Title: Nemesis Games (The Expanse, #5) Author: James S. A. Corey Publisher: Orbit Publication date: May 10, 2016 Length: 532 pages Genre: Science fiction Source: Purchased Rating:
Rating: 5 out of 5.
A thousand worlds have opened, and the greatest land rush in human history has begun. As wave after wave of colonists leave, the power structures of the old solar system begin to buckle.
Ships are disappearing without a trace. Private armies are being secretly formed. The sole remaining protomolecule sample is stolen. Terrorist attacks previously considered impossible bring the inner planets to their knees. The sins of the past are returning to exact a terrible price.
And as a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left.
Let me just say up front that this is going to be a short review — not because I didn’t love the book, but because I tore through it so quickly that I didn’t pause to take notes or mark amazing passages or terrific dialogue. Yes, I loved the book, and it definitely merits 5 stars!
The fifth book in the fabulous Expanse series, Nemesis Games has a lot going on. The key things to know are (1) the crew of the Rocinante spend most of the book apart, each going off on their own private journeys while their ship is undergoing major repairs, and (2) a massive terrorist attack by a dangerous Belter faction changes the power dynamics of the solar system, perhaps permanently.
Each of our four main characters gets a chance to shine, although Naomi’s saga is clearly the most dramatic and emotionally powerful. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, so I’ll be vague, but the attack by the Free Navy (the aggressive Belter faction) is shocking in its scope and impact.
The plotline of Nemesis Games is the basis of the excellent fifth season of The Expanse (now streaming on Amazon Prime), with a few changes here and there. While I’m usually a stickler for reading books before watching movie or TV adaptations, in this case, I’m glad I had the visuals of this season to help me while reading the book. So much of the technology, military aspects, etc are really complex, and having seen the depictions on TV really made the book passages feel more alive to me.
As I said, I’m keeping this review short, so I’ll just wrap up by saying that Nemesis Games and the entire series are highly recommended. The books are long, but they speed by. So far, there are 8 books in the series, with the 9th and final book set to be published sometime this year. I don’t think I’ll be able to get through all of the available books right away, but I do want to keep going! The books are exciting, pulse-pounding reading, and I just have to know what happens next!
Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.
Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.
Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!
Title: Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars, #2) Author: Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham Published: 2015 Length: 330 pages
What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):
In the second book in the New York Times bestselling mystery series, Veronica Mars is back with a case that will expose the hidden workings of one of Neptune’s most murderous locations.
The Neptune Grand has always been the seaside town’s ritziest hotel, despite the shady dealings and high-profile scandals that seem to follow its elite guests. When a woman claims that she was brutally assaulted in one of its rooms and left for dead by a staff member, the owners know that they have a potential powder keg on their hands. They turn to Veronica to disprove—or prove—the woman’s story.
The case is a complicated mix of hard facts, mysterious occurrences, and uncooperative witnesses. The hotel refuses to turn over its reservation list and the victim won’t divulge who she was meeting that night. Add in the facts that the attack happened months ago, the victim’s memory is fuzzy, and there are holes in the hotel’s surveillance system, and Veronica has a convoluted mess on her hands. As she works to fill in the missing pieces, it becomes clear that someone is lying—but who? And why?
How and when I got it:
I bought it because VERONICA MARS.
Why I want to read it:
The simple answer is, I’m a VMars fan through and through, and always will be. Yes, even after the less-than-inspiring season 3 (which I mostly choose to ignore) and the very upsetting ending to the recent season on Netflix. I love these characters, and will always be there for more.
I read the first Veronica Mars book, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, about a year ago, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I’m not usually a fan of novelizations of movies or TV shows, but in this case, the show’s creator wrote a story that advanced the overall plotlines and felt really true to the characters and their world.
I’ve been meaning to read #2 ever since, and hope to dive into it in the next few months. And who knows, maybe I’ll be inspired to go back and do another re-watch. Because there can never be too much Veronica Mars!
What do you think? Would you read a book based on a favorite TV show or movie?
Title: A Killing Frost (October Daye, #14) Author: Seanan McGuire Publisher: DAW Publication date: September 1, 2020 Print length: 336 pages Genre: Urban fantasy Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley Rating:
Rating: 5 out of 5.
