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!
I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions, and I generally don’t set a lot of reading goals. My reading north star is to read whatever, whenever, according to my whims and moods (although I do try to keep up with my ARCs, more or less according to publication dates).
I do like to plan ahead at the start of a year when it comes to my series reading. A new year is a fresh start when is comes to starting a series that I’ve been wanting to get to. For me, series are most enjoyable when I can read all (or at least, a bunch) of the books in a row, or at least within a few months of each other.
Of course, all of this is subject to change as the year progresses. Still…
In 2021, my priority series to read will be:
The Modern Faerie Tales trilogy by Holly Black – I read (and adored) Holly Black’s Folk of the Air series in 2020, and now I want to read everything else she’s written! I’ll start with these:
The Plantagenet and Tudor novels by Philippa Gregory – of the 15 books in this historical fiction series, I’ve read 5 at random times over the last several years. Nine more to go! (I’m inspired, having watched the Starz TV series inspired by several of these books.)
The Expanse by James S. A. Corey: This was on my list last year too! I seem to manage to read only one book per year. I’ve read books 1 – 4 already, and want to keep going! Hopefully, I’ll read more than one in 2021. Next up for me is:
Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery – I’ve been wanting to read this trilogy since reading the Anne of the Green Gables books a couple of years ago.
Inspector Gamache books by Louise Penny – I want to at least start this series this year. There are 16 books published so far! Seems daunting, but I want to give them a try.
Also for 2021, I want to either start, get back to, or revisit some of these others:
The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowksi – I’ve read 3 books, 5 more to go
The Diviners by Libba Bray – I’ve read the first book, but at this point I’d need to re-read it before continuing (four books in all)
Wolfsong series by TJ Klune – I really want to read more by TJ Klune in 2021, and I’ve heard this series is great
Shardlake series by C. J. Sansom – I’ve been meaning to start this series for a long time, so maybe this will be the year
The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny – this is a BIG maybe for me. I read books 1 – 5 of this series ages and ages ago, but I’ve always meant to go back and read books 6 – 10… which means I’d need to start over from the beginning. I remember loving it at the time — so yeah, maybe.
Are you planning to start any new series this year? If you’ve read any of the series on my “priority” list, let me know what you thought!
Remember January? Those good old days when we left our houses? Didn’t think twice about breathing the same air as other people? Sigh…
Back in January, oh so long ago, I set myself some reading goals related to reading book series. And now that 2020 is about to expire (and good riddance!), I thought it was time to check in and see whether I met any of my series reading goals.
Here are the books I set as my priorities for 2020:
The Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal – a five-book series:Status: DONE!I listened to the audiobooks, one right after another, and loved the individual books as well as the over-arching storylines. All-around excellent world-building and storytelling. I just wish there were more set in this world!
The Interdependency Series by John Scalzi – a science fiction trilogy:
Status: DONE!Such a fun sci-fi adventure. I’d been hesitant about reading these books, expecting them to be too much on the “hard” side of science fiction — but thanks to the author’s never-fail humor and snark, the books flew by and were totally entertaining.
The Expanse by James S. A. Corey: More science fiction! Prior to 2020, I’d read books 1 – 3, and my goal was to keep going.
Status: A little bit of progress…I read book #4, but didn’t go any further. Yet. I do intend to keep going with the series, and since the final book is due out in 2021, I suppose I’d better get moving!
Poldark by Winston Graham – 12 books in all, and as of the end of 2019, I’d read seven.
Status: Nope. I didn’t read any additional books in this series, and honestly, I doubt that I will. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read, but now that the TV adaptation has ended, I don’t feel all that invested in continuing (especially since the books from this point out supposedly focus on the next generation of characters).
Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black – a fantasy trilogy:
Status: YES, YES, A THOUSAND TIMES YES! Not only did I read the three books early in 2020, all right in a row, I ended up listening to all the audiobooks toward the end of the year. And I loved them so, so much! Such a great story, with fantastic characters.
Those are all the series that I set as my goals at the beginning of the year. I also ended up reading one additional trilogy, not on my original list:
The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club by Theodora Goss: A fabulous trilogy starring the cast-off daughters of famous fictional men — the daughters of Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde), Victor Frankenstein, and more. The books are clever and funny, and feature strong, amazing women having great adventures. Totally delightful.
