The TV show based on the series called The Expanse, premieres tonight December 14th, 2015 at 10/9c on Syfy. Watch for a review of the first episode later tonight and the second episode tomorrow.
Holy my Jesus, this was fantastic. It was exactly what I was needing. Since I finished Illuminae, I’ve been in the mood to read more and more science fiction. It happens I get in a kick, but I wasn’t sure I was going to come out of my post Illuminae rut. Leviathan Wakes ripped me out by my teeth, straightened me up, slapped me across my face, stood back, and said “Behold.” Leviathan Wakes is a brilliant and engaging space opera.
So let’s just start out with some basics. We are in the far future where humanity has spread it’s wings and have properly taken to space. There are is no possibility of jumping out of our system yet, however we’ve expanded. We’ve reached a point where there are three major sects of humanity. There are people from Earth, which has altered and continued to cram for space making large unit family life (with single children) something that affords benefits like more land. Then there are people who live on Mars and have now developed their own society, but most importantly they have cows. Then there are those who have grown up entirely in space. The people who live on the massive stations like Ceres and Eros are known as Belters and have evolved over time due to living in low g. The result is you get a sense of how vast things have become also how stratified.
And that is only a small taste. One of the best things about this book is the worldbuilding. You get a strong sense of the tensions between the different groups both outside and within. You meet so many different kinds of people with different views and slowly you get this broad sense of what this world is like. Then the more you spend with the characters things become deeper. By the end of this book, I felt like I was a part of this world it felt so rich and layered. I could wait for more. A large part of why it was done so well was because it was a combination of the way it was handled. Sometimes you were getting information of this world through little inferences you had to make. Other times you learned things from sly comments and discussions between characters. Still there were other times when you got these beautiful sweeping explanations of various things. But don’t be scared, this is not hard science fiction so it never feels daunting. However, it is enough to wrap you up in everything this world has to offer.
Tying everything together is a girl named Juliette Mao. I won’t rob you of everything wonderful that comes along with this character, but there is no denying that she is the heart of the story. You get the hint of that when you first start the book and the prologue grabs hold of you and forces you to see what this world could be. Honestly, it was her journey through this book that hooked me in the beginning and made me want to hold on to the people that she ended up uniting.
As for the characters, we have two main perspectives in this novel. On one hand there is Miller. He’s a cynic. He’s hardened by his life as a Ceres contact cop under Star Helix. He’s seen the worst of people and still pulls himself through. He’s also highly flawed. I’m talking he’s the kind of drunk that you’ve gone past worrying about because you know there’s nothing you can do to change him. You just shake your head and decide whether you’re going to listen or not. He’s abrasive. He’s crude, but he’s also one of the most fascinating and engaging characters this book has to offer. He’s a loner and probably could only call himself friends to very few. No one wants him. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really like him at first. I initially found his partner more engaging. However, as he came out of the shell he was forced into I liked him more. He had a sharp wit and told interesting stories. His morality was about as gray as it could get. By the end of the book, I was attached to him in a way that bordered on irrational. He just came to life and felt so real, like a man I had truly gone through a journey with.
The other main perspective is Holden. In many ways, he is the polar opposite of Miller. From Earth he was ex Navy and the new XO aboard the ice freighter Canturbury. He may have been a bit of a man slut sleeping around the ship to a degree, but it’s hard not like him. There’s just something genuinely sweet and good about him. That said he’s not a pushover. He’s the kind of charismatic guy that one would want to follow and that becomes evident with his crew. They respect him, they love him, and they don’t question that Holden is going to do everything in his power to keep the people he cares about and the people he’s protecting safe. At times, I admit that he felt a little bit too goody two shoes for me, especially as Miller became increasingly more interesting, but it was him who grounded me. Not to mention that his interactions with his people were brilliant. I was so engaged in all of his relationships that I could have probably read a whole book with him.
I’ve done a lot of talking about the world and the characters, but I’ve said nothing about the plot. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to spoil you of anything because the plot was just as good as everything else. The story moves through with a pace that keeps you interested. It peaks and dips a tiny bit before picking right back up again. It keeps you constantly moving. And when the story does lull out a bit to give you a break after giving you the sweats, it is delivering solid character and worldbuilding moments that are all seeding the next big event. This near perpetual motion made everything feel like you are making progress.
Overall, I walked away from this book feeling satisfied in a way like i hadn’t before. I read it more slowly than I had any other book in a while. It wasn’t because I didn’t constantly want to read it, but I wanted to parse it out and savor it. I was constantly thinking about how I felt about the last event. Trying to parse out the wonder that was going to happen next. I can not wait to move on to the next book in the series.