When October is informed that Simon Torquill—legally her father, due to Faerie’s archaic marriage traditions—must be invited to her wedding or risk the ceremony throwing the Kingdom in the Mists into political turmoil, she finds herself setting out on a quest she was not yet prepared to undertake for the sake of her future…. and the man who represents her family’s past.
14 books in, what is there left to say about my super-duper favorite urban fantasy series? I love these books, and A Killing Frost is no exception!
For those unfamiliar with the series, October Daye is a changeling, born of a human man and a powerful Fae woman. Over the course of the series, October (Toby) has come into her own as a knight and a Hero of the Realm, gaining strength in her magical abilities and gifts and setting out on quests to right wrongs. As she so readily admits, hardly a day goes by when she doesn’t end up covered in blood.
Toby is an amazing character, and the series as a whole is a richly detailed world, set in and around human San Francisco, with complex rules, hierarchies, relationships, and power dynamics. The characters are so much of what makes these books so good — Toby has a found family by this point in the series, including her sort-of sister May, her fiance Tybalt, her squire Quentin, and an odd assortment of friends and associates who love Toby and keep her always on her toes.
In A Killing Frost, Toby and Tybalt (King of Cats) are getting closer to setting a wedding date, when Toby is informed that if she doesn’t invite her stepfather Simon to the wedding, he or anyone connected to him can claim offense. And in Faerie, that can lead to dire consequences, including forced servitude or other truly unpleasant outcomes.
Simon, however, is lost. In book #11, he traded his own way home in order to rescue his long-lost daughter. After having reformed his nastier ways, he’s back to being a bad guy, having forgotten all the good in his life. Toby’s only option is to search for Simon, bring him back, and find a way to break the spell so that he can truly be found again.
I won’t give too much away. Naturally, Toby ends up covered with blood — mostly, but not only, her own. There’s danger to her and to her companions, and the damage is truly gruesome at times.
I was scared for Toby, especially toward the end, when I couldn’t see a way that her actions wouldn’t end in disaster. Naturally, I ended up surprised in all sorts of ways, especially by a huge new development that will have major ripple effects from here on out.
I feel confident saying that if you’ve loved the October Daye series so far, you’ll love A Killng Frost too. If you haven’t started the series yet… well, go ahead!
Obviously, I adore October Daye, and I love basically everything written by Seanan McGuire.
A Killing Frost is a total treat. And now it’s back to the sad state of waiting a year for the next book in the series!
Few things make me as happy as getting to see the cover of the next book from Patricia Briggs!
The cover for Wild Sign, the 6th book in the amazing Alpha & Omega series, was just revealed today. As always, cover artist Daniel Dos Santos has done gorgeous work. The book is scheduled for release in March 2021.
There’s no preorder link yet on Amazon, but believe me, I’ll be anxiously waiting for it. I love this series so much!
Mercy Thompson, car mechanic and shapeshifter, faces a threat unlike any other in this thrilling entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.
I am Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman.
My only “superpowers” are that I turn into a thirty-five pound coyote and fix Volkswagens. But I have friends in odd places and a pack of werewolves at my back. It looks like I’m going to need them.
Centuries ago, the fae dwelt in Underhill–until she locked her doors against them. They left behind their great castles and troves of magical artifacts. They abandoned their prisoners and their pets. Without the fae to mind them, those creatures who remained behind roamed freely through Underhill wreaking havoc. Only the deadliest survived.
Now one of those prisoners has escaped. It can look like anyone, any creature it chooses. But if it bites you, it controls you. It lives for chaos and destruction. It can make you do anything–even kill the person you love the most. Now it is here, in the Tri-Cities. In my territory.
It won’t, can’t, remain.
Not if I have anything to say about it.
A new Mercy book is always cause for celebration! Twelve books in, the Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series is still going strong. Long may Mercy reign!
Mercy, our favorite VW mechanic and mate of the Columbia Basin werewolf pack Alpha, is tough, strong, determined, loyal… and also easily hurt by anything that damages the bond between her and Adam.
