Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Caliban's War by James S. A. Corey

So I promised a review of Caliban's War last week, and here it is!

Warning: if you haven't read Leviathan's Wake, there will be spoilers!

It's been months since the news about Venus, and while the UN, Mars, and the OPA keep a close eye, life goes on. Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been working for Fred Johnson, keeping the peace throughout the system as enforcers for the OPA but when a fight goes down on Ganymede between Martian and UN forces, it looks like it's time for more than playing space cop. 

When they arrive, they find that things are definitely fishy. Ganymede is dying and the people are starving in spite of ships full of food destined for other planetary shores. Holden and his team are trying to find some evidence about the start of the skirmish, but instead find themselves roped into a search for a missing child. As Holden increasingly channels his own inner Miller, more and more about the search begins to resemble Miller's own investigation, including a sneaking suspicion that the protomolecule currently wreaking havoc on Venus could again be involved. 

I'd been in a bit of a reading slump for a while, in part because I was in the mood for more Expanse and had to keep setting the reads aside. (I'd promised I would start this one for the Thanksgiving holiday and obviously didn't get to it for a month!) As the craving for more Expanse increased and my excitement for season two continued to grow, though, I couldn't put it off any longer. Nothing was going to hit the spot until I did!

Surprisingly, though Caliban's War is a doorstopper like the rest of the series, it was a pretty quick read for me. And while I'd thought returning to Holden and his crew would be bittersweet considering my favoritism over Miller in Leviathan, it was a welcome return indeed!

Holden isn't faring well since his run in with Miller and the protomolecule. What he witnessed has been weighing on him heavily. So much so that his crew have noticed him taking on the worst traits he used to call Miller out for. Without noticing. And when a scientist on Ganymede approaches the crew, begging for help finding his missing child, Holden can't help but get involved.

As I said last week, I love this world! I love the characters! I love everything about it! And strange though it may seem, comparisons to George R. R. Martin's high fantasy epic are not unfounded. As is the case with the Song of Ice and Fire series, The Expanse is epic in scope and fabulous in its world building. There's a deep and rich history to the world of The Expanse, a history that weighs on the story taking place present day.

Mars and the UN have been at each others' throats for ages. Earth is suffering from a number of issues we all see coming and Mars wants none of it. And for the first time in the series, we're seeing that via characters directly associate with those groups. Sure Holden and Amos are both from Earth and Alex is from Mars, but they have no real vested interest in those entities. As such Leviathan's Wake is mostly a Belter story - partly an OPA story.

If you follow the show, you've already met one of the biggest players in Caliban's War - Avasarala. There she introduces Earth's and the UN's POV, but we don't actually meet her at all until this second installment of the books. She's fabulous! A grandmother and a loving wife at home, but a savagely-tongued and chillingly clever woman at work, Avasarala plays the political game better than most. She's none too pleased when she learns that UN forces are gearing up for something big in retaliation against Mars for an incident they still don't have a clear understanding of. That's in addition to the fact that after the discovery of the protomolecule, neither the UN or Mars is quite sure who is responsible and so blames the other.

The other big character we meet here is Bobbie Draper. Bobbie is a Martian soldier stationed on Ganymede when everything literally goes to hell. As the only survivor of the so-called battle between Mars and the UN, she's also the only witness who can provide a true and accurate account of the events.

If you stuck around this far in spite of my warning at the top and haven't actually read any of The Expanse series yet, I highly, highly recommend you fix that. The same applies if you've read the books but haven't watched the show. You're really missing out on some fabulous storytelling in both regards if you haven't tried them.

Oh yeah, and then there's that ending!?

It'll be interesting to see how the second season of the show comes together. When we left off we were basically at the midpoint of Leviathan's Wake. We already know based on the trailer that Bobbie is introduced in season two, but I'm wondering if we're meeting Bobbie prior to the events on Ganymede that kick off Calinan's War. Just a few more weeks to find out!

Rating: 5/5

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