The Good That Men Do (Star Trek Enterprise) – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Good That Men Do (Star Trek Enterprise) – TwoMorePages Book Review

TRIP!

I bought this book because I had read somewhere on /r/StarTrek that *this* is the ending we should have had for Enterprise. This book DELIVERED.

I *loved* how it interwove the details of the actual ending of Enterprise, and gave more plausible reasons for some of the dumber things that happened.

(1) What do you mean that this little shit freighter would be able to catch up to Enterprise, the flagship of the fleet, and board it?

(2) What do you mean that Trip just DIED in the most anti climactic way possible? You’re telling me we got out of the Xindi War and all sorts of conflicts with all sorts of species, but Archer and Trip can’t figure out a way to get out of a kidnapping situation without Trip DYING?!

Oh…it was all a dog and pony show. Okay, I feel vindicated. 😀

Trip and Section 31

I *loved* Trip’s continuing story arc with Section 31. We got to delve a little further into his relationship with T’Pol after the Terra Prime fiasco, AND we got to see some more working of Section 31, namely that they are not all knowing. Just people working with very limited resources trying to figure out what they can.

Having Phuong and Section 31 be totally duped by the rogue Romulan faction was very interesting to read; and even moreso watching them learn that Romulans are just offshoots of Vulcans. This section of the book was very spy-esque, which is very different than most Star Trek novels, and I appreciated it.

Shran!

My favorite character in Enterprise was actually NOT one of the main characters. It was SHRAN. It’s a shame that Enterprise got cancelled right as they were going to bring him on to be a regular.

Why wouldn’t I love Shran? He is everything I want to be – passionate (basically to a fault), smart, aggressive, emotional.

Shran’s arc with Jhamel and with Theras was very interesting to read. He basically treated Theras as an idiot coward for not doing anything to help Jhamel in the kidnapping. And I empathized completely. Here is the dude getting to marry the girl I’m in love with, and he ran to me for protection instead of trying to help Jhamel? Pffft.

I know part of this was to highlight the very different cultures of the Andorians and the Aenar, but I completely empathized with Shran in that spot.

Theras’s character development as the book progressed was heartwarming to see. Seeing him overcome his pacifistic tendencies to help keep the away team alive was great; and watching him grapple with this inner demons for having tricked Romulans into killing each other with his mental capabilities was enlightening.

Shran had never enjoyed apologizing, but he sincerely wished for a chance to do so to Theras. He’d treated Theras abominably; he’d acted like a bully, intimidating a mild, gentle being every chance he’d gotten. He was trained to be a warrior, and was therefore used to putting himself into harm’s way. There was no heroism to much of what he did; it was mostly done out of duty, or a love of the accompanying adrenaline rush, or perhaps just plain orneriness.

It was nice to see Shran recognize his efforts as well at the end. This was a story arc I particularly enjoyed, probably moreso than that of Trip’s, and that had the benefit of reviving my favorite member of Enterprise’s crew.

Plus, he got the girl! Yay for Shran, getting over Talas’s death to be with Jhamel, hooray!

Setting up for the Romulan War

I loved the exposition of the story arc that the next season was probably going to take with the Andorians/Aenar and the Romulans, and Shran’s role in all of that. We got to see a little of that at the end of Enterprise’s final season, but the fleshed out version with the conspiracy in the Romulan government to make more drone ships was *very* interesting to read.

And we got to learn more about the Coridians, who I actually…did not remember anything about. Were they in the show? It’s been so long. I can’t remember…

But we learn that they are supposed to be a founding member of the Federation – they have the most dilithium, and they are the only ones with Warp 7 capable ships. Sweet, they’ll make the Federation as strong as anyone else!

Except wait…shit, their planet gets devastated, and they withdraw from the Federation for…reasons? I didn’t really get that part. They refused help from Enterprise, saw half their world burn, and they leave the Federation? They should want in now MORE THAN EVER while they rebuild?

Conclusion

 

“This new take on Archer-era history holds together for me a lot better than the standard version does – you know, with Captain Archer’s whole command crew not receiving a single promotion, even after having served together aboard the NX-01 for ten years.

Or Archer’s dog somehow not having aged a day during that entire time.