And, in a move that absolutely broke my heart, author Patricia Briggs kicks off this newest adventure in the series by letting us know that something is very, very wrong with Mercy and Adam’s mate bond. He’s holding himself apart from Mercy, and it’s tearing her heart to pieces.
But there’s other trouble as well. A dangerous new enemy is taking over people’s minds and making them do terrible things. A group of outsider wolves are trying to invade Adam’s territory. And the scary vampire Wulfe seems to be newly obsessed with Mercy.
In typical Mercy fashion, she never backs down when her loved ones are in danger, and she throws herself into the fight against everything threatening her marriage, her friends, and her pack.
I won’t say too much about the plot, but I loved the answer to the riddles about the bad guy’s identity, and I was thrilled when a certain magical artifact makes an appearance after being gone for a while.
I tend to give all Mercy books 5 stars because I just love this series so much! But, relative to some of the other books in the series, I’d put Smoke Bitten as maybe a smidge less earth-shaking, so I’m being a little stingy here and only going with 4.5! Still a great book, but not quite the best of the best!
As I said, a new Mercy book is always cause for celebration… but also sadness, because now that I’ve read the newest, it’ll be another year of waiting for the next installment.
For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of reading this series yet, jump in! I love the characters, the world-building, the relationships… just really everything. Mercy is an amazing lead character — you’ll love her too!
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Characters I’d Follow On Social Media. That’s a tough one! But sure, I’ll play along. Here are a bunch of fictional characters who I’d bet would be oodles of fun on social media.
1. Claire Fraser (Outlander): No better source for handy medical tips and instructions on how to grow your own penicillin.
2. Verity Price (InCryptid series by Seanan McGuire): For super impressive free running videos, plus maybe some tango lessons too.
3. Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen): You just know she’d be an awesome book blogger, right? Or actually, fan fiction would probably be perfect for Catherine, especially if there are vampires and haunted houses involved.
4. Emma Woodhouse (Emma by Jane Austen): For all the gossip, of course!
5. Geralt of Rivia (Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski): Okay, granted, Geralt himself is pretty anti-social… but I could see Jaskier setting up a fan site and getting tons of followers while he creates memes about Geralt’s latest battles.
6. Emma Sheridan (Finding Fraser by KC Dyer): This one might be almost too obvious. In the book, Emma goes off to Scotland to find her very own Jamie Fraser, and blogs about it. So why not follow along?
7. Lara Jean Covey (Lara Jean books by Jenny Han): She’s so adorable! You know her posts would be the highlight of your day.
8. Prudence Maccon Akeldama (Custard Protocol series): Prudence is snarky and funny, goes on mad adventures, and has the BEST social connections.
9. Evelyn Hugo (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid): All the glamour! All the Hollywood scandals!
10. Paul Sheldon (Misery by Stephen King): Because I’m his biggest fan.
And hey, if you really want to see fictional characters having fun with technology, check out this amazing book:
What characters would you want to follow on social media?
Please share your thoughts, and if you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is The Last Ten Books That Gave Me a Book Hangover.
Instead of the most recent 10, I thought I’d go with a mix of older and newer books that gave me HUGE book hangovers.
1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Of course. This is a world I entered and never wanted to leave. And maybe that accounts for how many times I’ve reread the series!
2. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell: Another I’ve reread multiple times. And no matter how many times I read it, it still packs a punch.
3. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer: Don’t laugh!! It makes me cringe now, but thinking back to the early days of Twilight mania, as soon as I finished this book, I started it over again from the beginning, because I was on a trip, didn’t have New Moon with me, and couldn’t even think about reading anything else but this book, over and over again!
4. The Newsflesh series by Mira Grant: Honestly, I just could not get these books out of my mind. Once I started, I couldn’t stop until I’d read all the books and stories. Amazing!
5. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: Another one that I had to start over from the beginning as soon as I finished reading it.
6. A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers: This book hasn’t even been released yet! It’s coming soon (early March — don’t miss out!), and I hope it’s a big success. I have not been able to get the story out of my head since finishing it. (Check out my review, if you’re interested!)
7. Our War by Craig DiLouie: Ooh boy, this book was devastating and disturbing, and with everything going on in our country these days, it’s no wonder that I find myself flashing back to scenes from this book.
