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