By: James S.A. Corey
Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.
Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.
Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.
Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.
I actually read this novel last year but never got around to writing a review post because I was working on my thesis at the time. With the release of Caliban’s War, the second installment in The Expanse series, I decided that it was time for a re-read. Contains some spoilers ahead!
I know this aspect of the novel was divisive amongst fans of the genre but I liked the fact that this book was not heavy on the technical details of how everything worked in this world. The authors (James S.A. Corey is a pseudonym for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) do a wonderful job of introducing and describing the ships and the habitats but do not bog the reader down with so much detail on how everything works. For someone who is starting out in the genre or isn’t familiar with the technical jargon (and the possibility of such technology working in reality somewhere down the line), it works out fine especially as the pace of the story and the characters involved do keep the readers preoccupied. Re-reading it a second time I did wish we had more information about society–customs, pop culture, trends, religion, etc.–in this world at this particular period that the story is taking place. We are shown a glimpse of life at the Belt because that’s where most of the story takes place (and Miller’s a Belter himself) and the prejudices that they hold against those who live in the Inner Planets but you only get passing bits of information of what life is like in Earth through Holden. Perhaps that will be explored more in future installments but otherwise the novel isn’t too daunting on the details of the worldbuilding.
What really grabbed me about this novel–and why I rated it so highly and why I recommend it whenever I get a chance–is the story itself. It starts off a little slow as the reader is introduced to Jim Holden and Detective Miller and their respective situations at the start of the novel but over the course of the 500 pages their paths converge as they run into some really serious stuff. What starts off as an abandoned ship and a missing girl becomes a web of lies, intrigue and conspiracy theories of large, political proportions spanning the entire system. I did not see some of those revelations coming. The mystery behind what was really going on was plausible and frightening and I think the authors did a wonderful job at telling this story.
The characters that populate this novel were also interesting especially the leads, Holden and Miller. What’s interesting about them is how different they are in the spectrum of who they are, their past experiences and everything from their opinions to their beliefs on how to approach the situation that they found themselves in. I did not find myself preferring one character over the other, they both clearly had their own ways of coping and dealing with each other and given circumstances, I don’t blame them for reacting the way they did to each other initially. At the end I thought their comradery/something of a bromance was intriguing, a bit of an odd ball. The secondary characters were also interesting–Naomi, Alex, Amos, Fred (the short story “The Butcher of Anderson Station” fleshes out his backstory quite nicely), Havelock–and provide the leads with some great foil and interaction.
Overall, Leviathan Wakes is an excellent, adventurous and fast-paced introduction to the Expanse series. There’s certainly a lot of intrigue in this world and I have a feeling that the authors have only scratched the surface as to what is really going on. There’s clearly a lot of tension between Earth, Mars and the Belt and I wonder how these tensions will play out in the next novel. I just hope we get to see what life is like in other parts of the system. But otherwise, it’s a great story worth checking out if you’re into science fiction or would like to start reading something from the genre.