8. The Pact by Jodi Picoult: This was the first book I ever read by Jodi Picoult, and it just about killed me. I couldn’t not shake this book off for a long, long time.
9. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: Man, this book made me ugly cry so hard. I’m still not over it.
10.All the Winters After by Seré Prince Halverson: I loved the characters, the setting, and the plot itself, and just wanted more and more when it was done.
What books have left you with book hangovers?
Please share your thoughts, and if you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!
Title: The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, #2) Author: Philip Pullman Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers Publication date: October 3, 2019 Length: 641 pages Genre: Young adult fantasy Source: Purchased
Rating: 3 out of 5.
It is twenty years since the events of La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One unfolded and saw the baby Lyra Belacqua begin her life-changing journey.
It is seven years since readers left Lyra and the love of her young life, Will Parry, on a park bench in Oxford’s Botanic Gardens at the end of the ground-breaking, bestselling His Dark Materials sequence.
Now, in The Secret Commonwealth, we meet Lyra Silvertongue. And she is no longer a child . . .
The second volume of Sir Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust sees Lyra, now twenty years old, and her daemon Pantalaimon, forced to navigate their relationship in a way they could never have imagined, and drawn into the complex and dangerous factions of a world that they had no idea existed.
Pulled along on his own journey too is Malcolm; once a boy with a boat and a mission to save a baby from the flood, now a man with a strong sense of duty and a desire to do what is right.
Theirs is a world at once familiar and extraordinary, and they must travel far beyond the edges of Oxford, across Europe and into Asia, in search for what is lost – a city haunted by daemons, a secret at the heart of a desert, and the mystery of the elusive Dust.
How to describe this long, strange book, set in the world of His Dark Materials?
The Secret Commonwealth is very much a middle book. It’s packed with details and characters, most of whom are people on a journey or quest. There’s a lot of travel from here to there… but we leave off before anyone actually arrives at their destinations.
In La Belle Sauvage, the installment in The Book of Dust that precedes The Secret Commonwealth, we see Lyra as an infant. She’s the object of hot pursuit by nefarious agents of the Magisterium, the ruling religious entity, and a person to be protected by an assortment of good guys and heroes, chief among them young Malcolm Polstead, an 11-year-old boy with unflinching bravery and a very steady canoe.
Here, we re-meet Lyra at age 20. She’s a student at St. Sophia’s, and still lives at Jordan College, the Oxford college where she’s been sheltered under rules of scholastic sanctuary since infancy. Lyra’s life is difficult as the story opens. Her comfortable home at Jordan is no longer a safe place for her, the money supporting her has run out, and shady characters are once again intent on tracking her down.
Closer to home, Lyra and her beloved daemon Pantalaimon are not getting along, which is a huge deal, considering that daemons are the external representation of a person’s soul. Daemon and human are two halves of one whole; neither is complete without the other. It’s almost beyond imagining that Lyra and Pan should be so estranged. Pan believes that Lyra has come too deeply under the influence of literary and scholarly works that prize only what’s real and can be seen, discounting completely the value or even existence of subtlety, imagination, and unseen forces and worlds.
Meanwhile, there’s a movement behind the scenes within the Magisterium to consolidate power even further, pushing toward total religious authoritarianism, leading to fear, civil unrest, and a growing flood of refugees throughout Europe. There’s also a quest by the Magisterium to root out a particular type of rose oil that’s believed to have certain properties that are considered threatening and heretical, and the efforts to wipe out all roses is being conducted by force.
As Lyra is forced into a quest across Europe and into the Eastern lands, she faces incredible danger and constant pursuit, meeting some allies and encountering enemies of all sorts. We also see events through Pan’s perspective, as well as accompanying Malcolm and others on their own strange and dangerous journeys.
It’s a little hard to figure out just who the intended audience of this book is. It’s clearly a youth-oriented book, based on the publisher and where it fits into the greater world of His Dark Materials, but this book is different. For starters, it’s the first novel in either series with no children as characters. Lyra, at age 20, is the youngest, and she’s truly a young woman and not a girl any longer.
