Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1)Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Idealistic Jim Holden discovers a derelict spaceship and unwittingly ignites a deadly war; meanwhile, run-down cop Detective Miller searches for a missing woman who may have the key to it all.

Growing tensions between Earth, Mars, and the scattered stations of the Belt lead to war in a galaxy where human annihilation is as simple as throwing rocks into a planet's atmosphere. The stars remain unreachable because human curiosity has stagnated amidst age-old societal problems. The ethnic racism of the past has turned into racism based on what level of gravity a person grew up in. Enter our heroes.

The starship Scopuli was empty when Jim Holden stumbled upon it, but someone is willing to start a war that could make humans extinct just to hide the truth behind its vanished crew. In the ensuing chaos, the fate of Julie Mao is easy to overlook. But Detective Miller, once a good cop and now burnt out alcoholic, finds himself drawn to the missing woman and determined to track her down.

This book is a perfect cocktail of horror, noir crime fiction, and space opera. It's science fiction that's all about the characters - an idealist and a cynic - and the disappointing parts of human nature. It's fast-moving, tense, and in places utterly terrifying - which is everything good space opera should be. (It reminded me of Firefly, too, which is awesome!) The story is dark, but because of the balance of likable characters it manages to be optimistic about human potential rather than veering into nihilism.

Leviathan Wakes feels like a self-contained story and can stand alone pretty well, but I'm definitely going to pick up the sequel, Caliban's War, as well as the third book of the Expanse series, Abaddon's Gate.

Final observations:
  • The mystery element and world-building made me think of Isaac Asimov's classic The Caves of Steel.
  • The authors (James S.A. Corey is actually the pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) mention being influenced by the Dread Empire's Fall series by Walter Jon Williams, which starts with The Praxis.
  • I would say it's the best space opera I've read since A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge.
  • Vomit zombies

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