Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Leviathan Wakes

James S.A. Corey
Completed 9/27/2014, Reviewed 9/28/2014
3 stars

October is space opera month for my SF book club.  It didn’t matter what book they were going to pick, I just don’t care for space opera.  I considered skipping this one, but since I figured out I could use it for one of my challenges (The Book of Ones: read the first book of a series), I though what the hell, give it a try.  To my surprise, it wasn’t half bad.

The crew of the Canterbury investigates a distress signal emanating from a small asteroid.  James Holden and a few of the crew take a shuttle to the surface where they find an empty ship.  Another ship seemingly appears out of nowhere and vaporizes the Canterbury.  Left on the asteroid, they find a battery from the Mars Navy, leading them to believe the attack on their ship was from Mars.  Holden broadcasts his findings on an open signal, starting a war between Mars and the inhabitants of the Asteroid belt. 

At the same time, Detective Miller, a “Belter” himself, is assigned the investigation of the disappearance of Julie Mao, an heiress.  As the tensions between Mars and the Belters escalate, Miller finds that Julie may somehow be connected to the war.  This leads Holden and Miller on a dangerous trek to figure out and try to stop the hostilities that are overtaking the solar system. 

What I liked most about this book was the character development.  Most space operas I’ve read are full of two dimensional characters that make it easy to figure out who to cheer for and who to boo.  The two main characters are basically good, but struggle with their own demons and bad decisions, making for interesting angst. 

Miller, while being a fairly typical noir-pot-boiler detective, has a lot of complexity.  Besides the usual angst, he finds himself obsessed with finding the heiress and falling in love with her specter, at the same time questioning his own motives and relationship to the other Belters calling for the blood of the Martians.

Holden is a good guy.  He believes in the truth.  But it seems like every ship he comes into contact with seems to get destroyed.  Whenever he reports back the truth, as he sees it, of who blew up what, the violence of the war spirals toward new heights of depravity.      

I also liked the mystery of the alien goo that keeps popping up around the asteroid belt.  Sort of a variation on “The Blob”, it turns people into “vomit zombies” and leaves them a mass of writhing gelatinous filth.  Combined with the political chaos of the solar system wide war and the search for the heiress, it made for quite an exciting page turning plot point.

Though not a great novel, this is a pretty enjoyable read.  The moral dilemmas facing the main characters made for some interesting interpersonal relationships.  I liked that the book wasn’t as oppressively heavy as a C.J. Cherryh opera and read better than most of the entries I’ve read in the Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga.  I don’t plan on reading the rest of the Expanse trilogy, but I don’t regret reading its first entry either.  I give this book a nice middlin’ three stars out of five.  


  1. I'm completely the opposite in that I love Space Opera. I'm sure it was growing up under the influence of George Lucas as the Star Wars films were coming out, and starting my life-long passion for science fiction by reading Brian Daley's Han Solo novels, that cemented my love of this kind of science fiction.

    I was really impressed with Leviathan Wakes and have enjoyed the other two books in the Expanse series, and the various shorter works, that I've read. I'm still one book behind, and in a few months will no doubt be two books behind. There is always so much to read.

    1. Hi Carl. I think I've figured out that I love watching space opera, like Star Wars. Reading it is another matter. I've been finding myself warming up to it, though, and might eventually read the rest of the Expanse series myself.

    2. It is the fact that we don't all like the same kind of fiction that breeds all the interesting subgenres...so its a good thing that we all have our different interests. I do know for a fact that Star Wars has had the biggest influence on what I like to this day. My interests have certainly expanded beyond that, but have never expanded away from it, if that makes sense.