Abaddon’s Gate (The Expanse Book 3) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Abaddon’s Gate (The Expanse Book 3) – TwoMorePages Book Review

“‘What?’ Holden asked. His brain refused to believe this could be true. He’d heard the words clearly, but those words could not be, so he must have heard them wrong. ‘What?'”

I think I hate this book, not because the writing was bad, but because almost everyone I root for dies. This was a book of pure frustration. :/

The quote above, referencing when Holden learns about Sam’s fate? That is *exactly* how I felt. The thought “I definitely just read that wrong” crossed my head.

That might be as emotional as I’ve felt in The Expanse in a long time. I could not believe that had just happened. And the chapters immediately following it, where Corey describes the reactions of Amos, Holden, Naomi, and Bull? They perfectly mirrored mine. Amos first, with his immediate thirst for vengeance;  Holden, with his similar, but more tempered reaction; Naomi, immediately turning into a sobbing wreck, focusing on sadness instead of anger; Bull, forcing everyone to keep moving along in the story instead of wallowing.

A lot of people die in Abaddon’s gate. A lot of good ones. For the record, if Miller were still alive and around, none of this bullshit would have happened. His pragmatism would have saved everyone. Ashford would have been either airlocked or at the very least, put under guard with guards with known loyalties, and the counter-mutiny would never have happened. But noooope; we have to go all soft hearted and keep Ashford alive even after he’s proven to be utterly incompetent, so that way he can 100% go off the deep end, try to get everyone killed, and kill my favorite engineer!

Okay, I guess I should stop being mad about Sam’s death. Let’s move on. I guess. *sob*

Abaddon’s Gate marks the first shift in The Expanse away from dealing with scary protomolecule monsters, changing the protomolecule’s role from the origin of vomit zombies that can kill everyone to basically a technology that opens up this gateway to weird space. It’s a marked shift in tone that changes the focus of the series from the scariness of the protomolecule to people’s reactions to new and unknown situations.

Miller’s Back, Bitches!

Okay, I admit it. I basically started this book within minutes of finishing Caliban’s War because of the final chapter. Miller was back! And I wanted to see how his reincarnated character would interact with our favorite spaceship crew.

The beginning starts off a little anti-climactic, basically telling us he’s been speaking gibberish the entire time between the two books. But I really liked the reveal of *why* exactly he’s back, and in many ways, not back. Rather than using a contrived sci-fi explanation to reincarnate him, proto-Miller basically explains that no, Miller is in fact dead. There’s a protomolecule-like machine / entity that is using his personality as a base, but Miller is most certainly dead. Because of that, you get to see flashes of his personality, but he has his own motivations for existing, motivations that exist outside of what may or may not be important to the Rocinate’s crew.

That being said, at several points, their motivations do in fact intersect, and Miller ends up playing a key role in Holden figuring out what is up with the ring and why it exists, creating the catalyst for the next book. Moreover, it’s Miller that spells out the implications of what might happen if Ashford tries to blow up the ring with a laser and why *everyone* is in trouble from his insanity.

But more than anything, proto-Miller is entertaining in his banter with Holden. His character might technically be dead, but he still throws quips as well as real Miller did. And Holden’s exasperation in dealing with him is rather amusing from my point of view as the reader.

Mars and Their Badass Marines

What was I talking about before? Oh right. This story kills everyone I care about. If you’ve been reading my other Expanse reviews, you already know that I love the MCRN and basically think they’re the good guys in this whole mess. Well, we get to know some of their marines again in this book; not quite as well as Bobbie Draper, but well enough to be upset when bad things happen to them.

Sergeant Verbinski, commanding officer of the marines that are ordered to surrender to the Behemoth (against his own advice); sarcastic, skilled, fun. I loved his quips with Bull, both in the exchange where he reveals that he smuggled some grenades on board and in the exchange where he tells Bull that none of this would be a problem had he and his squad been allowed to keep their power armor. Moreover, he’s shown to be smart in making the correct strategic decisions to take and defend engineering, and to take out one of the baddies in the stolen martian power armor. His death, much like Sam’s was sudden and quick. One moment he’s there, the other he’s not. Honestly, I’m still not sure how he died exactly. Was it from injuries sustained defending engineering? Or did his EVA suit break or something?

Verbinski is backed up by his squadsmates, Juarez, sniper extraordinaire, who actually takes the shot that takes out the aforementioned baddie in the stolen martian power armor. Even when he’s out of bullets, he’s still sighting for his fellow marine, Cass, still taking shots. With soldiers like these, how does the MCRN ever lose any battles? But of course, since Abaddon’s Gate likes to kill or at least severely maim all the good guys, Juarez gets his guts shot out when they try and take the bridge. Of course…

But okay, I’ve spent a lot of time on what seem like tertiary characters up until now. They’ve been my favorites. And they’re all dead. Let’s move on to some of the main POV characters.

Bull

To me, Bull is Fred Johnson Lite; Strong, self-sacrificing, and selfless, he spends the entire book getting the shaft. He should be Captain of the Behemoth, but since he’s officially from Earth and Belters are a bunch of racist assholes, he is relegated to 2nd officer. However, Fred puts Bull in the unenviable position where he has to be in charge without the power and authority to actually do so, which inevitably leads to the power struggle that defines the conflict on the Behemoth. Honestly, Fred Johnson should have been smart enough to see that coming.

Poor Bull. He gets crippled; all he wants to do is get everyone safely out of the slow zone. But he has to deal with all sorts of bullshit just to do so. In fact, he has to engineer a freaking mutiny to get his Captain to stop making idiotic decisions. And then, when he’s finally right and victorious, the new Captain / old XO decides to basically put him under minimum security guard instead of spacing him or putting him  in a more secure prison. So he has to take his crippled ass, take back engineering, and then basically fight back against almost invincible antagonists in martian power armor.

