Tuesday, February 23, 2016

2011: LEVIATHAN WAKES by James S. A. Corey

The Locus SF  award in 2014 decided to torment me and give best novel to the third book of a series - Abaddon's Gate of The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey (a pen name of writing team Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). So, I have to go back and read books one and two - luckily I had already read the first book, Leviathan Wakes.

The Corey duo are closely associated with George R. R. Martin (Franck is his assistant), and part of the point of The Expanse seems to be to take the formula that made Song of Ice and Fire so huge and apply it to hard sf. The result is a sprawling story that blends politics and traditional genre tropes with chapters that give 3rd person-limited points-of-view on a discreet set of characters. Though, when I say "genre tropes," I should add that there's plenty of noir detective and horror to go with the hard sf setting. And unlike Martin's dense and ambitious work, Leviathan Wakes is heavy on action and light on theme or even world-building.

The two main characters are Jim Holden, the captain of a freighter working beyond the asteroid belt, and Detective Miller, a cop on the asteroid colony of Ceres. The latter gets the aforementioned noir bits, while Holden gets to run around through some action scenes. It turns out that both of them are tangled up in the same case, which involves extra-terrestial life (which leads to the horror elements) and an inter-planetary conspiracy to start a war across the solar system.

If it sounds incredibly pulpy, it is. But, the authors do manage to put some thought into the colonies and conspiracies and even the characters. It's not high-art, but it's not trash either; instead it threads the needle like an unusually smart summer blockbuster. It's a very entertaining read that zips by, even at nearly 600 pages.

I haven't seen the SyFy series yet, but I am intrigued.

Grade: B+

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