Thursday, May 19, 2016

Earth VS Mars VS The Belt

Hola Readers, sorry for the lack of posting, but 110 hours in 8 days on an ambulance makes this little bookworm a wee bit exhausted.  I have however gotten some sleep and finished an awesome book so lets ramble for a bit shall we?  The book is Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey...which is actually the pen name of two authors by the names of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.  It is the first book in the Expanse series which is a pretty epic story in space.  My Mamma recommended it and as always she knows what I like.  Let's dive right into it shall we?  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
The book is pretty much divided between the perspectives of Detective Miller and Captain Holden.  Each chapter switches between the two characters and is labeled as such and makes the reading experience very clear and concise.  Before all that though we start with a proloug in which we meet Julie.  Julie appears to be a prisoner and we watch her escape onto an empty ship where she makes a horrifying discovery of her entire crew and her captors turned into a weird pile of sludge and still living body parts...pretty blechy if you ask me.  She makes her escape and our story starts.  On Ceres station, in an area of space called The Belt, Detective Miller is tasked with finding Julie Mao, the daughter of a wealthy business family who has run away to join the OPA (Outer Planet Alliance) a loosely formed group that runs the gamet between an advocacy group and out and out terrorists.  Essentially people who live outside the inner planet area (mostly Mars and Earth) feel that they are discriminated against by the inner planet folk.  I could really write pages about the politics, but I think this is enough for the current story.  Detective Miller starts his research and he and the reader start to get to know Julie through various means as he searches for any sign of her.  Meanwhile on a ship called the Canterbury XO Holden takes a group of people to check out a ship called the Scopuli which is giving off a distress signal.  While exploring a mysterious force destroys the Canterbury leaving Holden and his crew (Naomi, Alex, Amos and Shed) as the remaining survivors.  Holden makes a discovery that the equipment used to send the fake distress signal was of Martian origin and he sends out a broadcast to the universe to that affect.  This essentially sets of a war between the OPA and Mars.  Holden and his crew then begin a series of moves and discoveries that eventually coincide with Detective Miller and his search for Julie.  Holden and his crew end up on a station that specializes in construction and is run by Fred Johnson, a former military hero turned OPA leader in a "commandeered" ship that the crew now call their own.  They ally with Fred as he is willing to be reasonable and utilize his resources to get to the bottom of the whole mystery.  Eventually the crew meets up with Detective Miller on Eros station where they finally find the body of Julie Mao...after a pretty bloody fire fight.  The body is growing weird growths of various shapes, sizes and textures.  After this discovery, the station goes into lock down and the inhabitants are herded into various "safe" zones.  Miller and Holden get separated and discover that the lock down is just a ploy to get the people gathered so that this mysterious group can experiment on them...without their knowledge of course.  After much stuff and things we finally discover that an Earth cooperation had discovered a block of ice embedded with an alien virus that was meant to rewrite DNA long before humans came along.  The cooperation wants to find a way to modify the virus to rewrite human DNA for various means.  The cooperation is ended, but they are still left with the problem of Eros.  Video and audio feeds from Eros reveal a horror show of growths, human remains acting in unnatural ways, and the station itself reacting to all attempts to destroy it.  Eventually Miller realizes that Julie is still alive in some form and that the virus is using her experiences and mind to do its dreadful work.  Miller boards the station and makes his way through the haunting and terrifying situation to find what is left of Julie and convinces her to crash the station on Venus, a planet that is still inhabitable by humans.  There the virus starts to rework the planet.  The rest of the human inhabited universe learns what is going on and goes back to some semblance of normalcy and Holden and his crew fly off to further adventures.  Obviously a very abbreviated version of a fairly complex book, but it's the gist of the story if nothing else.
World Building - This book is set apx 200 years in the future, in a combination of space, ships, stations and planets.  The authors did a fantastic job in setting up a complex and sweeping universe without boring the crap out of anybody.  The "science" of things felt plausible, which for me is always a plus as when things get tossed in with no sense it takes me out of the world.  It was not overly explained, nor was information withheld just to try and up the tension.  I felt like I had a good grasp of the asthetics, politics, and society of this books worlds. While reading it was easy to get immersed in the world as it unfolded in a natural and complete way.  World building gets an A+++++ from me :-)

Story - I loved the story put forth in this book.  With all of the complex politics and world building it would be very easy to loose the story in all of the details that the author could have piled on us.  Instead we get a clear, engaging mystery that has a beginning, middle and end while still leaving tons of room for future stories.  I am always impressed, especially in hard core sci fi and an author(s) can produce a readable story that is as fresh and original as this one.  I think the fact that the authors pulled in elements of noir, horror, mystery and a the perfect amount of humor really brought this story into the realm of a great read.  In the end we are left with an intriguing mystery that has just the right amount of twists and reveals that also lets us learn about the characters and the universe.  Good show guys good show.

