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.
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.
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
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.
on 20 September 2012
FULL REVIEW HERE: [...]
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.
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!
on 16 March 2012
Leviathan Wakes, written under the pseudonym James S.A. Corey, is the debut outing for writing duo Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Daniel Abraham is well known for his Long Price Quartet and the Dagger and the Coin series, as well as his urban fantasy work under the pen name of M.L.N. Hanover. Ty Franck is assistant to George R.R. Martin, he of the Sword of Ice and Fire fame. Together they form a super strong team, which doesn't have two different 'voices', but instead have blended into a single voice that is uniquely Corey's. I never felt as if I was reading two different authors in one book. If you'd like to find out more about his process, there are some very interesting interviews with the authors at SF Signal and Geekachicas.
What made me really happy was the accessibility of the book. I'm a fairly insecure SF-reader, having read mostly military SF and relatively few of those compared to my fantasy intake, so to find a book that didn't make me feel out of my depth, but was sevurely set in space, was a joy. The technology aspect is there, but most of it isn't explained in depth, it just is and it functions as it should, but the characters are more important anyway. Not just our main characters, Holden and Miller, but the crew and Miller's missing girl as well.
The concept of a space opera set in sun system was original. No FTL in this book, everything is contained in our own solar system. The idea of the evolution of the Belters is awesome; of course people who live in different circumstances of gravity or light etc. would develop differently over time, but it's a concept I've not run across very often. There was also quite an interesting emphasis on the way society looks at the different sections of humanity, the Earthers versus the Belters versus the Martians. It seems that no matter how advanced we become technologically, humans will always remain humans and feel the need to put people in different corners.
The story is told from two perspectives, Holden and Miller. Miller is the noirish, police detective, serving in the Belt and Holden the young space captain running around the belt. They start in separate places initially, but end up together about halfway through the story. I liked the differences in tone between them. Miller is a middle-aged loner, who becomes somewhat obsessed with finding his missing girl, in the process all but falling in love with her ghost, his idea of her. While Holden is far younger and still very idealistic. He tries to do what he thinks is right and take care of his crew as well. Of the two I think I like Holden more, though Miller has a sort of tragic appeal as well. Not just the characterisation is wonderful, the action writing is fab as well. I really liked the smaller fights and the action scenes aboard the space station and later the asteroid were amazing.
Leviathan Wakes is a fun, fast and furious tale of space adventures, killer viruses and strange, frightening aliens. I had a super time with this one and I'm looking forward to the sequel, Caliban's War. If you've enjoyed Daniel Abraham's other work or are a fan of good old, fun space opera, Leviathan Wakes is a book you must pick up, as it's spectacular.
on 22 December 2011
Leviathan Wakes has been making waves this year with many people regarding it as one of the best SF releases of 2011. I just had to get around to it before the year was out, it would have been remiss of me to not read it this year. And I'm pleased I did!
When Holden and his crew stumble across a derelict ship and discovers some things that certain people want to be kept hidden they're stuck firmly in the middle of a struggle to get them and keep them quiet. With implications that are far reaching and could alter the course of the human race they travel from place to place trying to find answers and sanctuary. Miller meanwhile is a detective on Ceres on the case of a missing girl, a case that leads him to dark secrets. Crossing paths with Holden is inevitable, yet his dedication to the investigation affects him on a personal level and he will not settle for half-answers, he wants the whole truth.
Leviathan Wakes starts with a bang, that's for sure. The prologue got me instantly hooked and wanting to read more, which is good because without it I wouldn't have felt the need to turn the pages quite as quickly. Sounds strange, but it really does make a huge difference. While the story is interesting and gripping, knowing that something huge is lurking makes it all the more worthwhile.
The other major plus point for Leviathan Wakes are its relatively short chapters that alternate between the viewpoints of Holden and Miller. Each starts off seemingly unrelated, but this soon changes and all hell breaks loose. Because of these short chapters it's always easy to read 'just one more', and they also keep the pace quick, punchy and to the point. I can't name another book in recent memory that manages to do it quite so well. The story itself initially seems to be mystery and, while with big implications, it doesn't come across quite just how big they could be. By the halfway point I was completely hooked and powering through eager to find out what happens next.
All in all I was very impressed with Leviathan Wakes. The characters are enjoyable to read (even if some of them are not all that likable), and the story is told with flair. It ends in such a way that I very much want to get my hands on the sequel, Caliban's War. Who knows what's in store, but I will be doing my damnedest to find out the moment it hits the shelves next year!
on 17 July 2011
Daniel Abraham (as one half of the amalgam author James SA Corey) is clearly on a roll this year with not only an impressive new fantasy series but an impressive sci-fi series as well. This book is set in a near future where humankind has managed to colonise the solar system but does not yet have the means for interstellar travel. I like the idea of this setting as it's a stepping stone that is often forgotten about in favour of galaxy spanning adventures. This setting is also used to explore how racsim would develop between colonies on different planets or low g asteroids. This tension is what leads to the conflict in the book. At its heart though Leviathan Wakes is a good old fashined soap opera and it delivers action and intrigue in spades. Things continue to escalate until it seems there won't be room (or a solar system left) for a sequel and the two lead characters are entertaining and provide conflicting perspectives on how to resolve the problem. One thing i liked about the lead characters was how my opinions of them both flipped halfway through the book. My only real criticism would be that the "villains" are a bit too sci-fi and in many ways I think the series could have worked just as well with just the politics of the different colonies coming into conflict than the other ignition they go for. Another potential problem is that for fans of hard sci-fi they may feel like this future is far too basic and similar to our own (it almost seems regressive in some areas). This isn't a problem for myself as i think this is a staple of space-opera but it could cause upset in certain readers.
The writing duo work seamlessly together (each author handles one of the two POV characters each) and I'd be very interested to see what Ty Frank is capable of on his own if his writing in this book is anything to go by.
The book also comes with a nice interview section and a preview for the second book in the series. It looks like we're in store for more action soon.
on 3 July 2014
Good story, worth a read for sure.
I've read all four in the series now, but I would not however, recommend that you read beyond this book.
The remaining 3 are very fomulaic rehashed versions of this book with slightly different ancillary characters, slightly different settings, but the same outcomes for all. The structure makes itself felt when you pick up book two, and you realise that no matters what happens in the middle, the beginning and end will be the same. Book three confirmed this and by the 4th book, it just leaves you feeling that the characters are cardboard cut outs, which spoils what could have been a classic if they'd just rolled it into one book and got rid of all the dross.