More than that, though, is the tone and feel of the book. This book is DARK. Really bad things happen. This rarely feels like fantasy-level danger, with mystical forces or supernatural threats. The danger in The Secret Commonwealth is from people, and it’s awful. Lyra suffers through terrible ordeals, and so do many of the other characters in the book.
The pieces that are revealed about human/daemon connections and certain things that can happen (being deliberately vague here) are pretty horrible too, and are really startling in the context of the series as a whole.
Finally, the Lyra/Pan relationship and where it is in The Secret Commonwealth is heartbreaking and demoralizing. There’s really no ray of sunshine in this book whatsoever.
I suppose that the bleakness of the story is appropriate to the political conditions of Lyra’s world, but it makes for a pretty dismal reading experience. Philip Pullman is masterful as always, and I do love the world he’s created.
However, The Secret Commonwealth is so unrelentingly dark and full of misery that it’s hard to consider it an enjoyable read at all. After 600+ pages, it ends more or less on a cliffhanger, with all threads still to be resolved. The book is building toward something, and I hope the final book in the trilogy is successful in tying it all together and, hopefully, bringing back a little of Lyra’s fire and optimism.
I will absolutely want to read the 3rd and final book in The Book of Dust, and hope the conclusion will make all the suffering of the 2nd book worthwhile. Meanwhile, The Secret Commonwealth has left me feeling sad, upset, and worried about Lyra, and that’s not a fun way to be left hanging.
Title: Imaginary Numbers (InCryptid series, book #9) Author: Seanan McGuire Publisher: DAW Publication date: February 25, 2020 Length: 448 pages Genre: Urban fantasy Source: Won in a Goodreads giveaway! Rating:
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The ninth book in the fast-paced InCryptid urban fantasy series returns to the mishaps of the Price family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans.
Sarah Zellaby has always been in an interesting position. Adopted into the Price family at a young age, she’s never been able to escape the biological reality of her origins: she’s a cuckoo, a telepathic ambush predator closer akin to a parasitic wasp than a human being. Friend, cousin, mathematician; it’s never been enough to dispel the fear that one day, nature will win out over nurture, and everything will change.
Maybe that time has finally come.
After spending the last several years recuperating in Ohio with her adoptive parents, Sarah is ready to return to the world–and most importantly, to her cousin Artie, with whom she has been head-over-heels in love since childhood. But there are cuckoos everywhere, and when the question of her own survival is weighed against the survival of her family, Sarah’s choices all add up to one inescapable conclusion.
This is war. Cuckoo vs. Price, human vs. cryptid…and not all of them are going to walk away.
It makes me so happy to have a new InCryptid book in my hands, especially since I won this one in a Goodreads giveaway, which pretty much never happens for me!
In Imaginary Numbers, the ongoing InCryptid series turns to two new point-of-view characters, Sarah Zellaby and Artie Harrington. Sarah and Artie are both members of the sprawling Price-Healy clan, a group of cryptozoologists dedicated to protecting non-human species from the persecution of the deadly Covenant, and equally dedicated to protecting humans from the deadlier of cryptid species. To that end, the Prices are all highly skilled with weaponry of all sorts, learning to become excellent shots and to throw knives with precision from childhood.
Sarah is the first non-human main character in this series. She’s a cuckoo, the common term for Johrlacs, which are a human-appearing species that are more or less descended from telepathic wasps. Cuckoos are apex predators. They can take over anyone’s mind and make them do whatever they want, and the effects can be fatal. Sarah was adopted into the Price family as a child, and so was raised with a different set of influences than a typical cuckoo, making her more aware of her responsibility to respect others’ boundaries and giving her a deep, true love for her family. As well as a different and very strong love for her cousin Artie, which the two of them have been too shy and awkward to ever acknowledge.
In this book, Sarah’s return to the family compound after a lengthy recovery from injury brings the attention of unknown cuckoos, who want to use her for their own purposes, and don’t care who they have to kill to make it happen. The action is intense and fast-paced, with a plot that’s occasionally confusing but always fun.