Oh, and of course, since this is Abaddon’s Gate and he’s a likeable character, he dies. At least he takes out a few of the bad guys with him.

Can you sense my frustration with this story?!??!

Clarissa Mao/ Melba

Okay, so one very different thing that Abaddon’s Gate brought us that the other Expanse books didn’t was having one of the POV characters be one of the antagonists. We’re brought into the thoughts of Clarissa Mao, who has concocted honestly a pretty damn good scheme to character assassinate + actually assassinate James Holden.

Unfortunately, since we’re already firmly on the side of the Rocinate‘s crew, it’s hard to empathize with the poor rich girl trying to get vengeance on her (evil) father’s behalf and murder our favorite protagonists. It’s even harder to do so when you see her murder innocents like Ren along the way because they were too nice / too smart.

I assume Corey’s purpose in showing us Clarissa’s POV is to tell a story of redemption, of a person misguided by their upbringing, who then realizes the wrongs that she’s doing and who ultimately redeems herself.

Except…this entire situation is her fault in the first place! I, the reader, don’t forgive her. I wanted her spaced in the first place, and just because she ends up playing a pivotal role in keeping Holden and Co. alive later doesn’t absolve her of her original guilt!

I’m pretty sure I missed the entire overarching theme that I was supposed to see about forgiveness and redemption, but oh well.

Ashford

I find it rather amusing that when Clarissa is in her cell next to Ashford, she doesn’t listen to his rantings, and then later thinks to herself “Wait, what was that guy saying? Why is he acting all crazy?” Because I feel like that is pretty similar to what I felt whenever Ashford went from incompetent, insecure idiot to homicidal maniac bent on trapping/killing everyone in the slow zone.

It was such a large character shift I had to go back and re-read to see if I missed anything. Nearest I can figure, he just went crazy after his crew mutinied on him, and his insecurity drove him to want to save his ego by trapping everyone in the slow zone to “save” everyone at home. When I think about it though, that doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand how anyone that stupid could ever have ascended the ranks, even in the OPA, where command structure is a little more loose.

He becomes fully unhinged once he’s loose. Remember before, when he was upset that Bull spaced the drug dealer? That painted a picture of a man who cared about his crew, who was upset that one of his own was killed without due process. Next thing I know, he’s ordering roaming death squads, deciding that everyone in the slow zone needs to die, and shooting Sam in the face! (*sob*). Makes no sense at all that he’d get that unhinged because of some people questioning his command.

But oh well, stories need unlikeable antagonists, right? So we got one.

Final Thoughts

Okay, so you’ve heard me rant…a lot in this review. Now it’s time for me to say that I still thought my time reading it was time well spent. The entire last 20% of the book is a very well written action sequence where our crew of good guys tries to take engineering, fails to hold it, and hunkers down in the broadcast booth to try and send out the message of what Ashford is trying to do and how it’s going to get everyone killed. This will be an enjoyable sequence to watch on The Expanse if the show lasts that long. I found the book very hard to put down once the action started flowing, and I imagine watching it will be just as great.

With hindsight, Sam’s death evoked the emotional reaction I think that Casey was going for. It was sudden, unexpected, and affected me and all our cast of good guys deeply. I think the point was to illustrate just how serious the situation was, and that Ashford had gone off the deep end. It still sucks, I can see why it was important for the story.

Bull got a hero’s death, which at the end of the day, is in the vein of what his character was all about: self sacrifice for the good of others. He got the shit end of the stick, took it, and made the most of it, helping our cadre of good guys as best he could in the process.

Our martian marines? They took out several people with them, and helped to display the awesome military might of the MCRN Marine Corps, showing that Bobbie Draper is not the only person from Mars worth a damn in a fight.

The overarching themes of forgiveness and redemption were kind of lost on me (Sorry Anna!), but I always tend to struggle with those concepts anyway.

The big takeaway from this book though is that it changes the entire tone of the series. We’re no longer confined to our solar system. There are Stargates rings that we can go through now, leading to brand new planets in other solar systems! The promolecule creators are revealed to be mortal, and have mysteriously disappeared! Moreover, the protomolecule itself changes from this big scary thing that might end humanity to well…the heart of some new mysterious technology? THAT was a large, series altering shift.

Abaddon’s Gate sets the scene nicely to lead into Cibola Burn, where the focus again continues to shift away from the protomolecule. I’ll see you there (and hopefully more of our friends don’t die along the way *sob*)!

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The Lost World (Jurassic Park) – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Lost World (Jurassic Park) – TwoMorePages Book Review

I think I just got book rick-rolled haha. I spent the last few days reading The Lost World to get to the scene above and it…never happened.

Now I’m googling “The Lost World Book vs Movie Differences” and finding out that the entire sequence of events that lead up to a T Rex loose in San Diego was made up just for the movie and was never in the book haha. Whoops…

Okay, we were doing a book review, I think. Let’s try to set aside my crushing disappointment that I didn’t get to re-live the scene above in my print, with a T Rex running through San Diego.

So I picked up The Lost World because /r/books promised a scene with raptors on the boat that was bringing the dinosaurs to San Diego. Wait, hold on…that’s not better. Okay, so I picked up The Lost World because /r/books said it was good? Yeah, let’s go with that.

I took a break from marathoning The Expanse in print and decided to go the total other direction in sci-fi. Instead of the future with space and the problems inherent in living in a vacuum, I decided to go back and hang out with dinosaurs, woohoo.