Or Archer’s famous Big Speech at the ‘Stick, which makes a lot more sense now in the context of the post-Coridan disaster era than it does in the post-Earth-Romulan War time-frame where most of the histories place it.

Of the pirate ship that could barely manage warp two somehow catching up to Enterprise, which had to be traveling at nearly warp five when-”

-Nog

“You’re preaching to the choir, Nog”

-Jake Sisko

I laughed out loud when I read that little conversation between Jake and Nog. Bringing them in as a device to give the past viewers of Enterprise a nod / give the writers of that final episode the finger was genius.

This book helped give me closure on Enterprise’s story, whose final season was SO GOOD. It’s a shame it didn’t get *really* good until after news was announced that it was cancelled. If this Romulan War arc was up next, it would have been *really fun to watch*.

 

 

 

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Persepolis Rising – TwoMorePages Book Review

Persepolis Rising – TwoMorePages Book Review

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.

Clarissa

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.

Singh

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?

Final Thoughts

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.

Black Ops (Expeditionary Force Book 4) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Black Ops (Expeditionary Force Book 4) – TwoMorePages Book Review

The best Skippy Adventure yet by far!

 

I’ll admit. It’s been a little while since I was really, truly excited about a book. Between the Stanley Cup Playoffs reducing my available reading time, and me reading some books that I struggled to get through, reading was starting to become a chore instead of something that I really enjoyed.

BUT YAY SKIPPY’S BACK. AND I LOVE READING AGAIN!

While Book 3 of the Expeditionary Force series kind of felt like the recurring adventures of “Oshit. We’re in trouble. Oh, well that’s fine, because Skippy’s going to save the day”, Book 4 was great in that it relied a lot less on Skippy’s Awesomeness, and more on human ingenuity. Maybe part of it was just that it’s been awhile since I read an Expeditionary Force book, and I had like no gap between books 2 and 3, but I REALLY enjoyed Book 4.

One other thing I loved about this book was the anthropomorphism of inanimate objects. For instance, these thoughts from a missile:

WTF, I’m launching while the ship is inside a freaking wormhole? Of all the stupid-Unbelievable, I survived. Great. Where is the target? It’s – Holy shit, I’m right on top of the damned thing! No shields in my way? Uh, I am programmed to expect strong defensive shields. And defensive fire from maser turrets. None of that going on here. Ok, what should I – Oh. Hmm.There is a nice big smoking hole in the enemy’s hull. Maybe I’ll go in there. Yeah, that’s a great idea. Hey, it’s cozy in here, although the Thuranin really could use some help tidying up the place. Well, this has been nice, but a missile has got to do what a missile has got to do, right? I can set the warhead for wide dispersal, now that I’m inside the enemy’s hull.

Can’t really talk about more without spoiling stuff, so from here on out SPOILERS BE HERE:

Spoiler-y discussion begins here

Two facets I really liked the introduction of were (1) Skippy is not immortal and (2) Skippy might not have always been sentient.

The first point of course, was a major plot point in the book. Seeing our merry band of pirates deal with his absence not once, but twice, shows just how vulnerable our protagonists are. The book ends on quite the melancholy note because of it.

The second point though wasn’t revisited again, and I suspect will be a major point of the next book? I wonder how that will weave into the story. It doesn’t really matter to Joe whether or not Skippy used to be sentient, right? Only that he’s sentient *now*

The Jeraptha

We got to see our first look at the Jeraptha in this book! I actually loved the scenes on the Jeraptha ships, seeing their culture of gambling meshed with their military. The depiction of receiving Skippy’s Intel, along with the description of the ensuing battle, were honestly some of my most favorite chapters in the book, especially given how brief they were.

Conclusion

I love that Craig Alanson is keeping to a publishing schedule. The next book is out in Nov? YES! And I loved this book. It was my oasis in a sea of…less than stellar books lately.

The Expeditionary Force series always has a distinctly fun tone in it, and I’m a big fan of that. The story isn’t usually predictable, and the ways that our protagonists get out of them are fun to read. It’s a great escape from life. 🙂

Forging Zero – TwoMorePages Book Review

Forging Zero – TwoMorePages Book Review

Well this is interesting. I simultaneously love and hate this book. Why love? Because the main character was well written – the way he reacted to the things that happened to him were believable, and well described, and I felt very invested in his character.

