04 November, 2013

Review - Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

I'm not usually a fan of crime novels or crime noir, whatever you want to call them. I also can't watch CSI or NCIS because even though I acknowledge they are well done, I've even been known to enjoy them on occasion, they tend to be the same cookie-cutter/paint-by-numbers plot.

However, add a little science fiction and the mix can be brilliant as demonstrated in Leviathan Wakes [US] [UK].

Leviathan Wakes (LW) takes place solely in our solar system, which is a rare thing for most SF works it seems and yet it felt just as futuristic and vast as anything else I've read. It also contributed to the feeling that this future could very well be our own not too distantly.

One of the brilliant ideas that gets explored has to do with racism. In this new solar-system wide colonization, there are certain physical traits that are readily apparent whether you are born on Earth and the surrounding planets such as Mars or beyond the astroid belt. Those on Earth are stockier due to the much more intense gravity and those beyond the belt, or Belters, are skinnier and much taller. 

These differences along with the dependence on Earth no matter where anyone is make for difficult times politically and a solar-system on the brink of outright war at any given moment.

LW follows from the viewpoints of two characters (not counting the prologue and the epilogue), one a captain of a transport ship (Jim Holden) and the other an investigator (Detective Miller). Holden inadvertently gets his crew involved in a solar-system wide struggle and Miller is just doing his job and gets entangled himself. Holden is an Earther and Miller a Belter.

There are mysteries, set-ups, and atrocities (and even vomit-zombies!) and yet it really comes down to the characters despite how captivating the plot is or even how intriguing the ideas are.

The characters are the best. Holden's crew is one I'm looking forward to following through the next couple books (hopefully), and Miller is smart and interesting too. The only drawback really is that due to the whole story coming through the points of view of Holden and Miller, much of the discoveries have to come through them too. And as smart and capable as they both are, it's a little unbelievable that they're the only two in the entire system that could make the connections they make to solve the mysteries.

Overall, LW's a great read that's hard to put down. I found myself drawn to it every time I had a spare moment and that's always a good sign. The action is constant and you're pulled from one scene to the next with some great reveals and revelations.

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

The Expanse: (Read in Red)
0.5) The Butcher of Anderson Station
1) Leviathan Wakes
2) Caliban's War
2.5) Gods of Risk
3) Abaddon's Gate
4) Cibola Burn (Comes out 2014)


Bob/Sally said...

I keep hearing such good things about this, but after a great start, I found it just didn't hold my interest. At some point I'll have to sit down and try to plow past my roadblocks to see if it hooks me.

Bryce L. said...

I tried once and wasn't hooked, but I was in the right mood and Leviathan Wakes was perfect.

Daniel B. said...

Great review, Bryce. I read this a couple years back, and reading your review reminded me why I enjoyed it so much.

Bryce L. said...

Thanks a ton Daniel. I need to get back into the series, but I've scaled back on my book buying and my library has every book in this series but the first one, doh!