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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2011
It is entirely justifiable to call Leviathan Wakes one of the most hotly anticipated titles of the year. Touted by George R.R. Martin as a `kickass space opera` James S.A. Corey's debut is a return to the old-school form of space opera, but souped up to satisfy modern tastes. Delivering on Martin's promise of a kickass story, Corey makes every effort to mix together a crime plot with that of a tense struggle and an armed interplanetary conflict.This sprawling start to the aptly named `The Expanse' is a triumph of science fiction entertainment and fine writing.

Corey sets out both a creative view of humanity's future and a starkly realistic one. In his vision, humanity - at sub-light speeds - has extended its reach to the far ends of our solar system, establishing itself on Mars, the moons of the outer gas giants and on many of the larger components of the Asteroid Belt. Though not at all a hard SF novel, Leviathan Wakes does try to get some of its facts right, and its depiction of interplanetary travel and life outside of the homey confines of Earth reflect that, even if they are, in the end, purely fictional imaginings.

Brilliantly, Corey makes use of certain of these scientific `restrictions' as catalysts for conflict. So the `belters,' humans that were born and have lived in the Asteroid Belt have developed differently physically from their Terran and Martian cousins because of the low-gravity environment in which they subsist. These differences, much like our issues of race today, are sources of friction between the different factions of the solar system and eventually lead to greater conflict in the novel.

With this setting as a backdrop, Corey forges a twisted mystery that seems to weave in and out of the main characters' lives and connect every event. Leviathan Wakes, in its early stages, bears resemblance to pulpy, noir crime fiction, but does not let itself be bogged down in that atmosphere. Indeed, the immediate setting is always changing due to the breakneck pace at which the story unfolds, transitioning from one intriguing setting to the next, giving us the welcome opportunity to visit a good deal of the future of our solar system under Corey's care.

But at the heart of Leviathan Wakes are its characters. The telling of the story alternates between the view points of its two main characters, Miller and Holden. The former offers the perspective of the tired, post-prime detective who retains enough experience and street-smarts to still be of value, while the later represents the hopeful idealists, the do-gooders, those whose actions are dictated by higher morals whether they want to or not, and who is trapped in circumstances with no options that satisfy his moral restrictions. The contrast between these two characters is evident and, I assume, very much intentional as the tensions and moral differences play a big part in the book's conflicts.

Supporting these two colorful characters is an interesting bunch of secondary characters. Most notable are the members of Holden's crew aboard the Rocinante, who bring a brilliant dynamic to the novel as well as some well-placed comic relief and, at times, serve as emotional anchors for their Captain. The chemistry between all of the novel's characters - be that because of their tendency to be archetypical or not - is fabulous and a pure joy to read.

Leviathan Wakes is an exorbitant collection of all the elements that make old-school space operas so great. The Daniel Abraham - Ty Franck duo hiding behind the James S. A. Corey monicker succeed in bringing to life boisterous characters in a thriving vision of our future. The worst that can be said about the book is that the constant movement and the speed at which events unfold, though mostly outrageously fun, can sometimes be tiring and leads to some of the plot resolutions feeling a bit rushed and too convenient. That's it. Apart from that, Leviathan Wakes is a surefire way of getting your quality science fiction fill. Needless to say, this first book in `The Expanse' is highly recommended. The second novel, Caliban's War, appears to already be nearly completed so should be expected for next year.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 13 September 2012
Death, destruction, politics, space ships, villans, getaways and, yes, zombies. This space opera is one fast paced mash-up of every other sci-fi situation you can think of and its all done really, really well. Taken from two characters viewpoints throughout, these slowly come together as the plot moves around the massive settlements of the asteroid belt, where humnaity makes its home.

Laviathan Wakes starts out as Alien/Event Horizon, when a missing ship sends out a distress call that is not what it seems. This is then mixed with the politics of Red Mars and quickly spun into the battles of Pandoras Box. Having escaped the mayhem, our heroes move on to a dose of Resident Evil and then..... well I won't go on more as I might spoil the story. Sufficient to say this is a great, slightly retro, page turner and really enjoyable
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2014
A story told from two perspectives of an incident that could see the end of the human race. Yeah, that sounds a great read.

I bought this as an ebook ages ago when it was on a offer at for 99p. It took a while to reach, not because i had a massive backlog, but because i was listening to lots of audiobooks. The book club i am in had read the latest volumes of the series and got great reviews - and these are people whose opinions i respect. So there was no stopping me from reading it.

And was i glad i did. Not just because the story is interesting and kept me on edge, but because the characters were fleshed out. The story is from 2 perspectives - Miller, a detective and Holden, a freighters XO. Both characters have their flaws, some serious some not so. They remind me of real people i know (all be it, not in space). I made a quick connection to not only them, but also the support characters. The support characters fleshed out the whole book, giving it a lived in appeal. I really enjoyed the ship scenes. I know this has been said many time before, it did give an impression of Firefly - not a bad thing in my opinion.