Why hate? At the end, THE STORY DIDN’T MAKE ANY SENSE. FORMER ENEMIES ARE NOW FRIENDS. AND FRIENDS ARE NOW ENEMIES (SOMETIMES). AND I DON’T REALLY UNDERSTAND THE MOTIVATIONS OF SEVERAL CHARACTERS.. And to be honest, a lot of the conflict at the end was a pure idiot plot – a plot that only occurred because everyone involved is an idiot. The problems created could have been solved with a simple conversation, but noooo, lots of people had to die instead.

So um, yeah, let’s dissect this book.

Choe

So, the positives – the protagonist, Joe, is very, very well written. If you read reviews about Sara King’s books, you’ll find this is common praise. She writes character driven books very well.

Her descriptions of how he tried to deal with his claustrophobia, of how he felt about taking his brother’s place in the draft, of how he felt about taking care of his groundteam – they were all wonderfully written. I was heavily invested in his growth. When he was anxious, I was anxious. When he was angry at something unjust happening to him, I was angry. When he was horrified about some of his friends getting killed (oftentimes in very gruesome or surprising ways), I was horrified.

His internal struggle about him being “the chosen one” to bring down Congress, and whether he wants it or not was interesting as well, albeit also a little frustrating. He starts off understandably very upset at Congress since they’re kidnapping every 5-12 year old on Earth and forcibly drafting them. Many of these kids end up dead, some in horrifying ways (getting eaten, getting shot in the head), so it’s easy to empathize why he would want to bring Congress down. While I personally don’t *really* understand how his feelings on this change through the story, it’s an interesting journey for him as the book goes on.

Idiot Plot (Things that don’t make sense)

So that all being said, I was very much enjoying this book right up until the last 10-20% of the book, where for me, shit fell off the rails and stopped making sense.

SO MANY QUESTIONS. NOBODY TO ASK. SO MUCH SHIT THAT DIDN’T MAKE SENSE.

Na’Aleen

So okay, there’s this guy, Na’Aleen. Up until now he’s very much acted like a bad guy. He’s one of the most powerful members of Congress, generally acts like a dick, and has been no friend to our protagonist, Joe. But wait, at the end, he’s leading the rebellion? How? What?

But okay, let’s just kind of go with it and assume he has his own reasons for hating Congress. (Btw, if everyone hates Congress, WHO LIKES IT AND WHY IS IT SO POWERFUL?!) In that case, why was he such a giant dick to Joe. He doesn’t ask for Joe’s help until he’s basically killed all of Joe’s friends. Yeah, that might disincent someone from helping you, especially that person who is supposed to…by himself…destroy Congress. You two probably have the same goals. When you first meet Joe, all he wants is to go home and he hates Congress. You could have just had a simple conversation with him and solved everything without murdering all his friends and turning him against you. Blah. Idiot plot.

Yuil and the Resistance

Speaking of Na’Aleen, so if he’s part of the resistance, then that means that anyone working under him is also part of the resistance. Which means that his assassin, the one who morphed into an Oorekei to hang out with Joe and try and sway him, works for him. Why not treat Joe better after knowing that Joe is trustworthy through this way? Why not clue him into the plan?

Nope, let’s definitely just wait until he kills several of our soldiers trying to break into a place *that we told him about*. And why did we tell him about it again? I don’t get it. NOTHING THE REBELS DO MAKES ANY SENSE. ALL YOU HAD TO DO IS TALK TO JOE.

Maggie

And okay, let’s talk about Maggie at the end, the only one of his ground team to survive. She’s been the 6 year old girl that he’s been protecting this entire time. Yeah, she’s artificially grown up now since the food they’ve been feeding the humans ages them to their prime more quickly, but she’s still basically his tiny little sister. And at the end, she hates him?

Idiot plot again. I get the misunderstanding that could happen – from her perspective, it looks like he didn’t help Libby and so got her killed. Then, weird aliens start shouting about how the prophecy says that Joe is the chosen one who will bring down Congress, and so she starts questioning his loyalty. Then, she freaks out and gets shot, presumably killed.

