Welcome back to GNBC, a bimonthly virtual book club hosted by Geeky Musings from a Nerdy Girl.
Our selection for June/July (ok, I’m a little late) is Leviathan Wakes, the first book of The Expanse series by a pair of authors writing as James S.A. Corey. This book was a re-read for me, but I didn’t care at all because this book (and in fact the whole series) is great.
I also got my husband to read it with me, which was cool because I think this is the first time we’ve ever read the same book at the same time!
Leviathan Wakes imagines a future in which humans have taken flight into the solar system, setting up colonies on Mars as well as various moons and asteroids. (Incidentally, I don’t see myself being one of these pioneering humans. Space travel sounds cool, but I’m not sure I could handle it physically or mentally. I think I’ll keep my feet planted in Earth’s gravity.)
But this future is no utopia; there are still economic stresses, prejudices, and politics, with tentative relations between Earth, Mars, and “the Belt.” Plus there’s a conspiracy brewing that could break these fragile bonds, and Jim Holden, XO of the ice hauler Canterbury, and his crew as well as Joe Miller, a detective on Ceres, get caught up in the middle of it. In fact, they’re on the trail of a new discovery that could make or break the future of humanity.
One great thing about Leviathan Wakes is how it mixes genres (much like one of our previous books, The Water Knife). The backbone of the books is a nice space opera, with plenty of action and a hint of romance, but it also throws in some politics, detective noir, and horror; it reads a lot like a thriller.
Holden and Miller are good foils for each other, and their differences of opinion help frame the book’s themes. Each character written by a different author (Holden by Ty Franck and Miller by Daniel Abraham), but while they each bring a different perspective and attitude, the transition between them is pretty seamless.
Holden is an idealist, Miller a cynic. Holden believes in freedom of information (he would love Wikileaks…), while Miller understands that information equals power, and you need to tell people what the raw data mean and not just throw it out there. He doesn’t trust people to form the correct conclusions and has seen the danger that can result from that situation. I probably come down more on Miller’s side, but when I’m reading Holden’s perspective I always feel like he’s exactly right in what he’s doing; I want to believe in the intelligence and goodness of mankind like he does. So I guess that’s the sign of a good book!
The supporting cast of the book is really excellent, and the camaraderie of Holden’s crew is awesome–my favorite scene is actually just of them eating dinner together on their ship. I knew my husband had reached this scene when he started laughing out loud.
I’ve already read the 2nd and 3rd books in the series. Caliban’s War, the 2nd book, is my favorite of the bunch so far. It has great POV characters and a pretty happy ending; one of the plot points revolves around crowdfunding!
Abaddon’s Gate, the 3rd book, gets very slow in the middle and the POV characters are not as compelling; it also introduces some more sci-fi elements that increase the scope of the series. I definitely plan to continue reading the series (I’ve got some catching up to do–the 6th book will be out soon)
I got my husband to read the books because we’ve been watching (and loving) the Syfy TV adaptation, called The Expanse. We agreed that it’s probably the best adaptation possible, with great casting (though I’m not sold on Holden’s actor), and the addition of Avasarala from the 2nd book gives us a perspective from Earth and more political intrigue sooner. We also agreed that the character development is still way better in the book (as usual). The first season of the show (which covers about the first half of Leviathan Wakes) can be found in rotation on Syfy’s website.
Phew, that was a long post, but I’m happy to talk more in the comments.
For September, we’ll be reading The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. See you then!
Sounds like an exciting story! It’s been too long since I’ve read one of these – in fact, I hadn’t even heard of the term ‘space opera’ for this subgenre.
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It is very exciting! Definitely worth it if you don’t mind long reads.
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Once again Mei-Mei, you’ve proved the maxim “learn something new every day” because I had no idea that the authors had split up the writing duties for Holden and Miller. I mean, in hindsight, it seems like an obvious way to do it, but because the transitions were so seamless, I never felt like I was reading the work of two different people. That revelation also makes me wonder if Franck and Abraham are more like the characters they were writing, or how they decided who was going to write from who’s POV. I’ll definitely have to do some more digging!
I also love the connection you made to The Water Knife. I hadn’t even thought about that, but your comment reminded me that I had questioned whether or not Bacigalupi’s novel had been categorized correctly because it didn’t fall neatly into the sci-fi genre and was more of a mix of things too.
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I’m not entirely sure how they split up the characters, either. I think one of them had a proclivity for the “noir” aspects, and so did Miller. I believe they edit each other’s work, too, which is probably why it’s so seamless.