The writing was excellent. There was little in the way of annoying filler. The filler chapters gave a sense of family, how the characters were reacting to something. The action scenes were brief, but detailed. It came across to me as a lean story.

I am eager to get the rest of the series when time and money permits, as well as all the short stories. This is a series i will keep an eye on (especially as there will be a TV series produced as well).

I can not recommend this book enough.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2012
I owe someone a beer. There was an Amazon thread where someone recommended this as a good sci-fi book. On the look out for a new author and an excuse to read another modern Sci-fi (the last one was The Algebraist, which I found very rewarding), I took the plunge.

The setting is our fairly familiar solar system. Mars, the Moon, and several other moons and asteroids around the Solar System are populated by humanity and there are three major governments (or political entities). Earth (UN), Mars, and The Belt (pretty much most of the rest). I must admit, I had a few pangs of disappointment at reading this as my first thought was that this was going to quite limiting. However it isn't, and in fact, it helps the story move along. I found it quite easy to relate to the people and places and I am certainly no astronomer.

Ultimately though, a book needs more than a setting, it needs characters, it needs a good plot, it needs tension, and crisis... Of course this book has all of that in spades. It really doesn't take long at all to get to know the characters and appreciate their differences as they are whipped along by the fast paced plot. And tension is also abundant throughout the book. Each chapter is done from the POV of a particular character, which works well (and also seemed rather familiar). In fact, the author is an assistant to the writer of Game of Thrones. I found this out after being approximately 10% of the way through the book, and to be honest, I was disappointed (to be fair, I need to give Game of Thrones another go, but it didn't really enthral me). However, I didn't need to be as Carey is his own man and a great writer.

No review could fail to mention the humour too. This isn't intended to be Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and doesn't try to be, but it does mix humour in with a thrilling book.

Leviathan Wakes is a fantastic book. Forget that it is set in space, this book is full of high intensity passages I really struggled to close the kindle app and do something else. It is the type of book where even at work, I found myself discretely just reading "one more page..." while sitting at my desk. I can't wait for the next part to be released.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2012
I'll admit im not overly fond of serialised novels, i'm much likelier to read something if its a one off story, that's just me. I probably wouldn't have chosen Leviathan Wakes if the second or following book(s) we already out, it's more of a commitment and i didn't want to wade into a dull series that might have disapointed me. Quite often i end up enjoying serial novels but i chose to read Leviathan Wakes because it was new and not the daunting image of 6 novels worth of wandering one particular galaxy. Silly i know.

That said, im Very glad i've read this book. it's by far the best science fiction book i've read in a long time, completely gripping, solidly and artfully written, just wonderful. Fun Fact: the authour is actually two authours! which i assume helps explain the dual storylines that tangle together through the novel. I'm guessing they wrote a character each but i could well be wrong. Multiple storylines is hardly unique in books and crops up all over fiction, what makes it so special in Leviathan Wakes is the clever and tight timing used to switch between the two main characters. No sooner has some exciting development occured in one characters chapter, the reaction and fallout is presented from the other characters viewpoint, it's like being in a car crash and being able to watch it happen at the same time (or something like that).

I can see a lot of influences in the story, and the books final sequence features a trope used often in science fiction the 'Space Chase' where somebody is chasing the 'weird fast thing' through the final few chapters of the universe in a frantic bid to end the novel! (See: Housuke Nojiri's Usurper of the sun, Iain M Bank's Excession as two examples) im not knocking this common climax its just something that appears a lot, and makes me smile when it crops up again.

Mostly im just plain impressed by the tense pacing of the story and how well it plays out. Satisfiying & Pacey Action, fronted by well writen varied characters. I can happily say this time in looking forward to the next in the series.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2015
I enjoyed it: interesting characters, fast-paced unpredictable plot, good clear writing. I enjoyed the next two in the series . . .and then, dammit, I couldn't help asking myself precisely WHY the villain of no. 3 was willing to sacrifice all her worldly goods and status,risk her life, and become a mass-murderer to discredit the Hero when she could've done it a lot more easily with a more conventional smear campaign. Then, alas, I found myself wondering why the Evil Corporations in this book and its successor were similarly dedicated to villainy above and beyond both necessity and profit. We're repeatedly told that the alien protomolecule which figures so prominently would've been happy to eat pond-slime: why, then, did it have to be fed human beings?--particularly when feeding it human beings necessitated starting a war for cover and turning all its scientific staff into sociopaths. Investing in pond-slime would surely have been cheaper and easier, and probably they could've wangled a tax-break. It makes no sense.

