Abaddon’s Gate is the third (and most recently released, though not final) book in James S. A. Corey’s The Expanse series. I could easily write at length about how Corey (the pseudonym of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) writes in a style that reads like a Blockbuster (as you’d also know from the io9.com blurb on the novel’s cover) and how much of a fantastic page turner it is, and about what a great balance of action and humor and dread these books strike, but I feel I’ve done a lot of that in my reviews of its predecessors Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War. I want to, instead, talk about what sets this book apart.
Something I’ve not touched on in my past reviews is that Corey utilizes a George R. R. Martin-esque style of using “point of view characters” to tell his stories. Each chapter begins with a name, and that chapter is told from that character’s limited perspective. The result is impressive amounts of dramatic tension, and thankfully dramatic tension that does not wear down the reader’s patience waiting for characters to catch up. In Leviathan Wakes, there were only two POV characters, Holden and his shaky ally Miller. In Caliban’s War that number expanded to four, Miller and three new allies. In Abaddon’s Gate we read from the POV of Holden and two allies, and in an extremely effective twist, also the POV of an antagonist.
I mentioned in my review of Caliban’s War that the events set in motion in Leviathan Wakes are tangentially related to the events of that second book, but that the direct effects of Leviathan Wakes are hanging in the background and creating a general sense of unease. Between an antagonistic POV character and those effects coming to the fore, Abaddon’s Gate‘s first third is choked in a sense of dread. Alien machinations are at work, dangerous foes are gunning for our heroes, and the reader gets the sense that Holden & Co. could not be less prepared for what the reader knows is coming. It’s fabulous.
The book continues to do what its predecessors started: terrifying us by showing us that the unfathomably big emptiness of space leaves the possibility of unimaginable threats and unthinkable horrors. And it continues to pound home the theme that humanity’s pettiness just might make those horrors obsolete anyway, and perhaps that should be scarier.
Abaddon’s Gate, and Corey’s entire series, just works. I recommend it to any fan of science fiction, action, adventure, and/or swashbuckling. Or to nearly anyone else.