Okay let’s start the review

The Lost World was an exhilarating action story with cool science in it, focusing on animal behavior, plus re-introducing me to some of my favorite dinosaurs growing up, pachycephalosaurus, compsognathus, apatosaurus, and of course, our favorite carnivores, raptors. The pacing of the story was perfect to me as a reader. You got to experience the joys of Levitt and Malcolm as they explore Isla Sorna before everything goes to shit, geeking out with them as they get to observe dinosaurs in the wild, seeing if prevailing theories on dinosaur behavior were right or wrong. They’re so happy and you are too as a result. Even Levitt, who’s basically an ass the entire story, can’t help but be happy while he’s doing his nature observations.

I feel like they built the characters well too. Everyone has a motivation for acting the way they do or doing the things they do. Sarah Harding has special insight into how the dinosaurs might act because of her experience with working with large predators in Africa. Kelly is unsure about most things she does because everyone at school had basically given her extreme negative reinforcement growing up. Levitt is a spoiled asshole naturalist because well, rich kids don’t grow up with boundaries and so they get to do whatever they want to do and treat people mostly however they want to treat them. Dodgson is super reckless and gets his entire team killed because it’s his one last shot at dinosaur discover, plus because he has a questionable moral compass in the first place.

But of course, this is Jurassic Park, and everything eventually goes pear shaped, this time kicked off not because of the idiocy of Nedry, but because of the conscience of Eddie, who brings back an injured T Rex to the camp because he didn’t have the heart to shoot it. Well, I mean, if you really want to make this the antagonist’s fault, this is Dodgson’s fault because his team broke the T Rex’s leg in the first place, but nevertheless…

It’s too bad that the road to hell was paved with such good intentions. Because of the rescue, the T Rex mom and dad come and knock the hell out of the trailers, almost killing Malcolm and Sarah in the process. This scene was exceptionally well written and I can see why they tried to stay as true to it as possible when they made the movie. You can basically taste the fear of Malcolm, reliving his worst nightmares again, and you fully understand how Sarah is as strong as she is by living her thoughts along with her as she tries to keep Malcolm alive.

Raptors and Horrible Deaths

The raptor scenes in this are especially horrific, adding a new depth to death by raptor that wasn’t present in the film adaptation. Eddie’s death in the novel was way more horrific than the one he got on the big screen, as he is essentially tricked by the raptors into falling to his own death before getting pounced on. More than that, they exhibit an almost insane tenaciousness in trying to kill our protagonists, chasing them from location to location, and setting up traps along the way. I’m not convinced that the calories they spent in trying to kill the people were less than the calories they would have gotten by being successful, but hey, it’s an action story, and things don’t have to be 100% based in reality, right?

Speaking of horrible deaths, Dodgson’s death was a great present for us readers in the form of justice porn. I legitimately had my mouth agape as I read the scene where Sarah pushes him out from under the car to get eaten by the T. Rex. It represented the first truly grey action that a protagonist took, instead of the obviously good protagonist actions and the obviously bad antagonist actions. I mean, in retrospect, it makes perfect sense; the T Rex can smell people. It knows you’re nearby; it probably is deducing that you’re under the car. What it doesn’t know is that there are two of you, so push the other person out and you should be safe, right? It’s genius. But you don’t expect the good guys to do it, right?

But anyway, his death was especially delicious, since this entire problem is kind of his fault. I had a justice boner as I read the final chapter where the question is finally answered as to why the T Rex didn’t eat him to begin with. Ohhhhh, it’s because he is target practice for the T Rex babies. Awwww…

Wait what?

Switching gears really quickly, one thing that was a slight disappointment was the answer to the question “How are there so many predators on this island?” I had expected some fancy Ingen plot since there had been so much buildup for the question. I loved Sarah and Malcolm’s conversation about it earlier where they go through the math and deduce that it make no sense for there to be a predator-prey population ratio as skewed as it was, since I was kind of thinking something similar myself. For the answer to be “oh, prions” was kind of disappointing, since it wasn’t anything as grand and epic as I thought it was built up to be, but oh well. I suppose it kept with the theme of complex systems having simple solutions / causes.

Final thoughts

I’m still a little sad that I got tricked by /r/books into reading this book for scenes that weren’t even in it (I WANTED RAPTORS ON A BOAT!), but all in all, I’m glad I read The Lost World. It was an entertaining read, driven by action, and kept the turns coming. I can honestly say that I could not anticipate most plot events before they happened, and probably wouldn’t have been able to anticipate *any* of them had I not seen the movie first.

The story is well written, and I definitely found myself putting off other things to keep reading. I’d recommend it to anyone else looking for a fun book to read that was ever interested in Jurassic Park at all, or you know, DINOSAURS!

 

Caliban’s War (The Expanse Book 2) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Caliban’s War (The Expanse Book 2) – TwoMorePages Book Review

“Good, because I don’t use sex as a weapon. I use weapons as weapons.”

-Bobbie Draper

“My last act in this universe isn’t going to be fucking up everything I did right up to now.”

“No, actually, it should be fine. This is all posturing. As long as they keep comparing dicks, no one will shoot.”

-Chrisjen Avasarala

It’s the Avasarala and Bobbie show! Caliban’s War brought us two new, very likeable protagonists, strong and entertaining in very different ways. Moreover, we got to take more of a look at my favorite faction, Mars and the MCRN!

In most ways, Caliban’s War is actually very different from Leviathan Wakes. The overall tone of the book is much less gloomy, the protomolecule plays less of a front and center role, and…fewer vomit zombies, so that way nobody can criticize The Expanse as just being zombies in space. Hooray!