But since by a stroke of luck she’s alive, why doesn’t just GO TALK TO JOE afterwards instead of transferring from his ground team and hating him forever? Seems super stupid.

Alien fighting scale doesn’t stay constant

So let me get this straight. One Dasha can kill 8,000 Oorekei. One Oorekei is strong enough to probably kill 3-5 humans. The Jreet are the only species that can kill a Dasha one on one. But a Jreet can get killed by a human?

That shouldn’t be possible at all. They’re 40 feet tall and invisible, and based on the aforementioned power scale, it should take like 20,000 people to kill one Jreet since it would take about that many people to kill one Dasha.

But at the end, we’re mowing down Jreet like it’s going out of style. Invisible 40 foot reptile pteranodons and we’re killing them? What? How? Yes, lots of the kids are dying, but if the scale held true, ALL THE KIDS SHOULD BE DEAD. And the Jreet should be laughing.

Wait, I thought they were my friends/enemies?

Speaking of consistency, I can’t figure out who my friends are supposed to be or not. Khgil was my friend – he died because of some prophecy to save Joe*because he wants to bring down Congress*.

Nebil was his friend, and so I guess is Joe’s friend now? He treats Joe and his batallion very well, and is obviously the most competent battlemaster. He dies at the end PROTECTING CONGRESS???!!?! How in the…what? Shouldn’t we be on the same side as the resistance? Couldn’t we have just chatted and prevented this?

Tril has been an asshole this entire story to Joe the entire time. He keeps Joe from getting battlemaster for forever, is shown to be woefully incompetent at leading and seems to not care about getting his recruits killed for the sake of his pride. But at the end, he’s shown to be protecting Joe from people that want to arrest him? Kerswut?

NOTHING MAKES SENSE.

Conclusion

So yeah, I’m pretty frustrated. It’s not like the book was straight up bad. I was captivated, and very invested in the fate of Joe and his groundteam. So, great character writing there.

But the story goes so far off the rails at the end. And since I was expecting an awesome ending, I find myself extremely frustrated. NOTHING MAKES SENSE.

I’m very on the fence as to whether or not I’ll read the next book in the series. It looks like the story still centers around Joe (Zero), but 50 years into the future. I’m leaning no, but maybe I’ll calm down and give it a try. I’m already invested in this world anyway…? It took forever to learn all the different species names haha.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – TwoMorePages Book Review

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – TwoMorePages Book Review

Hoooh boy, that was a fun adventure. First off, kudos to my friend Arielle for coming up with this book with absolutely NO hesitation when I asked her what I should read next.

The twists and turns were amazing entertaining, as well as thought out and logical, and I am so happy I took the time to read this book.

 

That was…a thrilling rabbit hole we just fell through. Can’t talk more without spoiling shit, so HERE WE GO:

Twist #1

A fine, red mist blinds me for half a second, and Daniela sits on the sofa, a hole dead center between her big, dark eyes.

-The book

One moment, life is great, and aww, isn’t it cute that they still have all this chemistry in what looks to be an alternate universe and then… ‘Wait, that blood red mist is HER BLOOD?!’ AAAAGH

-Me

I am so glad I made you read that. 😛

-Arielle

Yeah, so this book was rather traumatizing at times. Thanks Arielle. Probably the best part about this book for me was the stuff that came out of left field while propelling the plot forward. It really gave you a sense of the confusion that the protagonist felt while trying to figure out what the hell was going on; and the shocking events that the book pivoted around were done so well that I was as surprised as I was during GoT during the Red Wedding or during the Viper v Mountain fight.

…also, just as horrified.

So the above reaction from me is when Daniela in the other universe gets SHOT IN THE HEAD with no warning or provocation, right after our protagonist finally seems to be a little happy again after getting transported to a world that he doesn’t seem to know and that he doesn’t understand. It did an exceptional job of highlighting the confusion that Jason was going through, and the panic running through his mind.

Before this, I had been wondering “Why did you flip out when you woke up in that lab and run away? Everyone was acting nicely to you; why didn’t you just explain and figure out what was going on?” but this flipped the entire script on its head for me, which set up the next part of the story really well.

