R x R Book Club: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Back in September, I named the book-of-the-month to be Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey. Well, despite my good intentions, it took me a little to read than expected. What about you? Did you take the challenge? Did you finish the first book in The Expanse series?

Post Mortem

After reading LW, I came to find out the book was not the work of just one author but two authors: Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

Courtesy: Bloodofthemuse.com

The Expanse series begins set amongst a growing conflict in the solar system that involves Earth, Mars, and the Asteroid Belt (colonies of people living on asteroids, referred to as “Belters”).

Leviathan Wakes follows the character of Jim Holden, one of many citizens that have spread out over the solar system and inhabiting the surrounding planets. Holden is a crew member of the Canterbury and makes his living as an ice miner. During the Canterbury’s journey, the crew accidentally comes across the remains of another ship, the Scopuli. It’s on this ship that they discover a secret for which people are willing to kill and start a war. Alternating with the trials and tribulations of Jim Holden, on Ceres, one Detective Miller is searching for the daughter of a rich couple. His investigation leads him to Holden and the remains of the Scopuli. These two polarizing figures must work together to find out what is going on and keep themselves and everyone else alive.

Leviathan Wakes is Space Opera. It is not Hard Science Fiction. There are inklings of science throughout the novel but it is relegated to the background. It’s not a major celebrating point or exactly a huge call for concern. The space opera format is generally used to convey a long story- and character-arcs (TVTropes.com). LW is a lengthy story of 592 pages. You get to follow the tale of from a variety of perspectives but chiefly through two characters – Detective Miller and Jim Holden.

Heroic Fantasy In Space

Science Fiction and Fantasy often deal with the struggle of good over evil.  Both provide a source of escapism from the mundane of modern and historical fiction (and non-fiction).

A terrific example of the blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy elements is Spaceballs. Spaceballs contains such classic fantasy characteristics such as an evil overlord, a princess to save, and a chosen hero who defeats the evil overlord. The only thing that separates Spaceballs from typical heroic fantasy is the setting, which includes spacetraveling and advanced technology. With respect to Leviathan Wakes,  the elements of Science Fiction and Fantasy are well balanced and can be evidenced by how even though the science is relegated to the background it helps to inform the rules of The Expanse, while the fantastic elements are sewn well into the fabric of the story and its revelations (see Vomit Zombies).

Conclusion

Where does Leviathan Wakes excel – World Building and Action Scenes. The landscapes are thrilling and filled with a diverse population of people. Battles, whether hand-to-hand combat or ships trying to take each other down, are well choreographed and action packed.

The area where the book suffers is in character development. Some characters are not fully developed. While the two main protagonists Miller and Holden are likable and engaging, too much exposition time is spent on lusterless exchanges (Miller at one of many bars; Holden feeling the nerve screaming, ball crawling back up effects of g-force acceleration, etc.).. However, despite the lack  of developing and rounding out characters near the end, the book actually does have decent overall development because for instance one character becomes more and more obsessed and make questionable decisions over the course of the novel. Other characters are affected by deaths and events around them and don’t simply forget them as they often do after a chapter or two in other novels. Lastly, the relationships amongst character change and challenge one another over the course of the novel in varying degrees. Plus, you have to love how Miller tries to piss off Holden.

Despite the pitfalls of LW what helps to ultimately save the novel is the pacing, world building, lively action scenes, and the fantastic spike of the prologue – it kicks off the win!

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

 

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