“They used me. They made it about sending messages to everyone that you don’t fuck with Earth, because look at the shit we’ll do just because you spaced an administrator on a nowhere station. They made me the poster boy for disproportional response. They made me a butcher.”

This novella was…a work of art. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it that much, since I didn’t feel particularly close to Fred Johnson in The Expanse, but boy was I wrong.

The juxtaposition of Fred Johnson being interrogated by Anderson Dawes / the OPA and the flashbacks to the taking of Anderson Station were done brilliantly, helping to demonstrate the change in his psyche between the two periods in time.

Moreover, the writing style of the flashbacks is done *really well*. I mean, it helps that I kind of already saw it happen on the show itself, but I didn’t really grasp what I was seeing the first time I saw it on screen. I couldn’t put the story down once the assault started on Anderson Station. You really feel the anxiety of Johnson leading his men, the remorse he feels as each green dot representing his men turns yellow. But more than that, you feel his regret in the aftermath of the assault when things just don’t add up – too many fortifications look stupidly built, too many people died trying to buy one of them more time. Why? He doesn’t get it, and neither do we, until…the big reveal at the end shows us that the the station thought they had surrendered. Only problem was *nobody told the assault commander*.

A nice bonus too was the characterization of Anderson Dawes. In the story, he doesn’t get nearly as much storytime as he gets screentime in the show. You get to see his calculated, intelligent moves, his thought processes as he tries to figure out “Why is this idiot trying to get himself killed? And can I get him to help me instead based on that motivation?” You get more insight into the Belter culture as he talks about how in space, you can’t afford to be wasteful, and how different that is from Earth.

Having just finished Nemesis Games, it also puts into perspective why Fred is so shocked that factions of the OPA are going after him *now*, of all times. They had their chance before; it’s so dumb that they would be doing so now that he’s in charge of shit and has real power and authority to get things done.

I honestly didn’t expect much from this The Expanse novella, but boy was I glad to be wrong. This was a great read. I’ve already started my next one.

 

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