Bobbie Draper

First off, Bobbie is my favorite character in this book. She an MCRN marine (and we’ve already established that I *love* the MCRN), and you get to see her mental struggles in this book, first with the PTSD that she experiences after her squadmates die on Ganymede; and  then later with the situation she’s thrown into on Earth, working for Avasarala and having to deal with her inner struggles of what to do as an MCRN marine working for a UN politician. Is she loyal? Is she a traitor to Mars?

I really liked having another genuinely good character that wasn’t Holden too. For example, the entire firefight to take Mao’s yacht, she exercises incredible restraint in trying to kill or injure the fewest amount of people, recognizing that the crew of the yacht aren’t evil; they’re just trying to do their jobs. I mean, part of that was her PTSD from seeing her friends killed on Ganymede, but nevertheless. Speaking of…

Her PTSD is a recurring theme throughout the whole book. You see it immediately addressed in the beginning, as the MCRN teams her up with a counselor who forces her to deal with it, and then especially at the end, where she faces off against one of the Protomolecule hybrids. Corey does a great job of illustrating her state of mind as the Rocinate goes towards Ganymede, especially through describing the dreams she was having of facing off vs it (and dying!). Their final battle was very climactic and rewarding.

Chrisjen Avasarala

Now, on to everyone else’s favorite character, Avasarala, our walking, talking, cursing favorite grandmother and political player haha. Whereas Bobbie is a walking example of virtue, Avasarala is written a lot more deeply, with nuances to everything she says and does.

Corey does a great job of writing us into her head, either when she’s contemplating making a move and weighing the alternatives, or when she’s flat out explaining to Holden or to Draper why something that they’re thinking is a bad idea. You really get a great insight into her political mind and her calculated actions.

The whole debacle with getting on Mao’s yacht is a great example of it. You’ve got Bobbie basically stating what we, the readers, are thinking: Don’t get on the yacht! It’s a trap! You’ll die! And Avasarala knows it’s a bunk move, but she goes ahead and does it anyway since her political clout is enough to keep her safe at the very least. Plus, she knows that the political consequences of NOT getting on the yacht are awful, basically losing all of her political clout that she spent years, no decades, procuring.

In addition, there’s the whole episode where she sees that the Rocinate is in trouble and boards it in order to keep Holden and his crew safe. She basically forces her way on to the vessel, over Holden’s misgivings, so that way nobody can fire on it and kill them. Plus, she has that wonderful exchange with Holden where she basically calls him an idiot and the cause of all the solar system’s problems because he can’t stop broadcasting everything he learns. In a way, she’s Miller 2.0, just as entertaining, but with a different perspective on why Holden is dumb haha.

Prax

Okay, so I may have lied when I said this was the Bobbie Draper and Chrisjen Avasarala show. There was an entire subplot with Prax and his kid. Well, subplot, main plot, whatever.

Prax is supposed to be Protagonist A in this story, since so many of the chapters are his. he’s supposed to be this virtuous father, trying against all odds to get his daughter back despite having no training to do so. Alas, I found him whiny and idiotic, moreso than Holden, and as Avasarala said in the book “the bar’s not low.”

He gets *SO MANY* people killed, starting with that firefight on Ganymede that he starts (but doesn’t finish!). I felt really bad for the security troop that Holden encountered on Ganymede. Here they are, minding their own business, just trying to find their way off this godforsaken rock that’s running out of food, and they basically turn into Holden’s redshirts. The first of them dies in this idiotic firefight that Prax starts because he cocks his gun for no reason.

Well, I guess I can’t say no reason. For a stupid reason. Because he’s brash and emotional and doesn’t know the consequences of his actions…like cocking a gun in a tense situation where everyone has guns pointed at each other. Sheesh, now I feel like Avasarala lecturing Holden…

More than that, he’s never rational at any point in the story. And I mean, I get some of that. Corey’s trying to show that a father trying to get his little girl back won’t do rational things. But I’m also reading this from the perspective of Holden or Avasarala. When they approach Io and the base is basically saying “get anywhere near us and we’ll shoot all these protomolecule monsters to Mars”, the clear thing to do is to just glass the installation. Why Avasarala doesn’t just immediately order that is beyond me.

Well, I guess not beyond me. It’s for Prax. We’re going to risk thousands of lives in the ships surrounding Io and THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF MARS in order to save Prax’s little girl. Look, I get it. He’s important to her. But every person on Mars, every crewman in the ships above Io, is important to someone. That is a terrible risk/reward proposition.

He doesn’t even learn his lesson, insisting on accompanying the away team down to Io, and at first not understanding why he doesn’t get a gun this time. More than that, he almost falls for the idiotic statements of Dr. Strickland, the very person who kidnapped his little girl in the first place!

“I don’t need to kill you. I have my daughter back. Revenge isn’t important to me.” he says to Strickland. WHAAAAT?!?! You just spent forever moving heaven and earth to get your daughter back, risking everyone’s lives in the process, and you can’t even finish the man who did this to you? Good thing my boy Amos was there.

So, in case you can’t tell already, Prax was a very frustrating character for me…

Epic Space Battles!

But maybe my favorite part of the entire The Expanse series up until now happened here in the pages of Caliban’s War: the space battle between the 5 UN warships and the 5 MCRN warships + the Rocinate. In typical Corey fashion, the action itself happens over a few pages, and happens quickly. Space out for a minute and you’ll miss it. But why would you space out during the epic space battle?!

