fascinating. She's psychopathic -- somewhat consciously so too, which causes the character to be on the edge of plausibility. She has to see effort to keep being antisocial and not feel empathy or remorse. On her way to Holden she gets into situations that test her conviction. It is all very interesting.

Pastor Anna is another new viewpoint character. There's an attempt to bring in some pondering through her what a possible alien civilization means from a religious point of view but it doesn't really get anywhere. Anna has no answers and decides nothing has really changed.

The third new face, Carlos c de Baca, also known as Bull, is the security chief on Behemoth. He was supposed to the captain but him being from Earth made it politically too risky. Bull somehow seemed familiar from the start. I guess he's very similar to Fred Johnson, the de facto leader of the Outer Planets Alliance, whose thoughts were visited briefly in the epilogue of the first book.

The Behemoth was originally called Nauvoo and was meant to be Mormons' generation ship to the stars until it was used in an attempt to stop the protomolecule powered Eros from reaching Earth. Now the ship has been repurposed into a makeshift battleship for the OPA.

The Behemoth with many other ships from all the three factions gather beyond Uranus's orbit to investigate the star gate the protomolecule formed into after cooking up on Venus. On the other side of the gate they find a shutdown gate nexus left behind a highly advanced civilization. Something limits velocity inside the nexus way below what ships can travel in the Expanse.

The turning point for the novel, where I started to like it and when it became my favorite Expanse volume so far was when the velocity limit dropped even more -- Martian marines chasing Holden and firing their weapons on an alien station in the nexus made its security measures tighten even more.

All human ships in the slow zone moving faster than the new speed cap suddenly decelerate within few seconds. Everything and everyone not strapped in place get flung against the nearest solid obstacle and the result is not pretty. It's a catastrophe as Anna puts it.

Not all can deal with the disaster. The Behemoth becomes a theater for desperate acts as some think all is lost and humanity should be prevented from entering the gate by any means necessary. I suppose there is some predictability in the plot -- Holden will always survive -- but it was still a highly entertaining read.

One little thing I forgot to mention in the post about Leviathan Wakes, is how totally unexpected it was to see Finnish among the random broadcasts the protomolecule did from Eros. I don't know how much of actual speedreading, like skimming, I do but I like to think that I read fairly fast. I was already well past the Finnish words when I realized I had just read some nonsense I had kind of understood and had to go back check what the hell it was.

Also, subvocalization really is annoying. It's like when you start thinking about breathing or blinking and then have to do it manually. I understand some people can't suppress it, poor sods -- reading becomes so slow when you voice everything in your head. It's evidently better for learning but for fiction novels that's hardly necessary.

Probably due to not doing it, I have hard time recalling names from books if I didn't see particular effort to memorize them. But I do recall the names immediately when I see them again. I guess it's some sort of pattern recognition.

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