Unpopular opinion incoming: this book might have been my least favorite in The Expanse series, and I’m a little afraid it’s going to set the tone going forward for the rest of the series.
The Expanse to me has always been about the adventures of the Rocinante and its crew, zipping around in a mostly state of the art MCRN corvette, and dealing with sci fi and space travel in a way that Star Trek, Star Wars, and other major Space franchises didn’t – without a lot of fancy tech.
No inertial dampeners to provide gravity, so ships are built more like skyscrapers to provide thrust gravity. No shields to make space travel less dangerous, so everyone’s ships are actually super fragile. No fancy space lasers, but more conventional weapons like PDCs, torpedoes, and railgun rounds (plus ingenious weapons like just throwing rocks at high speeds at planets).
So to have the Laconians come in and seemingly break all of those rules made this installment of the Expanse radically different for me. Then, combine that with the HUGE time jump of 30-ish years for our crew, and I felt like I was reading an entirely different series.
And maybe that was part of the point of this book. To put us in the mindset of our characters, having everything turn upside down all at once. What do you mean one ship can take out the entire Earth-Mars-Union fleet? What do you mean it can eat a nuke and keep on trucking? What do you mean it has fancy space weapons that can take out entire stations? What do you mean it TOOK OUT TYCHO STATION?
Maybe this book was supposed to be all about transitions. The transition of Rocinante leadership from Holden to Bobbie; the transition of power from the Sol system to Laconia; the transition of technology from mostly human technology to alien protomolecule technology.
If that was the case, then the authors definitely set the uneasy tone of transition very well. I can’t say that I had fun reading this book – everything felt shitty the whole time because everyone we were cheering for instantly got conquered. There was only small tokens of resistance victories, and even those came at a price.
I have killed, but I am not a killer. Because a killer is a monster, and monsters aren’t afraid.
“I’m a monster,” Clarissa said.
No you aren’t, baby. You’re not a monster. You’re not. Which meant Naomi had misunderstood. Clarissa had meant, I’m not afraid. She tried to think what to say that would clarify that, but it was a lot of effort. And what did it matter really if anyone else understood? She knew.
Fuck it, she thought. Some things you take to your grave.
Clarissa Melpomene Mao closed her eyes.
One thing that hit me harder than I thought it would was Clarissa’s death. 😥 We barely even got to know her character once she became one of the Roci’s crew. She had a few chapters in Babylon’s Ashes, but not nearly enough to develop her character on the level of Naomi’s, Holden’s, or Amos’s. I was really looking forward to learning about her more.
Her final chapter was my favorite of the whole book – great action, a win for the good guys, intriguing introspective thoughts, and laconians dying.
The story of Medina will be that Governor Singh mismanaged the station, lost his ship to a band of malcontents, lost his perspective. And when he let his wounded pride exceed the mandates of the high consul’s directives, he was removed for the protection of the everyday citizens in his care.
And, speaking of characters dying, one person who I was very happy to see go was Singh, main Laconian POV character. I’m not really sure what the point was of his chapters.
He was clearly unqualified to be governor, lashing out in petty ways even against the advice of his senior staff. His actions were that of a coward rather than a leader, constantly second guessing his own decisions and growing increasingly fascist and authoritarian as he feared more and more for his safety. We saw him go from an idealist family man to a person willing to kill everyone on Medina that he didn’t deem “loyal”.
And then we saw him die as a result of that transition, executed by his own security officer who apparently had orders to keep him in check and make sure that he didn’t turn fascist and authoritarian? Well then why did you send this guy anyway?
There are plenty of older, more seasoned and established MCRN staff that came through the gate that could have and *should have* been given this responsibility instead. Why give this green officer this important responsibility?
It’s weird reading all the other reviews that are praising this book. I feel like it’s a radical departure from The Expanse that we’ve been reading for the last several years. The time jump for me is jarring, as is the entire shift of balance of power.
This is the first time where I’ve been reading an Expanse novel and hoping that it would just be over soon. Because I was gonna finish it! haha. But I wasn’t really enjoying it.
Maybe this is just because I read book 3 from The Stormlight Archive right before it and it was a hard act to follow? I’m definitely staying invested in the series, so I’ll see y’all at the next book.