It’s no secret that I love Mars and the MCRN, so getting to see the MCRN ships in action (and not getting blown to pieces like the poor Donnager) was wonderful. Having the Rocinate score the critical hit that turned the tide of the entire battle was a nice touch as well. Corey does a great job of illustrating just how tense and close the battle is, even though the MCRN in this case has tactical and numerical superiority. It only takes one missile to breach to turn the entire tide of the battle, and everything that’s happening is either focused on landing that hit, or making sure that the PDDs do their job of deflecting the torpedoes.

Unresolved Questions

One thing I didn’t get at the end though was how Prax, or anyone else for that matter, would be able to go back to Ganymede. I thought Holden had seen the protomolecule start eating the place up, turning into a larger version of Eros? There is no way to scrub the planet of that, so how exactly did *anyone* go back to Ganymede to rebuild after?

Ready Player One – TwoMorePages Book Review

Ready Player One – TwoMorePages Book Review

“These days, most gunters referred to them as ‘the Sux0rz.’ (Because they sucked.)”

This was the moment I fell in love with the book. On Page 32, when the book made me literally laugh out loud with something I could have easily imagined reading on reddit earlier that day had the real world resembled the one in Ready Player One.

How fitting, considering I got wind of Ready Player One from reddit. It was recommended on /r/books as a funny, amusing read with plenty of 80s and video game references, and sure enough, it delivered!

Sure, you might hear from some more critical reviews that the book is “plot driven” instead of “character driven”, but meh. I don’t actually care. This plot was so good I can forgive the lack of character growth and focus on the story. I like stories! I especially like stories that cater to my target demographic: Guys who grew up in with video games in the late 80s/early 90s, especially arcade games and MMORPGs like World of Warcraft.

The writing style was perfect for its catered audience, mixing in idioms from the internet and weaving in bits of video game nostalgia here and there. For anyone who’s ever played an MMORPG, it would be easy to imagine the different scenes and dialogue in the Oasis happening.

Wade

I rather enjoyed the protagonist of our story, but that hardly comes as a surprise. He’s basically everyone we want to be. He’s your everyman, the gamer that outsmarts everyone else not because of any special superpower, but just because he was smart and obsessive about video games. Plus, he gets the hot gamer girl, and let’s be honest…*everyone* wants that haha.

The only really questionable decision he makes is in near the beginning, after he gets the first key, when the IOI basically tells him that they know where he is, and that they’re going to kill him. BUT, he can tell them how to get the first key, they won’t blow his ass up, PLUS he still gets $5,000,000. Five million dollars! Consider how poor he grew up, there is no reason he shouldn’t have jumped at that offer, death threat or not.

But whatever, he’s a dumb kid, and dumb kids make dumb decisions, right? haha

Other than that, Wade runs through trials and tribulations that we can all relate to. He finds the first key! Woohoo! Even better, he meets Art3mis, and they become friends, and he gets to basically date her. WOOHOO! The text chatlog where you see them flirting is heartwarming and surely something that every guy has experienced or longed to experience.

But wait, he fucks it all up with the best of intentions, which we have ALL done at some point in our lives and now she won’t talk to him anymore. *Extremely* relate-able, am I right guys? Doh. These aren’t tears of pain, they’re tears of…of…shut up! *sob*

Major Plot Events

I will say that there was one twist I didn’t see coming, and that’s where Wade tries to infiltrate the IOI from the inside. That changed the tone of the book, at least for a little bit. As the reader, you were left out of Wade’s plan-making, and serious consequences for Wade occurred. It was quite the change of pace from the mostly lighthearted, relatively consequence free video-game tone that the rest of the book had.

One thing that Ernest Cline does do *really* well though is set up and describe amazing climaxes. I couldn’t put the book down during the gigantic confrontation between the IOI and the rest of the Oasis. The battle between Wade/Shoto and Sorrento is done really well, and ties a lot of the previous events in the book neatly together, between the new Robots that Wade and Shoto have, plus Mechagodzilla that Shoto gifts to Wade earlier.

I have to admit that I did kind of see the IOI using the giant “kill everyone” button earlier (the Cataclyst), with the set up that Cline made way earlier in the book. I was even yelling in my head at Wade to not put all his forces in one bucket when he  was planning the planetary assault, but whatever. Characters do what they want haha.

That being said, I wasn’t sure how Cline was going to address that, and I’m glad to see it had to do with the random quarter that Wade got earlier in the book. It makes perfect sense in hindsight, but at the time, I had no idea what the quarter was for. Seemed like a dumb prize for a dumb game, and then I promptly forgot about it. Cline’s writing style really set that up well so that way we, the reader, experience the same emotions and thoughts as Wade.

Final Thoughts

You can complain about this book being plot focused instead of character focused all you want, but it doesn’t change how entertaining this story was. Cline wrote a protagonist that’s easy to identify with, and his writing style did an excellent job of conveying Wade’s thoughts and emotions as he went through the story. As events happen, the tone of the chapters changes. If Wade finds a game frustrating or dumb, you experience it too; when he falls in love with Art3mis, you do too; when he’s surprised that Aech is a girl (WHAAAAT?!), you freak out along with him; when shit is going seriously awry during his “capture” by the IOI but he’s not freaking out yet, you don’t either; when he realizes just how much shit he put himself into the center of when he’s at IOI headquarters, you can feel the tension along with him.

At the end of the day, books exist to tell stories. And Ready Player One is an extremely enchanting story. I finished it in a few days, not able to put it down for even *gasp* television! Really, it was the portal that I took to reading more, and I will be forever thankful for it because of that. Without it, I would never have had the patience to read the books of The Expanse, a universe which I am now in love with.

