Picking up the third book in the Expanse series, I worried that the story might not grab me as hard as the first two had. Silly. There’s plenty of big stuff going on here, from the protomolecule being finished on Venus and throwing a ring into space settling into a really outer system orbit, the OPA refitting a colony ship with some serious firepower to Julie Mao’s little sister Clarissa deciding that she needs to get revenge against Holden and crew. Well, mostly Holden.
I’m a sucker for well done space opera, and this whole series qualifies so far. All of the things to love about the first two books are here.
The characters are all deep, well-rounded, and well-realized, though I’m missing both Bobby Draper and Chrisjen Avasarala in this book, who I really enjoyed in Caliban’s War. Alex doesn’t get enough screen time for me in this story, but there’s a lot of Amos moments, and that makes me happy. We get new elements and expanded depth to the relationship between James and Naomi. It’s also worth noting that Pastor Anna eventually proves to be the character who presents everything that could be good about religion, an unusual take in SF. There is a character of the opposite stripe, however, someone you might enjoy disliking.
The world, and here the word takes in the entire solar system, its environs, and the various cultures and political entities inhabiting it, gets more complicated and more varied. Things are still going on, things outside the purview of the story itself, and some of those things impact the story in ways you don’t always expect.
The stakes are huge. The political situation is still tense and now it has three real sides, plus the independents who don’t really fit on any side, the crew of the Rocinante, for example. And some revelations about the protomolecule, the ring, and their origins crank the stakes even higher through the book. At the end, we’re left with a broadened view of what the universe might be like for the flawed and varied humans living in it.
Overall rating: 5 stars. Oh, sure, but it’s the third book in a series, and that series is currently slotted to have nine books. It’s hard to review a third book and have anyone care, especially if you want to keep things spoiler-free, which I try to do with most reviews.
But here’s a good spot to say I don’t give a lot of 5-star reviews, and I’ve given the first three books in this series 5 stars each. I really, really enjoyed Abaddon’s Gate, but it’s worth stating that you should start with the first book first. I started with Leviathan Wakes only after seeing the TV adaptation and guessing that the rule holding the book to always be better would actually hold. It does, and continues to. But read Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War first.
I’m not going to immediately move to Cibola Burn, and not because I’m worried about being let down. I want to draw out the reading experience on this series and not get to the point too soon where I have to wait for each new volume until it comes out.by