BOOKS – Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes is the first in The Expanse series of books written by authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck under the pen name of James S. A. Corey. Published in June 2011 by Orbit Books and followed by 5 more titles in the series. SyFy has picked up the series for a TV production which premiered yesterday (December 14, 2015) and is written and produced by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. You can even watch the first episode for free by following the link at the bottom of the page!

What’s It About?

We’re far into the future of human expansion into our local solar system and things have settled down to a day-to-day humdrum of the rich on Earth and Mars, and the poor and alien-looking workers in the Belt. But when you have a bunch of poor suckers eking out a living hauling natural resources to an uncaring faraway rich world, trouble will eventually brew beneath the foot of the giant.
Into this pot add one washed out, boozed up rent-a-cop whose job it is to kidnap a wealthy scion and pack her off to her parents and yet still carries the illusion around of being an actual policeman. Add a small band of survivors who watch their friends and home blow up for no discernible reason and one very big secret worth killing millions for to the right sort of people. Together it makes for a riveting, fast-paced high-stakes tale of the stars complete with firefights, alien goo and hard-boiled space jockeys.

I should add that in my opinion this book is less a story about aliens and more about science gone mad.

Leviathan Wakes poster and cover art.

Leviathan Wakes poster and cover art.

What’s Good?

First of all, I have to say I read this thing in almost one sitting. I don’t do that anymore but this book I truly had trouble putting down. Even including that quick stop to complain on Twitter.

Miller, Miller, Miller. He’s Sam Vimes in low gravity without Corporal Carrot to keep him on the straight and true. No really. and that’s awesome.

And the fact that SyFy cast Thomas Jane for that role in their show of the same name which premiered YESTERDAY, just makes me all the more happy. Because if he’s not your favorite Punisher there’s something wrong with… Well, he just bloody well is, alright!
– ahem –

Holden. This guy really annoyed me. And that’s good. In the uncomfortable, ‘yeay I managed to read this whole book without throwing it despite this guy’ – sort of way. No also in the ‘crap he’s saying stuff I said and now I may have to admit I didn’t think it all the way through’ – way.

Fallen Suns Cold Corridor by Macrebisz

Fallen Suns Cold Corridor by Macrebisz

The thing that sealed the deal for me with Leviathan Wakes is, however, a total spoiler and since I want you to watch the series (and read the books!) I can’t very well blow that for you. Suffice to say that if you are aware of my preferences in stories you will understand why this conflation of nerdy genres just does it for me. It’s not cowboys in space, per se, but it is something else in space. You’ll see!

The arguments. Corey doesn’t silver plate his (their? Omg awkward!) truths for you. I like that in an author. In Leviathan Wakes the main themes are turned over and over in the hands of the dialogue and narrative in a way that lets the reader touch all the nobbly bits without ever feeling preachy.

The recurring discussions between Holden and Miller are about the idealism and price of an open society versus the fettered and cynical one where its government keeps secrets from its people. While it does feel as if Abraham and Franck, in their (fine, going with this!) book, have a preference, they do shine an unabashed light on the underbelly of either philosophy. In the end, nobody comes out of that looking lily-white and truthfully I’m more than a little dismayed at my own reaction. I may need to go slacktivist RT some Bernie Sanders tweets to wash that thought out of my brain. And that, lads and lasses, is for me the hallmark of a good sci-fi story. Mess with your mind, makes you question yourself and your motives.

Yes I used ‘slacktivist’ as a verb, sue me!

The action. Awesome action scenes! Lots of shooting and fighting and missiles and explosions and vacuum deaths and ALL THE THINGS I LIKE! \ o /

The Expanse TV Series poster

What’s Bad?

Sciency folks in labs are bad, M’kay. This is a schtick that will always bother me. This scary image of the ruthless inhuman monster in the lab coat. The nerd that’s out to kill us all with his curiosity and lack of human empathy. I think that stereotype harms us more than it serves to warn of the possibility of another Mengele coming around. Yes, it’s a scary thought. All that brain behind a compassionless vehicle. But you know what’s more scary? Vast swaths of voters who glorify ignorance and treat science with suspicion. That’s a whole lat more scary than curiosity for curiosity’s sake. And I can think of few endeavors more suited to training you to love this messed up planet more than pursuing the knowledge to understand what makes it and us tick. That being said, Leviathan Wakes does conflate the scary brainiac with the soulless corporation so there’s that. And gets around the stereotype sticking point with a bit of a breezy fix-all, but at least, the writers should be safe from irate lab workers sending them yeast samples in revenge.

Eclipse Phase Synthmorph by macrebisz

Eclipse Phase Synthmorph by macrebisz

Too many dicks on the dancefloor. Seriously too many men in this story. I don’t care what feminist hate phrases you want to heap at me the gender ratio for this futuristic setting is off by a mile. But I’m told to stick with the story and it’ll even out some so that’s what I’ll do and will be very pleased to report any improvements on this in future reviews.

Seriously if you are looking for any women in any sort of position of importance for the story or power derived from the setting, this is not a good place to go looking. There’s the XO and love interest, there’s the Mario Princess in the other tower who ends up fridged, there’s the dead not-exactly girlfriend/ recurring motivation to do stupid shit oh and let’s not forget about the token lady ball-breaking cop boss.

That’s not a cliché at all…*

Castle - Victoria Gates

Castle – Victoria Gates

Madeleine Hightower - The Mentalist

Madeleine Hightower – The Mentalist

Renee Montoya - Gotham

Renee Montoya – Gotham

– anyways –

Holden. Christ on a pogo-stick that guy drives me nuts. I haven’t wanted to choke a… character this bad since Corso in Star Wars: The Old Republic (Disclaimer: Holden is not like Corso in any other respects than he’d be much nicer with a mute button).
I mean there are antiheroes and grey characters and those all good things. But when you are actively hoping the main character gets killed off then you are as a reader, put in an uncomfortable spot. I wouldn’t say it’s as bad as in Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap series where I actively disliked every single character. I don’t really want Holden quartered, drawn and spaced without a vac suit. I just would prefer it if he didn’t speak. Ever.
Of course, his function isn’t to be nice or charming. It’s to champion the opposite to Miller’s overly pragmatic and ruthless approach to problem solving but for my preference, I would have liked to see that from someone less unappealing as this sticky twerp.

I would still recommend reading this book. It’s got tons of very cool action scenes, a solid enticing and believable plot, thoughtful asides, and social commentary.

"Mao - Leviathan Wakes" Zbrush by Anna Schmelzer

“Mao – Leviathan Wakes”
Zbrush by Anna Schmelzer

Other Bits Worth Noting:

These latter years have brought us a slew of very successfully screen-adapted stories. And I’m not saying this one won’t be such. The pilot, however, after watching it left me pretty clueless as to what the hell the plot was. My suggestion to get the most Squee in your TV (heh, see what I did there? No? w/e) is to read the first book before watching. Or do as I did, watch the pilot, read the book then watch the pilot again. SyFy has made the pilot episode, Dulcinea available on their website. You can watch it here:

SyFy Channel The Expanse 101 – Dulcinea

You can find the Twitter account for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck here: @JamesSACorey

You can find the Kindle edition for Leviathan Wakes here at the Canadian Amazon: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

* No I don’t think all clichés are bad.

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