Twist #2

Okay, so now we’ve established the guys at Velocity Labs are bad guys, and now they’re pissed at our protagonist. They’ve murdered our buddy Ryan, who incidentally, totally had it coming for his part in getting Daniela killed, pffft, and look like they’re about to kill us. We seem to have had some connection with this girl Amanda, who works for the labs, but whatever probably not important.

Except it is! She gets us out of here, we figure out that this box actually transports you to other alternate universes, and we start a brand new adventure!

Up to this point, I had entertained the notion that we were looking at alternate universes, and that he’d swapped with one of his other selves, but wasn’t 100% sure. Having it spelled out was a nice surprise, and boom, scoreboard? haha.

Reading Jason’s adventures was a fun story in and of itself, and his adventures changed the tone of the book to a slightly more hopeful, if increasingly desperate tone. No more running around, not really understanding what was going on; now we’re basically doing Sliders adventures trying to find our home universe.

Amanda

There’s a connection here, and it’s getting stronger every day. If I moved even an inch closer in her direction, we would do this. No question in my mind.

Some version of me certainly kissed her in this moment. Some version knows the answer. But it won’t be me.

-The book

Another great thing this book did was to raise the hopes of a reader for a specific outcome…that never happens. *sob*

Going through the different portal doors, we saw our protagonist, Jason, grow ever closer to his rescuer, Amanda. I thought the book was going to end in Jason never finding his home universe, but growing closer to his travel companion with each adventure and then…eventually accepting his fate and just living happily ever with Amanda. I mean, Daniela seems to be okay with imposter Jason; I suppose everyone could win if original Jason ends up with Amanda.

But nooooope! He has to blow it, and he almost gets her killed in the one universe that has a giant plague, as well as the one where everything has frozen over.

So…she eventually leaves him, and that just…broke my heart more than a little.

Twist #3

All your life you’re told you’re unique. An individual. That no one on the planet is just like you. It’s humanity’s anthem.

But that isn’t true for me anymore.

-The Book

MULTIPLE JASONS? WHAAAAAAT?

So, twist 3 that I didn’t see coming, and that’s a little hard for me to wrap my head around: Every time we make an observable decision, a new universe is created. So when he gets back to his original universe, so does every other Jason that was able to make the correct set of choices to do so.

And they ALL want to get Daniella and Charlie back. Well, hmm, quite the kanundrum. As a result of their choices, some of the Jasons are murderous sons of bitches and our protagonist finds himself almost getting murdered several times.

This was a plot twist I definitely didn’t see coming. You could kind of see some of the other ones given enough clues; after all, I kind of thought about the multiple universe theory before it was explained, and we all knew that Velocity Labs had some serious firepower, so maybe I could have seen the murder of that one Daniela coming. But this? Awww damn. Way out of left field for me.

I really liked where the story went from here, between his (sometimes murderous, sometimes friendly) interactions with the other Jasons and his ultimately successful plot to be the first Jason to meet up with his wife and son again.

I didn’t really understand why there weren’t basically infinity Jasons all after Daniela and Charlie, but for the sake of moving the story forward, let’s just gloss over that.

The action sequences were really well written, and getting to read about his reunion with his wife and son was heartwarming.

Thoughts and Conclusions

(1) So if every observable choice makes a new fork with a new universe, that means there is at least one Jason out there that chose to just stick it out with Amanda. Good. Because only one Jason out of a bajillion of them ended up with a happy ending if they decided to go back for Daniela and Charlie. Poor guys.

It warms my heart to know that there is at least one set of Jasons and Amandas making the smart/easy/best choice and enjoying their lives. Really, that should have been a no brainer – the chances of him making it back to his universe in infinity universes was pretty much zero if you think about it. They should have just been focusing on finding a good world, like that futuristic one Amanda found, and making lives for themselves there.

(2) Jason’s a panicky son of a gun haha. He could have avoided all the murder if he’d just CALMED THE FUCK DOWN when he first appeared in Jason2’s universe. The people at the lab were obviously willing to work with him and had no reason to hurt him; he complicated everything by running away.