Damn. Now I can't enjoy it any more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 January 2014
Several centuries in the future, mankind has colonised the planets and asteroids of the solar system but war between Earth and Mars threatens. Those working in the outer asteroid belt - the Belters - have little time for the Inners and as time has gone by their bodies have evolved, lengthened, lightened to demonstrate their difference from those who live on the inner planets. Life is difficult, crowded, suspicious.

Leviathan Wakes tells the story of two men - Miller, a Belter detective on Ceres and Holden, the Commanding Officer from Earth on a water-hauler that mines ice-comets to replenish the tanks of Ceres and colonies in the belt. When Holden answers a distress signal from a derelict ship he discovers a mystery that others will pursue. His own vessel is torn apart and when Holden blames Martian technology tensions soar. But even when Holden and his surviving crew are handed over to Martian authorities, he is still pursued by violence and deadly force. On Ceres Detective Miller has been given a problem to solve, one that is secondary to his normal role supporting the status quo on this wild west frontier in the belt. He is told to find Julie Mao, a girl with a powerful background who comes to obsess Holden's thoughts until nothing is as important as finding Julie.

Leviathan Wakes is a spectacular novel. The first in a space opera series it soars almost immediately and lays the solar system open to our exploration. From the horrific and compelling prologue, I was hooked. Much of the success is due, I think, to the division of the narrative into chapters that alternate been Holden and Miller. These are two very different men. One is still optimistic, with honour, wanting to do the right thing, to avenge his friends who are killed so pointlessly and instantly, while helping those who are caught in the blight that threatens the solar system.

Miller is jaded, divorced and cynical. This is no normal police force he works for - it is a security service paid for by the protection racket that just happens to be in power. But it's clear that something is happening to unsettle these gangs and as tensions build between Earth and Mars and the Belters, and clues drop that Julie's family may know something about it, his hunt for the missing girl takes him away from Ceres. Miller comes to believe that Julie may be the key to understanding the malevolent force that is threatening the system, even transforming it.

There is no let up in pace here. The book shuttles backwards and forwards between the two stories, drawing them ever closer. Action scenes are interspersed with passages of glorious description, bringing this entire world to life, whether aboard a spaceship, an asteroid or a planet. Characters are richly created, whether they manage to survive a chapter or not. Holden is always likeable whereas Miller is disturbing and dark. All the time, in the background, is Julie and the threat that shadows the solar system. Something truly evil, unknowable at best, is at work here and for much of the novel it's difficult to tell whether it's manmade or alien. But its impact on life is mindbendingly horrible and there are moments in this book that I will never forget. Even apart from the adventure, there is the fascinating social interplay that goes on between Earthers, Martians and Belters. The stars are out of reach - our solar system is crowded.

Leviathan Wakes grips from the beginning and it never lets up until the end and even then, while finishing in a satisfying manner, it makes you want to lurch onward to the next books in the series. I bought Caliban's War and Abaddon's Gate as I read this. The mix of adventure, mystery, great characters and superb worldbuilding is irresistible. Above all else, Leviathan Wakes is a good story very well told and I'm delighted to have embarked on this series and long may it continue.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 October 2012
This book has received a lot of praise, although it seems that it didn't work for a few reviewers. It has been compared with Peter Hamilton's works, among others, and has been presented as a "return to old school space opera". I very much agree that this is a great piece of science fiction which I would tend to see somewhere between the "old school space opera" and "military science fiction" and, yes, there are many similarities with Peter Hamilton. I very much liked this book. There are a number of reasons for finding it so good and I will try to list at least a few of them.

First, the trouble that the authors took in describing the "Belters'" society through the Ceres station, the main port in the Belt, was great. These descriptions, seen mainly through the eyes of Miller, a policeman and a native of Ceres, made me wonder about certain colonies in the 19th and early 20th century, perhaps Australia or Canada. This includes the ways in which they are exploited by the home planets, either Mars or Earth. It extends to their populations, made up of those who left Earth up to 2 or 3 generations to make a living in the Belt, and whose descendants have become physically different, with bodies that have adapted to lower gravity. They are somewhat looked down upon, if not downright despised, by the inhabitants of the two superpowers (Earth and Mars), a bit like "colonials" used to be by Europeans not so long ago. Needless to say, the Belters in this book developed just as little sympathy for the populations of both planets and day-to-day relations within the police department are fraught with xenophobia, especially since Miller's partner happens to be an "Earther". As a resistance and independence Belter movement seems to get ready to take over, the tension on Ceres increases.

The second theme, which is indeed similar to one used in several of Peter Hamilton's books is the prevalence of "evil" large corporations pursuing private interests and owning or operating whole stations populated by with millions of inhabitants. A related theme is that of corporate security and/or private security companies. One of the latter happens to be operating the contract for security of Ceres Station where it is the police force (and Miller's employer). You also get one of the main corporations running monstrous and atrocious experiments on humans that make Mengele and the Nazis sound like choir boys in comparison. The corporation's plan that allows it to continue its experiments with an engineers' so as to be able to pursue its experiments with an alien biological weapon are suitably evil and terrible, although I must confess that I did not understand how this alien technology was supposed to allow humans to reach the stars one day.