If you have a friend that’s thinking about reading some sci-fi and you don’t want to overwhelm them with the huge universes of Star Trek, Star Wars, BattleStar Galactica, Babylon Five, or anything like that, show them Ready Player One. *Especially* if they’ve ever had any interest at all in video games. They’ll thank you for it. I know from experience!

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse Book 1) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse Book 1) – TwoMorePages Book Review

“You didn’t watch Firefly, did you? Admit it! Not when it was on air, anyway. You didn’t watch, and the show was canceled. It’s basically your fault.”

Like so many others, I started watching The Expanse because of the well written article above which basically guilt tripped me into watching because well…I loved Firefly, and the article said this was the best bit of sci-fi since! They were right. I binge watched the entire series over the course of 2 weeks, and then…I was hungry for more!

I’ve never been so intrigued by a show that I couldn’t wait until the next season to figure out what happened. Not even with *gasp* Game of Thrones. But The Expanse? I *had* to know what happened next. And so I picked up Leviathan Wakes!

You’d think reading about events that you’ve already seen happen would be boring, but you would be wrong! I read up to where the show left off in a mere 3 days, and the continuation of the story past the season finale was amazing. I’m so glad I picked up the book and continued the story. So if you’re asking yourself “Is it worth it to read The Expanse books if I’m already watching?” the answer is a resounding yes.

When I picked up this book, I was afraid that the book wouldn’t be able to live up to the expectations that the show had given me.

Not really a problem at all, it turns out! The scenes were written so well that it didn’t matter. The action unfolded differently than the way the show portrayed it, so it was still full of surprises. PLUS, the show stopped about ⅔’s of the way through the first book, so all the shit that went down with Eros after the Protomolecule murdered everyone on it was new to me.

Impressions

I especially liked how the book portrayed the three different factions, Earth, Mars, and the OPA. It gave the members of each of them distinct personalities. Mars, militaristic and driven, probably the smartest of the three. Earth, so populous that it could never have consensus on anything, creating a plausible reason for why it is always so slow to respond. The OPA, made hard and ruthless by circumstance; definitely the poorest, and the most desperate to do something, anything, when shit goes down.

Personally, I’m a fan of the MCRN, but my friend tells me that’s just because I like their shiny ships, like the Donnager haha. I like to believe it’s because I like their efficiency and drive, and because in the book, they are basically as close to good guys as you can get. They get accused of starting a war, which from their perspective, they KNOW they didn’t do, then lose their freaking flagship to mystery vessels, and *still* have the presence of mind and integrity to risk everything getting Holden off of their ship. Every Martian on the Donnager basically dies a hero. They’re good guys in my book.

But enough about me gushing over Mars; let’s head back to the story. Another thing I really liked about the book was the unpredictability of how things unfolded. There wasn’t really a point where I went “Oh yeah, this is obviously where the story is headed.” Julie being dead and pro-moleculed was a surprise to me. Miller not basically joining the Rocinate crew and going on space adventures with them was the exact *opposite* of what I had expected to happen. Miller deciding to off himself was definitely not what I had expected; hell, even the solution to save Earth by driving Eros into Venus was a surprise.

Also, and you’ll hear this a lot from other places as well, I loved how the show tried to keep true to the science and difficulties of living in outer space. The scene where the crew is trying to board the Donnager in the hangar bay? I loved how the gravity cut out, forcing Holden and Naomi into the air; I especially loved Holden’s response to kick Naomi away from him in order to generate the force necessary to get back to the ground and mag lock his boots. I loved watching it when I saw episode 4 of the Expanse and I loved reading about it in print. It just showed how dedicated the authors were to writing with scientific integrity.

Book Amos vs Show Amos

Two characters that imo are pretty different in the show vs in the book are Amos and Holden. Let’s start with Amos, since show Amos is probably my favorite character.

In the show, he is the perfect combination of ruthless, pragmatic, intelligent, strong, but compassionate. Yeah, his moral compass might be a little bit to the darker side, but hell, that’s what he’s friends with Naomi for. Someone called it “outsourcing his moral compass”, and I think that’s the perfect phrase.

The show built his character with two strong scenes that didn’t really happen in the book. First, he suits up to murder the MCRN patrol guys when he realizes that they probably won’t have enough time to crack the safe that’s holding the secret phrase that will keep them all alive. Show Holden goes down there and threatens to kill him if he opens fire on the MCRN cops in a show of naivete, pointing a gun at him at point blank range. Most people? They’d freak out. Show Amos? He basically says “Yeah, if you’re going to do it, go ahead. You’ve got the shot.”, showing that he understands the situation, and that he knows what has to happen to keep everyone alive if they’re boarded. Intelligent, ruthless.

Second, in the Brothel scene in the show, he’s shown to be intelligent again, this time in a different way when he advises a prostitute that a certain other patron looks to have bad intentions because of a concealed weapon. This is actually radically different from book Amos, since book Amos is shown to enjoy whoring, letting his guard down then and show Amos actually abstains from whoring, but knows how to spot trouble in the same situations.

I rather like what they did with show Amos, showing him as much more cunning than book Amos. I can see why many people basically thought of book Amos as Jayne from Firefly; he’s written in a similar vein: strong, aloof, not terribly smart, but doesn’t need to be. Show Amos on the other hand is extremely smart, is perpetually vigilant instead of aloof, and is shown to not blindly trust like book Amos. He is a much more deep character in the show than in the book; I almost find that the author uses book Amos more as a tool than anything else, but maybe that’s just because that’s kind of what book Holden does generally. Speaking of Holden…

Book Holden vs Show Holden

As much as I liked show Amos vs book Amos, I’d have to say the opposite is true for show Holden vs book Holden. I feel like they made show Holden so much…dumber than his book counterpart. I mean, both of them are characterized as naive. I like how both Holdens had to have it spelled out for them that immediately broadcasting everything they knew was killing people because people then acted on imperfect information.