Characters - The characters of this book were spot on.  Each main character was full developed with their own stories, belief's, moral code and attitude.  I felt like I could walk up to any of them and know exactly who they were.  The interactions between the characters was superb, with each interaction adding to the story and the picture of each character.  Miller and Holden's interactions were my favorite as the authors used them to show both sides of almost every situation.  They would have discussions and arguments and by the time they were done, you could at a minimum agree that they both had valid points.  I love this because it made the book feel balanced and fair and that the authors were not trying to shove any sort of agenda down your throats.  I also liked how every character stayed in character...what I mean is nobody did anything wildly out of character just to further the story.  Character rocked it.

Editing - The way the book was set up, with each chapter focusing on a specific character that we got to know very well was the perfect format for this book.  It was easy to follow, engaging and we got all the information we needed to understand exactly what was going on.  Sometimes in these epic sagas I have to flip back a couple pages to make sure I understand what I am reading, but this book flowed so smoothly.  Considering that two separate authors worked on this book, makes this feat even more amazing.  Go editors!

Language - The use of language in this book added a lot to the clarification and understanding of the various places in the universe.  For instance the Belters have their own lingo, stringing together words and phrases in a way that would only make sense to a native.  The closer to the inner planets you get the more refined the language becomes.  The characters also have a habit of giving names to things they have never seen before.  My personal favorite is vomit zombies, which is what they call the inhabitants of Eros station that have been infected by the alien virus.  It has got to be one of the most descriptive yet simple labels I have ever heard and I now use it in my everyday vernacular.  Each character also has a distinct voice that the authors wrote to reflect each particular individuals background and life.  Overall the language of this book was used to enhance the world building to a very effective degree.

Julie Mao - I'm gonna give this character her own space 'cause for all that she is only physically present in the book for a couple of pages, her existence is pretty much the whole basis for this book.  I found it brave and interesting that the actions of this girl, who made choices and decisions that any of us would have made are pretty much the catalyst for so many things in this book.  I also like how well we got to know her as a person and how the characters also got to know her in their own ways.  This is all very crucial near the end, when this feeling of knowing...and in Detective Millers case, loving Julie, leads to the understanding of how the virus is controlling the station.  Julie is very much a present character through out the entire story despite her pretty much being dead from the beginning. She is important to us not only in the beginning, but through out the book as she becomes part of each step of the mystery and in particular what she becomes to Detective Miller.  It is a great way to add a bit of an unusual twist to the story.

TV Show - The Syfy channel has attempted to make this into a tv show called The Expanse and in all honesty it's not bad.  My biggest issue with it is that after the clear and directness of the book, the tv show actually feels overly complicated...which is weird 'cause usually I'm upset because they over simplify things.  That being said the show really tried hard, and in most cases succeeded in showing us the various places in the universe and their disparate societies.  It is visually stunning and the casting is pretty well done.  I know they are trying to get the politic and such across...I just wish they had stuck to the cleaner format.  I will however be watching the next season so there is that.

Overall Impression - In case you hadn't figured it out, I really enjoyed this book.  It is everything I want a science fiction book...well any book really to be.  It avoided many of the pitfalls that these sweeping epics tend to fall into and left me with a very readable, very enjoyable, very good book.  I am desperately hoping this quality keeps up through out the series and will without a doubt be picking up the next book. I give this book 8 out of 10 textured fungus skewers and recommend it to any fan of science fiction, epics, or just a great combination of story, world building and character.
Happy Reading Everybody!


  1. Only 8 out of 10? Sounds like it had something interesting in all categories. What was it that kept this from being a 10?

    1. I really enjoyed the book, but it didn't quit have that indefinable something that pushes it into the 10 category. I can never really explain why a book makes it to a 10, it's just a think :-)