alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 02: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Goodreads summary: “Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach. 

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations in the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why. 

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that the girl might be the key to everything. 

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

Read a review for this on CBR4, and thought “Aha! A space opera! I MUST read this!” I was not disappointed. Main complaints first: it was a bit unnecessarily long. There were a few chapters that, in my eyes, advanced neither the character development nor the plot. Also, and this may have been just my personal preference, but I was a lot more interested in the Holden chapters than in the Miller chapters. I’ve heard the “former superstar detective fallen from grace” narrative enough times at this point that Miller is essentially a stock character, so while I appreciate the effort to give him dimension, those parts of the story dragged in the first half. Finally, I felt that the dialogue was a bit rote and sometimes lacked finesse. To be fair, though, that’s kind of a snooty criticism, because my impression is that our main characters are mostly working-class, and more to the point, they are “Belters.” Whether raised in the Belt or relocated there, the people are depicted as being generally rough around the edges and not overly concerned with Earth and Mars standards of decorum.

All that said, I still raced through this. The book had a lot to balance: politics between interplanetary governments, sociological considerations among humans who’ve adapted to different planets, interpersonal relationships, and the central mystery that drove the plot forward. For a “space opera,” the scope here is still relatively small; everything takes place within our solar system. I found this intriguing, as it suggested at a plausible less-distant future. Idiomatic and physical differences between planetary “races” are given consideration as to how the characters interact and perceive each other, and there are realistic (and relevant) discussions of the effects of different levels of gravity on the human body. Though sci-fi is often allegorical, with its more imaginative events and concepts paralleling our real-world issues, this book felt even more immediately relevant.

Leviathan Wakes is equal parts noir, horror, science fiction, and classic drama. It doesn’t shy away from gruesome description in some parts, and it depicts a range of realistic human responses to the atrocities portrayed. I also, personally, enjoyed the gender politics. A lot of the “classic” sci-fi falls really short in this aspect (see: my upcoming review for Foundation) and is, unfortunately, a massive obstacle in my overall enjoyment. I mean, you create this whole universe and can’t imagine equality in it? But I digress; Leviathan Wakes avoids similar pitfalls. Overall, I’d recommend this. I think it’s great modern sci-fi, and I understand that (like everything else) it’s part of a series, so I’ll probably be picking up the next installment.

3 thoughts on “alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 02: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

  1. I liked this book but didn’t love it. I think I’ve decided that I found it a bit sterile. (And yet I still read book two, and will read book three.)

    • I’ll agree with that, actually. It didn’t inspire a grand emotional connection in me like some of my favorites do, but I definitely enjoyed it. Does book 2 basically pick up where this one left off, or is it tangential?

      • I wouldn’t say it’s tangential. Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are still pretty central, but there are three more POV characters added, and it takes place a couple of years later.

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