But show Holden is portrayed as so much dumber in my opinion, and that’s too bad. What I think the writers were trying to do was showcase his naivete in the extreme to have him grow later as a character. We’ll see if that works. It’s hard to carry a show when your audience thinks the protagonist is an idiot haha.

Miller

One thing that both the books and the show got right though was Miller. Hooo-boy, did they get that right. I’ve already said that my favorite character is show Amos, but Miller comes really close. I think this is a popular opinion amongst the rest of the interwebz as well.

One thing that surprised me a ton was when Miller got sacked. Certainly, the circumstances in the show and in the book were a little different (in the show, because he got too close to the truth; in the book because he started drinking and slacking off on the job), but with the plot armor most characters have, I definitely didn’t see that coming.

One thing book Miller has on show Miller though is that since you’re party to his thoughts, you can see why he was so obsessed with Julie more clearly. In the show, I was pretty confused as to how Miller got so fascinated with Julie and just kind of rolled with it so that way I could understand the story. In the book, you see him slowly get more interested and build up this image of Julie that he wants to chase. It’s built up well, and I like how ghost Julie echoes his inner thoughts after he finds her protomoleculed on Eros.

I really did think that once he and the Rocinate crew met up, they would join up and become one happy family. I was pretty pissed at Holden when he freaked out and kicked Miller off of the ship for shooting Protogen’s mad scientist; and I definitely did not see him volunteering to off himself on Eros because he’s depressed and feels he has nothing left to live for. He’s a complex character yo haha.

I very much liked how Corey put him as Holden’s foil, contrasting his experience and efficiency with Holden’s naivete and idealism. The whole incident with Protogen’s mad scientist was the perfect example of that. Miller’s not the law; he’s justice, and when he shoots the Protogen guy’s smug, stupid face, it is perfectly in character and you, as the reader, definitely empathize more than a little with him.

Showing him slowly crumbling after that, after he loses his remaining purpose in life, is sad, but poetic in a way. I’m glad that he ended up getting to be a hero at the end of the story, basically being *the* reason that Eros doesn’t crash into the Earth and kill everyone there. It was a fitting end. Miller did what needed to be done, and had no qualms about it.

Final Thoughts

I am so glad I took the time to read Leviathan Wakes. The nuanced differences between the show and the book were great to appreciate, and I loved getting into the heads of Holden and Miller to better understand their motivations.

Plus, I wouldn’t have learned about all the cool things that happened after Eros is infected for *another year* if I had been lame and waited for the next season like I did with Game of Thrones. Continuation of that storyline in and of itself is worth reading Book 1.

I’m sad book Amos is less cool than show Amos, but oh well. Getting to hang out in Miller’s head and see his interactions with ghost Julie kind of make up for it. Plus, book Holden is less of a dufus than show Holden, and isn’t it nice when the main character isn’t dumb?

So, are you thinking about reading Leviathan Wakes after watching The Expanse Season 1? Do it. It’s so worth it. If you like it (and I’m sure you will), keep on going to Caliban’s War. I’ll meet you there.

Cibola Burn (The Expanse Book 4) – TwoMorePages Review

Cibola Burn (The Expanse Book 4) – TwoMorePages Review

“I don’t know a damned thing, Elvi. Neither do you. I’m rich in interpretation and poor in datasets, just the same as you.” – Fayez

I think that line might have been my favorite in the entire book haha. I can’t wait to use it in real life and have nobody at all understand what I’m talking about, either because the phrase is so peculiar or (more probably) because nobody has any idea what I’m referencing. Nevertheless, I love it, and think it epitomizes both just a straight up funny line and what the author made me feel while I was reading this book. Hell, when I was reading this series.

Unlike Abaddon’s Gate, I didn’t see most of what happened in Cibola Burn happening until it occurred. Hell, true to Corey’s writing style, I could (and did) glaze over a page or two sometimes and have huge, story-altering events happen without me noticing, prompting a “huh?” moment and forcing me to go back and re-read what just occurred. The twists in this book kept coming, and I was surprised at how everything ended up.

Miller

I still can’t believe Miller’s dead. He was such an awesome character, and I really liked his interactions with Holden once he became a ghost / protomolecule puppet. I’m a little sad that I won’t get to read the banter between the two again.

Plus, his death was so sudden and quick; I had to go back and re-read it to understand what just occurred. So he basically networked into everything on the planet, got smashed in the face for his troubles by multiple robots that didn’t want to die along with him, and then eventually got pushed into the dark spot that killed everything. And this all took space in the span of…5 pages? Oookay. I kind of thought he deserved more than that, but I know that Corey tends to make huge, story-altering changes happen on a dime, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

The Epilogue

That being said, I really liked how Corey wrapped up the story at the end, finally showing the long term ramifications of all the events on Ilus. Up until now, this had seemed like a self-contained episode of Star Trek or something, where at the end, everything kind of resets, minus a few dead extras.

So with the colonists and the RCE personnel now getting along on Ilus, this sets the precedent that everyone is free to go through the gates now and colonize their own worlds, eh? That really sucks for my favorite faction, Mars. Avasarala really put it in context when she mentioned that if even 20% of Mars went “Well fuck terraforming this barren rock” and instead went to go and colonize other planets, the basic foundation of the MCRN would crumble.