The InCryptid books tend to be a little less dire than Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, which regularly rips out my heart. This series is generally light-hearted, not that there aren’t perilous situations and heartbreaks here as well. Still, with a family that includes a sorcerer whose boyfriend is a human-sized monkey, a grandfather who’s patched together from dead bodies, and a time-traveling grandma who appears to be in her teens, things can’t get all that serious for too extended a time.
The author’s trademark quippiness and cleverness is on full display in Imaginary Numbers:
It wouldn’t stop the cuckoos on the lawn from pouring into the house if they got the signal — it would barely even slow them down — but every little bit helps when you’re going up against telepathic killers from another dimension.
… [T]hat made it better than standing around waiting for the invisible floor to drop out from under my feet and send me plummeting into the void. I am not a big fan of plummeting. If I had to commit to a position, I’dd probably have to say that I was anti-plummeting.
“She seems nice.”
“No, she doesn’t,” I said. “She seems like an unstable old lady who somehow keeps aging backward, and who carries grenades that are older than I am way too frequently for comfort’s sake.”
Normal people get meet-cutes. I get crime scene cleanup.
Imaginary Numbers ends with a sort-of cliffhanger — the main plot is resolved, but ends up dumping a few key characters into a brand-new situation in the last lines… and I’m dying to know what will happen! It sounds as though the next in the series, Calculated Risks, will pick up where this one leaves off. Too bad we have to wait a year for it!
As an added treat, Imaginary Numbers includes a bonus novella, Follow the Lady, which takes place chronologically between books 8 and 9. It’s fun, not earth-shattering, and a nice way to de-stress after the high-pitched excitement at the end of Imaginary Numbers.
This series is a delight, and I’ll echo my previous advice to start at the beginning. These books do not work as stand-alones, not if you want to have any hope of getting what’s going on and the complex, convoluted family trees. All of the InCryptid books are fast reads, so even though this is the 9th book in the series, it really won’t be too hard to catch up.
Title: Cibola Burn (The Expanse, #4) Author: James S. A. Corey Publisher: Orbit Publication date: June 17, 2014 Length: 581 pages Genre: Science fiction Source: Purchased Rating:
Rating: 5 out of 5.
The gates have opened the way to thousands of habitable planets, and the land rush has begun. Settlers stream out from humanity’s home planets in a vast, poorly controlled flood, landing on a new world. Among them, the Rocinante, haunted by the vast, posthuman network of the protomolecule as they investigate what destroyed the great intergalactic society that built the gates and the protomolecule.
But Holden and his crew must also contend with the growing tensions between the settlers and the company which owns the official claim to the planet. Both sides will stop at nothing to defend what’s theirs, but soon a terrible disease strikes and only Holden – with help from the ghostly Detective Miller – can find the cure.
One of my reading goals for 2020 is to make progress with the sci-fi book series The Expanse — and now that I’ve read book #4, I can safely say that I’m off to a great start!
Before going into the book, its plot, or why it’s so great, I should state up front that there will be spoilers! I can’t talk about the 4th book in a series, or a book with an amazing TV adaptation, without getting into specifics.
There. You’ve been warned. Turn away if you don’t want to know!
Cibola Burn picks up after the events in book #3, Abaddon’s Gate, in which a mysterious alien ring provides a conduit of wormholes leading to thousands of unknown worlds. As the story continues in book #4, humans are eager to explore and exploit the resources of all of these new planets, but caution and legal complications are keeping a land rush on hold — for now.
One group of settlers, after being in homeless, planetless limbo for years, makes a dash through the rings and sets up a new colony on the planet Ilus, where they find a rich source of lithium ore, potentially representing enough value for them to truly create a livable world for themselves and their children.
But because there are fortunes to be made, the squatters’ rights aren’t allowed to stand, and an Earth corporation, the RCE, is granted a charter to explore and develop the planet, which they call New Terra.
Tensions are high, and when a militant group of settlers blows up the landing pad RCE is about to use and deaths result, it seems like violence is inevitable.
Enter our heroes, Captain Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante. Holden is the idealistic man who has time and again found himself at the center of interplanetary intrigue and war, and who always follows his conscience and does the right thing, even when it’s counter to his own interests or the interests of the political factions who think they own Holden’s allegiance. Rounding out the crew are pilot Alex Kamal, XO Naomi Nagata, and mechanic/muscle Amos Burton. Over the years, these four have formed a family, and their loyalty and love is a wonderful thing to behold.
