Leviathan Wakes | Guest Book Review

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Publication Date: June 2nd 2011

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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.

Hello again, this Mr. Constellation. I’ll be reviewing the first book in the 9 book Expanse series, called Leviathan Wakes. Written by James S. A. Corey, a pen name for the team-up of writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. The book is about interplanetary humanity as it stands at the brink of war. The story is set in the near future with a united Earth in a tenuous relationship with (human-inhabited and militaristic) Mars, while both of them are trying to keep control of Belters (humans whose entire lives have been on asteroids). It focuses on the perspective of two men, Detective Josephus “Joe” Miller who’s trying to find a rich man’s missing daughter, and James “Jim” Holden an asteroid ice hauler who manages to narrowly escape death with the help of his ragtag group. Circumstances bring the two together on a mission to literally try to save the human race.

Where do I even begin? The authors have stated that this series isn’t meant to be hard science fiction (where very real-world physics provide ramifications for narrative choices), but a softer sci-fi take with a far more grounded universe. I’m absolutely enthralled at this level of authenticity to provide a tether to the logical part of me. I did enjoy the focus on the menial blue-collar person, instead of being swayed through the narrative with high position officers with protocol and bombastic choices that have very little heart given to the common person ‘in the background’. With this story, we ARE in the background. Even if the main character’s choices eventually lead them to the foreground. I very much loved how much agency these characters were given, but ultimately pawns and gnats compared to the larger governmental systems they inhabit. For as free as these people seemed to be, the authors spent no chapter without reminding me of just how chained to the consequences of their actions they are, whether to their respective authority or to their own bodily functions and limits.

Corey manages to make quick passes over descriptions of things around them. Sometimes to the detriment of how little of the ‘environment’ I actually see. While I’m never in the dark as to where a certain character is, it’s not always as vivid as I would like. Some rooms I can see with detail, others may as well be a dark and damp non-descript industrial building with random chains hanging about and lights coming in from outside. Maybe it’s that I haven’t read enough books in general, but some of their descriptions of things are just…confusing. There are words I have to look up, (and I know a lot of words in the English language), terms that I’ve never heard used in this or that manner, or word choices that throw me off within the context of this story. I’m pretty sure it’s just my lack of literacy, but I hope with the later books this gets much better.

I really enjoyed how the plot manages to center around these characters while being able to introduce supporting characters and even have major players just out of focus in the background. Many book series do tend to lose focus as they go about their plot seemingly trying to satisfy every nook and cranny of character imaginable. To the point where some characters are forgettable. Not here. Every character that is even given a sentence is treated with tendrils that attach in some form or another to the main characters or the environment they’re in. No one is shoe-horned in, no one is out of place. That is impressive. It certainly gives merit to the ‘Game Of Thrones in Space’ commendation. Corey made me care about nearly all the people who were given a chance to speak. They breathed life into the voiceless crowd to the point where I wanted to know their story. From Diogo to Havelock, Julie to all of James’s parents. 

The length of the book was perfect at the beginning but seemingly rushed at the end. The number of pages given to each perspective, the issues that came up, allowed for not only my mind to take it in, but my heart to deal with the heartaches. As the story began to heat up, so to did the amount of action and violence. Surprisingly it didn’t get as gory as I thought it could get. That’s not to say bits of viscera weren’t sprinkled in. The goo was never as intense as I wish it would have been. I was more terrified of humans than anything bordering on the inhuman. So while it was a wild and enjoyable pace in the beginning and middle, I didn’t enjoy how many times it skipped in the last two chapters. It honestly felt like a scratched DVD. I felt robbed of a true story closure. It’s understandable why some of it would be left out. Whether to leave some story for a future book or to just hurry up and get to the cool epilogue. In any case, it ended rather well if you decided to not pursue more story. Much of the plot did get a satisfactory ending. There was also a spattering of great quotes peppered throughout the book.

To finish off this lengthy review, I most certainly am already reading book two: “Caliban’s War”. I expect no less of the same thrills, chills, and satisfaction that comes from reading a story that’s woven together with care and thought and heart. While I could also comment on the more problematic parts of the story (like the manic pixie trope, the damsel in distress, the space Jon Snow getting the girl that was surprisingly pinning for him, and some rather racist quips from the authors [not coming from a character]) I would like to point out that I didn’t want this to be an analysis just yet. I’ll wait till I’m on book five. 

Thank you,

Mr. Constellation

About the Author:

James S.A. Corey is the pen name of fantasy author Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. They both live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Find out more about this series and other works at www.danielabraham.com.

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Thank you for reading another guest post from my hubby! We hope you enjoyed!

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