alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 62: Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey

Goodreads: “For generations, the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt – was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artefact working through its program under the clouds of

Venus has emerged to build a massive structure outside the orbit of Uranus: a gate that leads into a starless dark.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artefact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.”

I’ve really enjoyed the three books so far in the Expanse series: Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, and Abaddon’s Gate. Where the first set the pace, tone, and foundation for the series in a way that was already epic in scale, the latter two have somehow continued to build on that promise by introducing more narrative lead characters and new high-stakes conflict without letting the story run away from itself. Despite the expansion of character profiles and deeper exploration of those characters’ motivations, the core group we were introduced to in the first book — James Holden and his crew — remain central to the story, thereby anchoring us to a heart of the tale that we’ve grown familiar with and attached to.

Abaddon’s Gate contains a classic redemption tale, a frame-job, and the possibility of massive war among two superpowers, a lesser alliance, and an unknown alien foe that is likely to crush everyone and annihilate humanity in the blink of an eye. Our hero, James Holden, also talks to ghosts and even goes on a one-man mission as an emissary to the alien would-be demolitionists because that’s what the ghost tells him to do. The book rarely takes a moment to breathe, but the slower chapters reinforce the emotional stakes and passion — sometimes quiet, sometimes imbued with burning rage — that drive the characters.

Also remarkable in the series is the way that each book feels, in a way, like a standalone: there are no cliffhangers and the individual stories therein are resolved; however, the resolution sets up a backdrop for what may become the main source of tension in the next book, or the one after. Leviathan Wakes saw the emergence of a dangerous, little-understood alien protomolecule that, by the end, was seemingly dispatched into the inhospitable environment of Venus, therefore saving Earth from destruction. Caliban’s War showed the protomolecule quietly taking over Venus and exhibiting feats of impossible physics, worrying everyone to death over what its next move would be. Abaddon’s Gate reveals what the next move was, and though, again, the immediate conflict was solved, the possibility for major catastrophe still lurks in another form entirely. And none of that takes into account the political and personal struggles of the humans themselves, which could themselves be a collection of compelling and suspenseful stories.

The Expanse series is space opera at its finest. The prose isn’t the most sophisticated, but it’s tightly written and consistently entertaining. Even sci-fi novices could enjoy these books, I think, since they’re not overly jammed with techie jargon and high-concept gimmicks. If you’re put off because it’s set in space, don’t be. The plots are steeped in classic noir and suspense, with war games thrown in for good measure. Highly recommended.

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geekchicohio’s #CBR5 review #12: Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey

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. Continue reading

geekchicohio’s #CBR5 Review #11: Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey

As I’ve fallen further and further behind in my Half-Cannonball this year I’ve been saved from absolute embarrassment time and time again by books that leapt out at me not from my “TO READ” pile, but from somewhere else.

Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey, the second book in “The Expanse” series is a book that simply demanded I read it, and it was right. Well-paced, occasionally funny, often terrifying, and action packed, the book is a worthy follow-up to Corey’s Leviathan Wakes. This series is so much fun, in fact, that I had to make the Cannonball-conscious decision to put down it’s successor and write this review.

Caliban’s War picks up a year or so after the events of Leviathan Wake‘s, as our swashbuckling heroes are working a contract for the half-government half-terrorist organization of the Outer Planets Alliance. Jim Holden, Captain of the stolen Martian missile corvette Rocinante, is a changed man–and not for the better.

A strange event on Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, precipitates a shooting war between Earth and Mars. Soon the solar system’s best chance at ending the violence is the clear head of foul-mouthed Chrisjen Avasarala, Assistant to to the Undersecretary of Executive Administration at the Earth UN, and her new bodyguard and assistant Gunnery Sargeant Bobbie Draper of the Martian Marine Corps. That is, if Holden doesn’t fuck things up first.

Meanwhile the human face of the Ganymede incident is Dr. Praxidike Meng, whose quest to find his missing daughter will bring all these characters together, and who may hold the key to what happened on Ganymede, and whether it spells the end of humanity.

I don’t know that I would recommend this book without reading its predecessor first, and Leviathan Wakes is fantastic, but as a part of The Expanse series Caliban’s War is a really fun read. The two writers who together are James S. A. Corey have found an insanely entertaining formula for sci-fi fun.

Fofo’s #CBR5 Review #25: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Leviathan WakesTarget: James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1)

Profile: Science Fiction, Space Opera

The Expanse has received a lot of attention, mostly from other authors, for being a fresh take on space-based science fiction.  The books have also received high praise for their cinematic fight sequences and politically charged plot lines.  The books are each fairly lengthy, sitting well over the 500 page mark, but manage to feel like much shorter novels thanks to brisk pacing and strong, dynamic characters.

