“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.


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.


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!


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.


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).


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.

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