The Rocinante is send by the UN to act as mediator between the settlers and the RCE, and of course, it all goes to shit pretty much from the start. There’s a murderous head of security, settler terrorists, and the not minor fact that the planet is populated by both deadly organic species and seemingly dormant alien artifacts that — obviously — have the potential to wipe out all human life… if the humans don’t manage to kill each other off first.
“Apocalyptic explosions, dead reactors, terrorists, mass murder, death-slugs, and now a blindness plague. This is a terrible planet…”
Yup. Death-slugs. How would you like to be surrounded by death-slugs while losing your eyesight? Shudder. Space exploration is clearly not for me. I prefer a death-slug-free environment, thank you very much.
The writing is fast-paced and exciting, so much so that I finished this almost 600-page book in about 2 and a half days. The dictionary should have a picture of Cibola Burn as the definition of “page-turner”.
The action isn’t at the expense of character: Each of our four main characters get a chance to shine. I’m particularly fond of Amos, the sociopathic enforcer who loves his captain, his crew, and his weapons. The authors (yes, James S. A. Corey is actually two people) seem to take special delight in writing for Amos.
“What,” Holden said, “is all this?”
“You said to gear up for the drop.”
“I meant, like, underwear and toothbrushes.”
“Captain,” Amos said, almost hiding his impatience. “They’re killing each other down there. Half a dozen RCE security vanished into thin air, and a heavy lift shuttle got blown up.”
“Yes, and our job is not to escalate that. Put all this shit away. Sidearms only. Bring clothes and sundries for us, any spare medical supplies for the colony. But that’s it.”
“Later,” Amos said, “when you’re wishing we had this stuff, I am going to be merciless in my mockery. And then we’ll die.”
Another Holden/Amos conversation:
“Okay. Murtry’s pissed about the rescue.”
“Yeah, but fuck him.”
“I also,” Holden continued, “may have shoved him down and stolen his hand terminal.”
“Stop making me fall in love with you, Cap, we both know it can’t go anywhere.”
Besides the Rocinante crew, there are several other POV characters, including both RCE and settlers, and I enjoyed seeing the unfolding events from their perspectives.
I will say thought that the only thing that bothered me in Cibola Burn was scientist Elvi’s infatuation with Holden. It was unnecessary and oddly demeaning for her character, and even though it eventually unfolds that it was more about her hunger for human connection that about Holden himself, it’s an off-putting choice to have this amazing scientist suffering through school-girl crush symptoms.
Now, you may be wondering how the books relates to the (excellent) TV series, currently airing its 4th season via its new home on Amazon Prime. The 4th season has the events on Ilus/New Terra as its centerpiece, but also includes quite a bit of action with Earth politics, Mars crime, and Belter terrorism. None of this really comes into play in book #4, although based on what I’ve read about book #5, I’m guessing those plots will all feature heavily there.
Listen, if you haven’t read any of these book or watched the TV series — and if you’re a fan of science fiction — then start one or the other, or both! The books are long but absolutely obsession-worthy, and the massive page volume just flies by.
The TV series is brilliantly done, and I’m tempted to start over again from the beginning just to enjoy it all once more.
And I can’t wrap up talking about The Expanse without a shout-out to Chrisjen Avasarala, who is a great book character but an absolutely AMAZING TV character. Played by the glorious Shohreh Aghdashloo, Avasarala is a glamorous, powerful, foul-mouthed woman who is always ten steps ahead and gives zero fucks for anyone or anything that gets in her way.
So let’s finish up with a look at Avasarala’s greatest hits, because even though this is a book review, it’s all from the same world, and any day I can hear Avasarala dropping f-bombs is a glorious day indeed.
Oh yeah. Back to the book. Read it. It’s terrific. Start at the first book, and keep going! As for me, because of the huge size of these books and the frighteningly huge size of my TBR pile, I’m going to hit pause on the book series and wait a bit before starting #5, Nemesis Games. Still, I don’t think I’ll be able to wait for long… I may just need to power through the remaining four available books long before 2020 grows much older.