Also, in the same vein, Jason2 is a panicky guy too. He could have straight up TOLD Jason his plan, and maybe Jason would have gone along with it. Or at least, then, wouldn’t freak the fuck out when he appeared in Jason2’s universe. Not enough of the book dealt with Jason2’s rationalization that they BOTH could have had what they wanted, the experience of a family AND scholarly success. IF ONLY THEY HAD TALKED.

(3) This book was awesome. The pacing was wonderful, the turns were unexpected and fit well within the story, and it was just a straight up fun read. Thanks Arielle, and thanks for putting up with my reactionary texts while I was running through the story!

Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse Book 6) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse Book 6) – TwoMorePages Book Review

This is the first book I’ve ever waited on, the first book that I bought on launch day and put off other plans in order to read. Hell, I even spent the preceding week re-reading Nemesis Games, so that way I could get fully immersed back into the story in preparation for it. So I read 1000 pages in like 2 weeks. Does this mean I’ve become a full fledged book nerd? Haha

I thought for sure this book would center around the gates and about the mysterious aliens that seemed to live in there, eating ships sometimes. Hell, the epilogue of Nemesis Games is about one of the MCRN deserter ships disappearing while going through a gate! In fact, I thought the title Babylon’s Ashes would be about how said aliens would come through and wreck humanity’s shit, and we would see Holden et al deal with that.

But nooooope! The ashes in Babylon’s Ashes are the ashes of human civilization, created from the events of Nemesis Games. Color me surprised.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

Basically a continuation of Nemesis Games

Every other book seemed to have a good amount of time pass between it and the one before it, so that large events could have occurred. Not this one! This one picks up basically where Nemesis Games left off, with Marco Inaros running around, crowing victory with his stolen Martian fleet that he’s renamed the Free Navy.

Except…he’s a gourram idiot. Did he seriously think that he’d be able to keep Earth and Mars pinned back forever? His entire plan broke apart when the combined fleet killed *ONE SHIP*. I thought he was supposed to be some sort of genius.

Let’s recap the military situation once Earth is no longer pulled back. We know from before that the MCRN fleet is less numerous than the UN’s, despite being newer and better in general. We know that Mars can’t take Earth in a fight. Duarte’s deserters took about ⅕  of their fleet, and definitely left Marco and the Free Navy less than that. So let’s say that the Free Navy has like…1/20 of the original Mars fleet? That seems generous in my mind, but sure, whatever.

So you’re sitting here, with 1/20th of the MCRN fleet, trying to take on the remaining 70% of the MCRN fleet, the COMBINED Earth Fleet, and on top of that, whatever Fred Johnson OPA loyalists can scrape together. You’re a goddamn idiot if this was your endgame.

Oh, his endgame was to get to make the combined fleet “stretch their resources too thin” and rely on the vastness of space? Well geeh, that sure does make a gigantic assumption that this fleet wouldn’t have genocide on its minds. If I was Avasarala, I would have just said “Fuck Ceres” after Marco stripped it for parts and left; then I would have proceeded to burn for Ganymede, take control of the main food source left in the solar system, and let all the Belters starve to death, including the Free Navy.

Then I would have taken my fleet and either taken control of Medina station or blown it up. Yes, I’d probably take high casualties in doing so, but they only have so many rail gun rounds, right?

Yes, I realize that basically is the opposite of the point that Holden was trying to make, but whatever. So let’s say Avasarala did something like I had planned – what then? Everyone starves to death and you keep trying to throw rocks at Earth? Awesome plan, Marco. I can see why Michio Pa deserted you.

 

Michio Pa

Speaking of Pa, we got to see the perspective of an entirely new crew this time, on their own MCRN corvette. Too bad it gets blown up at the end; I rather liked the idea of the Rocinante having a sister ship out there that’s kind of on its side.

Alas, I had a little trouble relating to this crew on anywhere near the same kind of level as I do with the Rocinante crew. For one, I didn’t really get why she was so mad at Fred Johnson in the first place. We last saw her in Abaddon’s Gate as the 1st officer of the Behemoth. She helps with Bull’s mutiny against Ashford only when it’s 100% clear that shit has hit the fan – I got the distinct impression that she recognizes authority a lot.

So…why is she so mad then at Fred Johnson? It seemed like an abrupt character transition to me. Certainly when I’m supposed to buy that she was so mad, she quit the OPA after the events in Abaddon’s Gate, and then eventually joined Marco’s insane Free Navy.