In spite of the ‘space opera’ tag, the stories of The Expanse are really more like war stories, having more in common with John Scalzi than they do with Iain M. Banks or Alastair Reynolds.  The scope of the setting is mostly limited to the solar system and there isn’t the same sense of wonder and discovery that has become associated with New Wave Space Opera.  Instead, The Expanse feels like older styles of space opera that focused more on combat, and the brave actions of courageous soldiers against overwhelming odds and the threat of the unknown.

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Fofo’s #CBR5 Review #16: Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga Vol 1Target: Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga.  Art by Fiona Staples. Collecting issues 1-6

Profile: Comics, Science Fiction, Space Opera

After Action Report:

Saga is probably the most praised comic currently running.  Brain K. Vaughan has a bit of a reputation for excellent comics with his Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina stories making lots of people’s must-read lists.  So it shouldn’t be surprising that readers and industry wonks alike were practically frothing over Vaughan’s new series.  I got to this party a little late, mostly because I don’t see the point of collecting individual issues and prefer to wait for the mass-market paperback collections.  So I write this review with the enormous pressure of thousands of positive reviews sitting on my back.  Not that I feel the need to contradict them.  Saga is an excellent book with only one serious fault.  And that fault is one that could easily be corrected with time/more issues.

Saga is the story of Hazel, the half-breed offspring of soldiers of two warring races.  Her parents, Marko and Alana who are the protagonists of these first few issues, are objectors to a galaxy-spanning war that has lasted as long as either side can remember and has no end in sight.  Their joint desertion, and subsequent fraternization, is problematic to the higher-ups of both sides so Hazel’s baby shower gifts are mercenaries and a platoon of trigger-happy goons.  The first six issues cover the new family’s attempts to escape their pursuers and get off-planet.

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geekchicohio’s #CBR5 Review #8: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

The first book of “The Expanse” Series,  Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey is a scifi/space opera story set in the period after mankind takes to the solar system but before it spreads out to the stars beyond our own. The book’s two protagonists, Holden and Miller, come from this in-between version of mankind: spectacularly advanced but also wholly recognizable.

In the solar system of Leviathan Wakes has been colonized by billions, political power is spread unevenly between Earth, Mars, and the far-flung colonies of the Asteroid Belt and outer planetary moons. Though each party has their own needs and wants, they remain more or less interdependent and antagonistic. When Holden’s motley crew of ice miners stumble into a mysterious derelict ship, the chain reaction threatens the entire balance of the system.

Meanwhile, on Ceres Station, one of the most populated dots in the Asteroid Belt, Detective Miller is assigned a kidnap job–track down the missing daughter of some Luna-based bigwigs. Miller’s search leads him to where his bosses would rather he didn’t go, and eventually across Holden’s path. Together they try to avert a war, or something much, much worse.

Leviathan Wakes reads like a summer blockbuster. It’s quick-witted and perfectly paced, and the sci-fi elements strike the perfect balance between fantastical as hell, and hard enough to make sense and stay out of the way. The book is also occasionally terrifying. Not just thematically, but in specifically describing scenes and events that you’ll have trouble shaking.

Pick it up for the thrills, stay for the incredible world building, the humor, and the insanely fun (and just plain insane) rabbit hole mystery. I’ve been lagging far, far behind on my CBR-ing lately, but pretty much from the time this book came into my possession until the time that I finished it I could. not. put. it. down. Definitely check it out.

Fofo’s #CBR5 Review #12: Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds

Blue Remembered EarthTarget: Alastair Reynolds’ Blue Remembered Earth

Profile: Science Fiction, Space Opera

I’ve mentioned this before, but Alastair Reynolds’ novels leave me a little bewildered.  The scope of his settings are daunting and even Blue Remembered Earth, a book that starts and finishes within our own solar system and a scant 150 years in the future, promises to have gotten just as big by the time we get to the end of the Poseidon’s Children series.  Reynolds packs a lot of interesting ideas into this opening novel, but the plot seems to get pushed aside to make room for it all.

Not that Blue Remembered Earth is bad.  It feels like its setting up for something really interesting and, like a lot of setup stories, it doesn’t quite stand on its own.  Reynolds’ attention to detail draws a compelling map to the stars and the future of humanity, but the reason we keep turning pages has nothing to do with Geoffrey Akinya or his sister, Sunday.

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