Another well-rounded character is Holden, who is the somewhat naïve idealist. He is the other main hero of the story, and an ex-UN Navy officer from Earth who begins the story as the second in command aboard an ice cargo that gets attacked by unknown pirates. The most interesting character of all happens to be the alien weapon itself which, as the story proceeds, seems to adapt to humans and become increasingly frightening. The book finishes rather well, despite the suspense, but Leviathan is now awake, and this is only the first volume of the series.

This was an exciting, entertaining and well-written read. I have already pounced onto the second volume and I am more than half way through it. Four stars for this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 2012

Leviathan Wakes was my first step into `modern' science-fiction. The last science-fiction that I actually read from start to finish was Neuromancer by William Gibson and although I enjoyed the book, it's of a genre of science-fiction that doesn't really fit in today's market. I have tried several other books since but I either got lost after three pages of futuristic science explaining how a spaceship works, or simply didn't get gripped by the story or narrative.

Leviathan Wakes, however, gripped me from the get-go. The prologue had me hooked from the second it started. I knew after reading those few pages, that I wouldn't be able to put this book down. Had I picked it up in a bookshop and read the first few pages, I would have had to take it home with me.


Jim Holden begins the story as the XO of the Canterbury, a water-hauler that travels from the rings of Saturn out to the Belt to bring water to its inhabitants. On their way, they stumble upon an abandoned ship, the Scopuli, with a breached hull and no signs of life. When Holden is sent to investigate by the captain, with a handful of the Canterbury crew as back-up, he has no idea he is about to start the largest inter-galactic conflict that there has ever been, watch his ship be reduced to dust, and become the captain of his crew. Straightforward, sometimes rash, and a little naïve and idealistic every so often, Holden is a really likeable character, with flaws aplenty but more than enough charisma to make up for them. For anyone who has ever watched Babylon 5, he is very much so a Sheridan-like character, which earns him some of the coolest moments in the entire book.

Detective Miller is an aging, divorced detective on the Belter station of Ceres. Disillusioned with his life, he pours all of his energy in his job, although his soul isn't in it as much as it used to be. So when he is handed a job to find the runaway daughter of some rich family from the central planets, Miller can only be half bothered with it all. But when he starts investigating Julie Mao, the Lunar rich girl who gave up everything she had to join the OPA and side with the Belters, he gets pulled into something bigger than he had ever expected. Miller is the cynic of the book, cold and detached from a lot of what is happening around him, kept together only by the Julie Mao he half-dreams, half-hallucinates and who acts as his mental crutch. Miller's narrative is worlds away from Holden's, and serves to demonstrate how different the two men are, without ever having to try too hard.


I won't give any spoilers, the story is way too good for that. I was kept guessing, hoping, wondering, and trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together throughout most of the book. But the plot, despite its brilliance, wasn't to me what made Leviathan Wakes into such an amazing book.

The characters were.

Never in my life as a reader have I come across such realistic characters. Holden, Miller, Naomi, Amos, Alex, and the rest of the characters we bump into are not simply characters written for a purpose, with a back-story only half-relevant. They are people with flaws and qualities and a thousand emotions that don't always agree with each other. In the chaos of war and death that surrounds them, their humanity shines through, stands out, and makes them all the more likeable.


To anyone who loves science-fiction, or to anyone who wants to dip a toe in the genre, go grab Leviathan Wakes if you haven't already. You won't be disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 September 2012
There has been an explosion in recent years of Space Opera, it's a welcome resurrection of a genre that seems to have struggled in relation to the relentless rose of fantasy literature. It seems appropriate therefore that an assistant of George R. R. Martin would be willing to make a contribution to the field of Space Opera.
Leviathan Wakes is perhaps everything that you would want from the sub-genre. It picks it's place in the future carefully, with humanity still contained within the solar system, allowing for the action to be contained and using a geography that should hopefully be familiar to most readers. It has space battles, assaults on space stations and a cleverly composed central storyline. The influence of Game of Thrones is evident with the alternating chapters between the two principal characters, which generally works though does slow the action somewhat when their stories overlap.
On the whole the book is a compelling read, though it probably doesn't quite rank up with the classics of the genre. My own personal reservations were really around one of the main characters (Jim Holden) who is a little too sanctimonious to be genuinely likeable and the fact that although the novel has some sinister content, it doesn't really capture the mood of a dystopic future of shady military-industrial complexes. It also suffers in comparison to the works of Iain M Banks or Peter Hamilton. This is perhaps more a question of personal taste.
I would recommend the book to anyone who enjoys sci-fi - it is well worth reading!
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