It’s funny how much the tone has changed in these novels from Leviathan Wakes. I kind of wonder if this was truly the plan all along, or if this is just kind of how things evolved. The tone of Leviathan Wakes was so much darker and, let’s face it, vomit zombie focused and now it’s like the Protomolecule is just a thing that people live around that they don’t worry about. So different.

I’m not sure which one I prefer, actually. The current one now is certainly much more grandiose, with Holden’s actions affecting everyone on a political and cultural scale. Don’t really have a choice now though, do I? So I guess I’ll roll with the newer one as we roll into Nemesis Games.

Murtry

Speaking of newer things, we got a few new characters to get to know this time around. It’s funny how my feelings on Murtry changed from the beginning of the book to the end; I’d almost say the way that Corey wrote it borders on character assassination.

In the beginning, I was actually super pro-Murtry. I mean, he sees a shuttle he’s supposed to protect BLOW UP, taking out all sorts of equipment and killing several people, including the leader of the expedition. THEN, he sees 5 of his security people murdered in cold blood.

I would have shot Coop in the head too.

I mean, he shows remarkable constraint in the beginning in my opinion. Sure, he could have picked a better time to murder Coop than immediately after Holden shows up on Ilus, but…meh. From his perspective, he tried to play nice and play by the rules, and so far the result is that tons of his people are dead.

So I can understand where he comes from originally. What I don’t 100% get is his descent into…craziness? At the end of the book, he is just super gung ho about protecting RCE’s claim to the planet, to the point where he’s willing to have everyone die for it. And why? I don’t really get that. His motive before was to protect people. Sure, by ruthless means, but he wasn’t ever a dick just for the sake of being one.

But near the end? He’s telling the Edward Israel to go and fuck up the Rocinate’s rescue mission just…because? To be a dick in sort of retaliation? If nothing else, Murtry is a very realistic man, and I don’t think he would ever have ordered that. For one thing, he has to know he would take pretty heavy casualties doing that, casualties that he can’t afford. His engineers should be working on solving the no-fusion problem, not running around being militia. For a second thing, he is shown to be pretty pragmatic; messing up the Rocinate’s rescue efforts of the Barbapiccola wouldn’t help him even a little bit. His people are still going to die!

I don’t get that, and I’m a little sad that the story seemed to go to such great lengths to color a gray villain into a black one. Oh well. On to less gray chacters!

Elvi

Let’s talk about Elvi. I’m sure this is the way that Corey meant to picture her, but she is basically like the perfect girl in this story. I would kill to be Fayez. She’s hot, she’s smart, she’s quirky, she’s…a little naive? She stays right in character the entire book, growing from her experiences bust basically staying true to her character.

I should have probably seen it coming that she would end up being the heroine of the story, but honestly, I kind of thought she was going to die multiple times in the story haha. The Expanse isn’t Game of Thrones, but people who make poor decisions definitely still die from them.

Havelock

My only regret with Havelock’s story is that he never got to interact with Miller’s ghost haha. I really wanted some interactions along the lines of “Hey Partner. You kind of look weird in your bug-carapace suit” from Havelock to Miller, but oh well.

Havelock is probably the character that grows the most through the book, even more than Basia in my opinion. You can tell his perspective really shift as the story goes on, from idolizing Murtry to eventually coming to the realization that “This is fucked up.” and helping Naomi to escape.

My favorite section of the book actually might have been the battles that he had with the militia he trained. The conversations he was having with his old team as he was shooting them and telling them what they were doing wrong were downright hilarious. “Hey, that was a good idea with the mag boots taking cover. You left your knee too far out though” (paraphrased obviously).

Basia

I know that Basia was Protagonist B in this story, and I say this knowing full well I may be in the minority, but I really disliked Basia’s character. He is just whiny all the time, and generally makes shit go pear-shaped the entire book.

Maybe the point was that he was acting like an idiot because he lost his son earlier and that was coloring all of his decisions. If so, kudos. If not…I just really hated his character.

It’s sweet that he gets to end up on the colony with his family at the end, but I couldn’t help but think of the colonists that he helped to kill at the beginning of the book. I mean, i know that he grows as a character as well through the book, coming to feel remorse for his actions and all that but…it just seems like in a universe where poor decisions net you poor consequences, Basia got a generally happy ending at the end. And that irks me some.

Unresolved Questions

Uh…didn’t the aftermath of the fusion reactor blowing up flatten like basically everything on the planet? How are the remaining colonists/RCE staff going to live there? They already established that almost nothing there is edible. There are still death slugs everywhere on the planet that will mess people up when it rains. And even though the oncocidals helped people manage the micro-organisms that made people blind, they will run out of those eventually, right? What happens the next time it rains?

I guess it’s not quite important, but I don’t get how anyone’s going to stay on that planet. It’s okay though; minor detail. We’ll just accept it to keep the story rolling haha.

Final Thoughts

With recency bias, I think this might be my favorite The Expanse book to date. Correcting for recency bias, I guess I can stick it right behind Leviathan Wakes and definitely in front of Caliban’s War and Abaddon’s gate. The characters were more interesting and relate-able in this story, especially compared to the ones in Abaddon’s Gate (Sorry Bull; Not sorry Clarissa).

I liked how I wasn’t able to predict what was going to happen with any sort of accuracy. The fusion reactor blowing up? Out of left field. Miller DYING? Waaaay out of left field. The possibility of Amos being dead? I thought he had the thickest plot armor ever. I was freaking out.

And I really liked how the epilogue set up the premise for Nemesis Games. Seems like it will be a very different kind of story, and I’m looking forward to the adventure. I love The Expanse.