So, farewell to 2020! And onward to 2021!
Did you read any series in 2020? Any particular favorites?
Check back in January, when I’ll set a new batch of series reading goals for the new year.
Once again, I’m joining in with the Top 5 Tuesday meme this week! Top 5 Tuesday is hosted by Bionic Bookworm, who posts the month’s topics at the start of each month. Today’s topic is Top 5 Popular Books I Haven’t Read Yet. And of course, there are WAY more than the five (six) on my list. My TBR list will never be empty! Here are five (six) books that everyone seems to have read — except me.
1) Divergent series by Veronica Roth. Now that I’ve read her newest book (Chosen Ones), I’m wondering if I should finally give these books a try… except (a) I saw the first movie and didn’t care for it much, and (b) I keep hearing how let-down/angry fans were by the 3rd book. So, hard pass? Or not?
2) The Long Way To a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers: I’ve had this book on my shelf for ages, and I know people seem to love the trilogy. So this is one I really do mean to get to.
3) Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir: I absolutely want to read this book! I’m not sure why I haven’t yet.
4) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss: I know, I know… I definitely need to read this! But I keep insisting that I’m not going to get involved in yet another unfinished series, and that I won’t start this book until there’s at least a publication date for the 3rd book. Maybe I’m being ridiculous, because everyone tells me I’ll love it!
5) Vicious and A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab: I haven’t actually read any of this author’s books, even though I know people loved them. And based on what I’ve heard, I think I’d love them too.
Have you read any of these? Let me know if you think I should READ or SKIP them!
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.
I always see a new year as a clean slate for my bookish dreams.
I tend not to set specific reading goals, other than keeping up with the books I buy and the never-ending ARCs waiting to be read.
But where I do like to plan ahead at the start of a year is with my series reading. A new year represents a chance to tackle a series that I’ve been wanting to get to. For me, series are most enjoyable when I can read all (or at least, a bunch) of the books in a row, or at least within a few months of each other.
Bearing in mind that none of this is written in stone, since my reading plans change with my changing moods…
In 2020, my priority series to read will be:
The Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal – a completed five-book series:
The Interdependency Series by John Scalzi – the 3rd book in the trilogy will be released in April, so this might be a good time to get started!
The Expanse by James S. A. Corey: I’ve read books 1 – 3 already, and need to get back into the story! Watching season 4 of the TV series is helping a lot with my motivation! Next up for me is:
And who knows, maybe I’ll keep going. There are 8 full novels in the series so far, all over 500 pages, so I have my work cut out for me.
Poldark by Winston Graham – 12 books in all, and I’ve read 7. My understanding is that book #8 jumps ahead quite a bit and takes place after the events of the complete TV series, so I’ve been less eager to move forward with this one. Still, I really should see how it all works out!
Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black – I just bought myself a copy of The Cruel Prince, and assuming I like it (and why wouldn’t I?), I’ll want to read all three books!
That’s it for my 2020 priority list… but wait, there’s more!
I still have my eye on a bunch of series/trilogies/what-have-you that I intend to read… eventually. Maybe 2020 will finally be the year… and maybe not. My will-get-to-at-some-point list of series includes:
Kitty Norville urban fantasy series by Carrie Vaughn
Parasitology trilogy by Mira Grant (because even though the subject is totally icky, I think these are her only books that I haven’t read yet, which is unacceptable!)
Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness
The Last Policeman trilogy by Ben H. Winters
Wayward Pines books by Blake Crouch
Inheritance trilogy and/or Broken Earth series by N. K. Jemisin
Are you planning to start any new series this year? If you’ve read any of the series on my “priority” list, let me know what you thought!
Finally, after threatening to read these books for oodles of year, I’ve done it! As of this past week, I’ve finished the Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi. I’m definitely feeling a sense of satisfaction over seeing this through — but what will I put on my reading resolution list for 2019, now that this perennial favorite has moved to the “already read” shelf?
After finishing the first three books in the six-book series, I wrote a wrap-up post (here) to share my thoughts from the halfway point. So now, I’ll dive back in and focus on books 4 – 6, which take the series in a decidedly different direction.
