Anywho, with season 2 of The Expanse on the horizon (February 1!), I've been diving back into that world to get ready. I'll post a review of the second book, Caliban's War, soon. Today, however, I want to look at a few of the shorts and novellas that bring us up to that point.
First up, "Drive."
Mars has been colonized, but the Outer Belt has so far been out of reach. It takes the building of a very special drive to allow for that, a drive created by a man who gives his very life to bring it into the world.
This prequel is about Solomon and his drive. It's a fun little short, about 30 pages, with a lot of character and world development. We meet Solomon and the people around him. Most importantly, we meet Solomon's wife and see how their relationship grew and was affected by his desire to build the drive. Though his accomplishment changes everything, making further exploration and settlement of the solar system possible, it comes at great cost.
If you haven't read any of the books but are curious, "Drive" is a good way to dip your toe into the series. (You can read it online here.)
Next up is "The Churn" - Amos's story.
Amos Burton is an Earther, like James Holden, but no one really knows much about his past. It's clear violence runs in his blood and his anger is something no one wants to become the focus of. But Amos is more than just muscle.
I liked this story quite a bit. Up through book two we see very little of Earth and its current situation. We also get little more than hints about Amos's background (there is actually a very telling detail in Caliban's War).
Amos, we learn, isn't even Amos. He's got a pretty dark background, which we expect given the kind of character he is in the stories. But even I wasn't prepared for this! His earth is much different from what we see through Avasarala's eyes, that's for certain. "The Churn" also has a bit of a different feel to it than the others - or, maybe it's better to say that like the other tales, "The Churn" displays more of the author's proclivity to and talent in blending and mixing elements from various genres.
And finally, though I really should have read through one more by now, we have "The Butcher of Anderson Station."
Much has been made about Fred Johnson's past. The leader of the OPA, a group tentatively balanced between terrorist organization and political powerhouse, is known throughout the galaxy. And it's not for being a diplomat. Once a soldier for the UN, Johnson took part in a horrific act of political genocide. This is his side of the story.
Fred Johnson looms large in the world of The Expanse. If you've watched the show, you've actually seen much of the content of this particular story, as it was worked into an episode of the first season. The books, however, save the story for this little novella.
I should note that none of the shorts or novellas so far are completely necessary to the series. You're not missing key information if you don't read them. But I think that's what makes them more enjoyable. These pieces each tell a part of the story that doesn't get much focus in the books as a whole. And yes, we can get around that. But if you're a fan, or if you're chomping at the bit for the next full installment, they do provide detail about the world and the characters that's useful and can tide you over a bit!
I definitely fall into that latter category. I love this series and I love the world! As I wait in great anticipation of the second season of the show, too, I find that I'm craving more and more of that world, so I do welcome these little extras.
If you haven't had the pleasure of exploring The Expanse yourself, here's the full list of current titles in order:
"The Butcher of Anderson Station"
"Gods of Risk"
"The Vital Abyss"
There are, according to the authors, nine planned books in the series. No word on the number of novellas/shorts but apparently they will be released in one full volume once the series has concluded.