But whatever. Let’s just assume it made sense. I do like that she was the first of the OPA heads to be like “Fuck this shit, I’m out.” when it was clear that Inaros kept redefining what “victory” was to suit his own needs, and when he was doing things to actively hurt Belters in order to do it. It provides good character continuity if you assume that she is the Belt’s Holden, someone who will do anything and everything in order for better the lives of her people.

 

Anderson Dawes

Anderson Dawes had been part of the OPA since before he was born. Trying to curry favor with their corporate overlords, his parents had named him after a mining company. Later, Fred Johnson’s butchery turned that same name into one of Earth’s greatest crimes against the Belt.

Speaking of cool Belters, let’s pour one out for our boy Dawes. Considering how suave and awesome he is portrayed in the show, I’m surprised that he really doesn’t get much play in the books. His POV chapter was probably *the best* in the entire book, and reading other discussion threads of the book, it seems like this was a popular sentiment.

Especially after having read The Butcher of Anderson Station and knowing about his backstory with Fred Johnson, his chapter is extremely emotionally moving. You can see him in his element, persuading these various OPA factions to do what they don’t want to do in order to help Holden. And why? Because Fred Johnson believed in Holden, so it must be the right thing to do for Belters.

That’s a big leap of faith right there. Sucks that at the end, it’s implied he was captured and imprisoned. He would have made a pretty good head of the new Guild that Holden proposed.

And we learn such cool things about him, like he was named Anderson after *Anderson Station*?! Mind. Blown. Now we can see why he’s been so committed for his entire life. He was basically born into this.

 

Fred Johnson

“I had a speech ready. Well practiced. You’d have liked it. All about the nature of politics and the finest of humanity being our ability to change to match our environment…What I really meant was I’m sorry. Not just sorry I backed the wrong horse. Am sorry about that. But I’m sorry I compromised you while I did it.”

– Anderson Dawes

Oh, did I gloss over one teensy, tiny little thing? HOLY FUCK FRED DIED!

That really added quite a bit of tension and danger to the story. His death was written so well too – we experienced it the same way that Holden and Bobbie and everyone else on the crew probably experienced it.

The preceding chapter describing the fight between the Rocinante and Inaros’s wolf pack was amazing, and definitely would have been my favorite chapter if the Dawes chapter didn’t exist. The urgent tone that was set was just *perfect* in describing the battle.

High G burns, quick whiparounds to shoot the rail gun, the enemy adjusting tactics so that they don’t lose a 2nd ship – the fact that the only people that really matter in the fight are Alex and Bobbie and everyone else is basically just fragile cargo. That chapter perfectly encapsulated the stress what I imagine it would feel like to be in that battle. And the way that Bobbie ended up winning the battle by basically re-using PDCs that had already been launched? Brilliant.

So then how do we find out that we lost Fred Johnson? Only when we’re done with the battle, thinking everything is peachy and we’re celebrating and happy and…oshit. Wut? He’s having a stroke? Oh fuuuuuck.

Fred lay on the table, stripped to the waist. The audotoc was strapped to his arm, needles inserted into the veins. He looked weirdly vulnerable, as if he’d physically shrunk between the time he’d gotten into the crash couch and now. Bobbie stood over him, arms crossed, glowering like an angel out of the Old Testament. One of the scary kind. The kind that kept you out of paradise and killed armies in a single night. She didn’t look up as they came in.

“How bad is it?” Holden asked.

Somehow Bobbie made her shrug an expression of rage. “He’s dead”

 

Goddammit Holden

Speaking of said battle, I remember highlighting the portion where Holden oh so casually disarms the torpedoes near the end and thinking “WHAT THE FUCK, HOLDEN?!” Didn’t realize it would become as big of a plot point later as it was.

“The damage had left a blind spot in their PDC coverage, but the torpedo that came through it had malfunctioned. If it had detonated, it could have cracked the ship in two, and the old bitch from the galley would have had to hope for the mercy of the inners to keep her leathery ass from drowning in her own waste air.”

– Filip

“If we’re not willing to win the fight, I’m not sure what we’re doing in the cage.”