Book #4, Zoe’s Tale is THE EXACT SAME STORY as the one told in The Last Colony. The catch is, this time around we see events through the eyes of Zoe, adopted daughter of John Perry and Jane Sagan, and biological daughter of a man who came close to destroying all of humanity. (Spoiler alert: he failed.) Once again, we journey with the family to the new colony of Roanoke, where things go spectacularly badly for the human colonists.
Zoe is a fun point-of-view character, giving us the teen girl take on being dragged across the universe by her parents, being forced to leave her friends and technology behind, and engage in the dirty, difficult business of building a new home out of practically nothing.
Zoe is smart, and a smart-ass, and it’s exhilarating to see her come into her own and make a difference in intergalactic politics and intrigue. Plus, Zoe — by virtue of her birth father’s contributions — is a hero to an entire alien race, and seeing Zoe interact with her Obin bodyguards is worth the price of admission all on its own.
As a side note, throughout the series, Scalzi excels at creating multitudes of alien races and making them distinct and endlessly entertaining. Some are weird, some are scary, some are practically beyond description… and it all just adds to the fun of the Old Man’s War books.
You might think it would be dull to read about the same events in a second book, but trust me, it’s not. It’s kind of a blast to hear Zoe’s take on what happened, and to see how her version dovetails (or not) with her parents’ side of the story. Really, Zoe’s Tale is a great read — and I think best appreciated if read immediately following The Last Colony.
Zoe’s Tale is, in a way, an end of the main piece of the story, at least if you consider the series to be specifically about John Perry and his family. The next two books continue with events in the Old Man’s War universe, but have a very different format and focus.
Books #4 and 5, The Human Division and The End of All Things, are written (and were originally published as) a series of interconnected stories. John Perry’s actions at the end of the previous books pretty much blew up the uneasy coexistence of the Colonial Union (representing humanity) and the Conclave (an alliance of 400+ alien species). In these two books, we see what happens next.
Previously, Earth was kept isolated from the Colonial Union. Earth humans had the option of joining the CDF (Colonial Defense Forces) when they turned 75, but it was a one-way relationship. Earth was kept mostly in the dark about the goings-on out in space, and had no say in how humans interacted with the various other species they encountered.
John Perry broke through that barrier, and in The Human Division and The End of All Things, we see the fall-out. Earth is no longer willing to be merely a supplier of people and goods to the Colonial Union, and wants its own voice heard. In these two books, we meet diplomats — lots and lots of diplomats — from Earth, from the Colonial Union, and from the Conclave, each of whom represent their people’s interest, but carry layer upon layer of secret agendas as well.
Of course, these are John Scalzi books we’re talking about, so in addition to diplomatic negotiations, we have daring space rescues, lots of things blowing up, a brain in a box (yup!), wise-ass soldiers wielding mighty weapons while discussing ancient pop culture, descriptions of very interesting and sometimes scary alien beings, and more snark than might seem possible to fit into two paperback books.
As I said in my wrap-up of the first three books in the series:
Ever since discovering John Scalzi’s amazing books, I’ve know that I needed to make time for this series, but after talking about it for so long, it started feeling like a huge undertaking — and I’m not quite sure why. Now that I’ve dived in (and read three books in the space of a week), I can tell you that this series contains all the trademark Scalzi wit and smart-assery (is that a word? it should be a word) that we know and love from books like The Android’s Dream, Redshirts, and Lock In. I was afraid that Old Man’s War would be all hard sci-fi, serious and full of space battles, and I’m happy to say that that’s not the case. I mean, yes, there are space battles and the eradication of planets and species… but these books are funny, dammit, even while containing moments of deep emotion and moral dilemmas.
Now that I’ve reached the end of Old Man’s War, I can say that I’m 100% happy to have read the series! John Scalzi is consistently smart and funny in everything he writes, and I think it’s safe to say that I’m a fan for life. I haven’t started his newest series, The Interdependency (which consists of two books so far, The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire) — so I guess I do have something Scalzi for my goals list for 2019 after all.
Zoe’s Tale – published 2008; 325 pages The Human Division – published 2013; 431 pages The End of All Things – published 2015; 380 pages