Saturday, January 23, 2016

Short Fiction Friday: Two From the Expanse Universe

I know, it's actually Saturday again. Oh, well :)

So if you're watching The Expanse over on Syfy, you may have caught a couple of references Amos made to The Churn in this week's episode. What's The Churn, though? Well, I'm glad you asked! Even if you didn't :)

Timmy is new on the job and has already managed to piss off his boss, Burton. But he's useful and skilled so he's given a second chance. He's tasked with protecting Erich, the man who actually brought him into Burton's fold. Erich, too, is useful and skilled. Erich creates fake DNA profiles. And sure, others can do the same, but for now Erich is the one Burton keeps on hand for all his own fake identity needs. 

But when Star Helix officers move in to Baltimore intent on wiping out the local crime network, Timmy gets caught in the crossfire. He and Erich are expendable but if they can survive through the end and stay out of Star Helix's hands, they may have a chance. For Timmy, it also means the ultimate test of his abilities and loyalties. 

"The Churn" offers up not only a glimpse into Amos's ever elusive backstory but also gives readers a not so pretty look at what's happening on Earth these days.

Organized crime is rampant and local law enforcement obviously can't handle it, which is why the big guns at Star Helix are called in. You may recall this is the contract law enforcement group that employed Miller on Ceres.

I loved this tale because until reading it I only had hints at Amos's story. There are some comments made between him and the other Rocinante crew. There are observations made by side characters (like the spy in this week's episode of the show). But aside from all of that Amos has been a mystery.

(What's up with all my mafia-related reading of late?!)

Oh, and the churn refers to, as one character puts it: the rhythms of nature, "its booms and busts."

Rating: 4/5

And while there's still tons of characters and story lines to flesh out, another character you may be rightfully (hopefully) curious about is Fred Johnson. Johnson is known as "The Butcher of Anderson Station" but when we meet him he's focused more on (or so he says) negotiations between the Belters and Earth/Mars. Why the change of heart?

Colonel Fred Johnson was just following orders when the attack on Anderson Station began. The Belters there were angered over a 3% raise on supply transfers - a 3% raise on the food, water, and even air consumed by a workforce barely eking out a living already. The man responsible for the raise was subsequently forced out of an airlock and the workers attempted to take control of the station. 

And that's where Fred Johnson and his men came in. 

In the end, Johnson knew well enough it should have been an avoidable loss of life. But attempts at negotiation, he had been told, had failed. And then he learned the truth. Since that time, Johnson, one of the most decorated soldiers in history, has been in search of something. Something the OPA might be willing to give him.  

So if you've read Leviathan Wakes and have been watching the show then you've got a bit of a piecemeal glimpse at this event already. The Rocinante crew have more of a conversation about Johnson's past in the book than they do when he hails them in the show, but in the episode "Back to the Butcher" we actually get a look at what was going on on Anderson Station itself.

"The Butcher of Anderson Station" not only gives us the full story but also gives us a chance to see Johnson interacting with none other than Anderson Dawes himself.

Rating: 5/5

Both of the stories are excellent additions to the Expanse universe, show and books, and I definitely recommend adding them to your TBR. They are currently available in ebook only, but each includes bonus content ("The Churn" has an excerpt of book four in the series, Cibola Burn, and "The Butcher of Anderson Station" includes a look at Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice.)

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