Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Expanse

Are you watching The Expanse? I certainly hope so! This week brings us current with the show, which means my first new episode in a couple of weeks now. Syfy teased us with early OnDemand and online availability of the first four episodes, which meant binging and then waiting for the live airing to catch up.

The show is based on The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey, aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, which kicked off in 2011 with Leviathan Wakes and has since grown to include five more volumes and an additional five shorts.

"The Churn"
"The Butcher of Anderson Station"
Leviathan Wakes
Caliban's War
"Gods of Risk"
Abbadon's Gate
"The Vital Abyss"
Cibola Burn
Nemesis Game
Babylon's Ashes (due out in June)

I've listed them here in the order they appear on Goodreads, but Lady Business offered up a great alternate reading order you can check out here. Her argument is that Leviathan Wakes is so different in terms of storyline and such that it's not necessary to begin your reading there. If you're following the show, however, we are pretty tightly tied into that first book with a smattering of details from subsequent installments (Avasarala doesn't appear until Caliban's War, for example).

I'm quite loving the show adaptation. There are definitely some differences right off the bat but for the most part it's clear that these deviations from the book's storyline are meant to give us faster character development and increased tension right off the bat. Let's face it, no show has the time to do what a book can so things have to be condensed for maximum efficiency.

We begin the show with three story lines: Miller, a cop on Ceres, has been tasked with tracking down Julie Mao, the daughter of a well-to-do moon-based family. It's an off books job that involves finding Julie and shipping her back to her parents. But it turns out the case isn't quite that simple.

Meanwhile, an ice freighter responds to a distress beacon and is rewarded by being blown out of the sky. The only survivors, led by Jim Holden, find themselves on the run and faced with maintaining their freedom by outing the ones they think were responsible for destroying their ship.

Oh, and there's a ton of political tension brewing thanks to conflict between Earth, Mars, and the folks in between (the Belters). This is clear in the book but is made more so in the show through Shohreh Aghdashloo's Chrisjen Avasarala. (Earth is pretty hands off in Leviathan Wakes, so this additional plot line is probably the biggest change so far.)

In both the book and the show, Miller is my stand out favorite, no doubt this comes from my own personal penchant for mysteries. I'll admit that Thomas Jane's Miller is a little on the cheesy side. Frankly, though, I kind of like him more because of that. Miller is your typical noir detective: he has a mission (find the girl), he has baggage galore, and he's your pretty typical anti-hero (a little on the shady side and definitely willing to bend the rules when necessary). His on screen portrayal is exaggerated a bit, but is to my mind much in line with classic portrayals of the genre.

Holden is not so much a favorite of mine. In both mediums he comes across a little too self righteous for my taste and, in spite of what's to come in the show, never quite meshes with Miller. But that's for you to discover!

In both cases, I think the actors (and the rest of the cast - Tyreese!) are doing a fabulous job bringing these characters to life. I'm also really glad to see that Syfy is upping their game significantly with their current crop of shows. I was already won over by Helix (yeah, there's a little cheese there) and Twelve Monkeys and was blown away by Dark Matter and Killjoys. So far The Expanse has delivered as well, living up to my grand hopes and expectations. (I should note too that IMDB does have a second season of The Expanse listed already!)

Episode 5 of The Expanse airs tonight on Syfy. If you've yet to start the series, the good folks at Syfy have all four previously aired episodes available here for your viewing pleasure :)

Psst - hit the image at the top of this post for the official IMDB page and I've linked "Drive" above as well - Syfy has that prequel short available online as we speak.


Greg said...

Nice to see a review of this! I've watched the first two episodes on their site and am intrigued so far. I'm curious about the asteroid belt and Ceres mystery so far, the intrigue part has gripped me less but I'm sure as I learn more it will come around. I agree about the PI, he's a little over the top but still fun.

I love Dark Matter and it's nice to see SyFy upping their game. I remember a few years ago I used to joke that they never had anything good on- not true anymore.

Jennifer | Book Den said...

I was just telling my husband we need to start watching this show.