Title: Nemesis Games
Series: The Expanse, #6
Author: James S. A. Corey
Publication date: October 24, 2017
Length: 576 pages
Genre: Science fiction
The sixth novel in James S. A. Corey’s New York Times bestselling Expanse series–now a major television series from Syfy!
A revolution brewing for generations has begun in fire. It will end in blood.
The Free Navy – a violent group of Belters in black-market military ships – has crippled the Earth and begun a campaign of piracy and violence among the outer planets. The colony ships heading for the thousand new worlds on the far side of the alien ring gates are easy prey, and no single navy remains strong enough to protect them.
James Holden and his crew know the strengths and weaknesses of this new force better than anyone. Outnumbered and outgunned, the embattled remnants of the old political powers call on the Rocinante for a desperate mission to reach Medina Station at the heart of the gate network.
But the new alliances are as flawed as the old, and the struggle for power has only just begun. As the chaos grows, an alien mystery deepens. Pirate fleets, mutiny, and betrayal may be the least of the Rocinante‘s problems. And in the uncanny spaces past the ring gates, the choices of a few damaged and desperate people may determine the fate of more than just humanity.
I’ve spent the past week in the midst of galactic war, and it may take me a while to recover!
I had to psych myself up to read Babylon’s Ashes, the 6th book in the Expanse series. The series is huge in scope, and the books themselves are pretty huge too — large, chunky books dense with ships and space and rail guns and trajectories and science fiction terminology… and I have to say, I’ve enjoyed the hell out of each and every one.
It’s difficult at this point to separate the experience of reading the books from that of watching the (outstanding) TV series. The overarching storyline of Babylon’s Ashes matches up with the events of the 6th and final season. For the TV version, it does feel like the storyline comes to a reasonable stopping place — although there are clearly plenty more adventures that could be told, since there are three more books in the series. I finally dove into Babylon’s Ashes after finishing the 6th season, and meshing the two different approaches created a terrific reading experience.
In Babylon’s Ashes, all hell has broken loose. The solar system’s political balance has been violently upset by a ferocious attack on Earth (see Nemesis Games, book #5) that’s wiped out huge swathes of the population and left the planet with an unsustainable future. This is just part of the plan for Marco Inaros, leader of the Free Navy, the Belter military arm whose goal is to establish Belter dominance and defeat Earth and Mars once and for all.
And while the Free Navy, as the symbol of an historically oppressed people’s rise to freedom, has some claim to a righteous cause, it soon becomes clear that its main function is to further advance Marco’s enormous narcissism and personal vendettas. As he denies food, air, and water supplies to his own people — who are desperately in need — for the sake of political power plays, his supporters begin to question his methods, and the Free Navy develops fractures just when it’s starting to seem surer of victory.
Meanwhile, people like the crew of the Rocinante — our heroes!! — are out fighting the good fight, not just for Earth or Mars or the Belt, but for the sake of humanity having a shot at a future.
This book is just as detailed as the earlier ones, and it takes a great deal of concentration to follow the huge cast of characters, the planets, the political factions, and the mechanics of it all. That said, it’s worth it! I loved every moment, despite having to rely on various fandom wikis to figure out who some of the more obscure characters were and just where they might have shown up previously.
The action is thrilling and scary. I have to admit that it was helpful for me to have watched the TV series, because I’m not sure how well I could have envisioned the space battles and types of ships and weapons and stations without it. That said, it’s all described in marvelous detail, and my inner sci-fi geek enjoyed the hell out of it.
Another element that’s different (but great) about the books is how they take into account the laws of physics and the vastness of space. In the TV series, when a space battle happens, it’s all super fast and immediate — but as the book makes clear, just because one ship is burning fast to ambush another, they still have to travel to get there, so it may take weeks before a planned assault happens. Somehow, that sense of time and distance being factored into the action makes it feel more realistic (but I understand that it wouldn’t work very well on TV to have to interrupt the action to allow for lengthy travel times).
This is not a series to just jump into in the middle, in case that’s not obvious, so if you’re interested, start at the beginning with Leviathan Wakes. I mean, it MIGHT be possible to pick up the story at this point after watching it on TV, but I still think it would be confusing, and why would you want to miss out on the satisfaction of reading the whole thing?
For those who’ve been watching the TV series, the reading experience will be different from here on out, because after Babylon’s Ashes, there will be no TV seasons to mirror the books in the series. We’re in uncharted territory, people! And while the TV version makes changes to characters, places, and events, it’s been close enough to give a good representation of each book’s major plotlines and action sequences. As I move forward to #7, I’m faced with the reality that from now on, there will be no screen action to accompany my reading… so I’ll have to envision all the dramatic torpedoes and rail guns and space maneuvering in my head. I hope I’m up to the challenge!
Now that I’ve finished Babylon’s Ashes, the only thing holding me back from continuing straight on to the next book is how BIG the books all are, and the fact that I do have other books to read! That said, I’m not going to let too much time go by either — I’m hoping to finish the remaining books in the series by the end of this year (but don’t hold me to it!)
Next up for me in the Expanse series:
Strange Dogs: A novella that takes place sometime around or after the events of Babylon’s Ashes
Persepolis Rising: Book #7!