– Amos

Goddammit Holden. You could have ended this entire thing. Your crew was good enough to to take on not one, but TWO stolen MCRN vessels, both of which were more powerful than your now out of date corvette.

Bobbie had the kill shot lined up. Marco would be dead, and this entire Free Navy bullshit would be over. His movement wasn’t one that would have survived without him and the people on his ship. Oi. Now I understand how Fred Johnson and Avasarala felt like when they dealt with you. -.-

 

Moar action!

“Inaros isn’t going to chase after the Giambattista and Rocinante, because he’ll be distracted by the largest and most aggressive fleet action in history kicking his balls up into his throat. By the time understands what we were really after, it’ll be too late for him to do anything but hold his dick and cry.”

– Avasarala

One really nice thing that I did like about this book was that you had 2 distinct action sequences. The first one was the skirmish between the Rocinante and Marco’s vessels earlier, the one where we *sob* lost Fred Johnson. But we also had a coordinated fleet offensive, the one where we simultaneously attacked the Free Navy almost everywhere in the system at once, but mostly as a distraction so that way we could take back Medina Station all sneaky like with the Rocinante.

Though I much preferred the first, the second action sequence had its own share of cool moments and surprises. I liked how Corey gave us the vantage point of people on the station as they were trying to figure out wtf was going on with this ice hauler that launched a million torpedo like thingies at them, and as the rail guns tried to take them out, only to find out that that was a feint designed to get troops not onto Medina Station, but onto the weird alien sphere where they’d basically rubber banded a bunch of railguns on.

It also gave us the first glimpse into Battle Bobbie in a long time, basically since she was introduced in Caliban’s War. Actually, more than that, we got to see her work with our other instrument of destruction, Amos, and that was entertaining to read.

It was interesting when Bobbie kind of accidentally won the battle by pissing off the alien sphere, which ended up messing up all the rail guns. They technically neutralized the threat, even though they didn’t accomplish their full objective to taking control of the rail guns, leading of course to the final weird climax for our story.

 

Filip and Marco

Filip hadn’t fucked it up. Marco was wrong, that was all. This time, he just got it wrong. Words came into his mind, as clear as if they’d been spoke. Though he’d never heard her speak them, they came in his mother’s voice. Wonder what else he got wrong.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to feel sympathy for Flip from his POV chapters, but I definitely didn’t. He came off entirely as a petulant child the entire story, and I wanted his ass dead. Even after he “sees the light” regarding his father, he never really seems that redeemable in my eyes.

I think that’s part of why I was so frustrated that Holden disarmed those torpedoes. His ass *would* have been dead if Holden wasn’t such a goddamn idiot. But I digress…

I guess we’re supposed to see his adulation for his dad falter and fail from the beginning of the book to the end and feel happy for him? Happy that he didn’t disappear along with his dad and the rest of the Free Navy? So that way he can have some sort of redemption arc with Naomi later?

I dunno. I just did not care for this little shit that was clearly a spoiled little kid. The only reason he’s not dead from Dawes’s people on Ceres is because his daddy is Marco Inaros. He shot a cop for no good reason. What a dumbass.

Marco Inaros = Trump?

As far as Marco goes, I read a very interesting post in the Babylon’s Ashes discussion thread on /r/TheExpanse that basically equated Marco’s appeal to the Belters with real life Trump’s appeal to disenfranchised inner America.

“You hear a lot about how a vote for Trump is ‘a brick chucked through the window of the elites’ … well how about some rocks chucked at the planet of the elites?”

– /u/baconfriedpork

‘Marco’s the one who decides when he wins. You don’t understand how slippery he can be. Whatever happens, he’ll shift so it was his plan all along. If he were the last person alive, he’d say we needed the apocalypse and declare victory. It’s what he is.’

-Naomi

It’s a very interesting point in that if you disenfranchise people enough and give them no choices except to stop existing, they’ll do very desperate things, like BLOW UP THE ONLY VIABLE PLANET THAT CAN INDEPENDENTLY SUPPORT HUMAN LIFE.

And the part about Marco basically changing the plan and being like “yeah, this was my plan all along.” echoes how Trump’s campaign would seek to reframe things all the time, even what most would consider solid defeats.

Corey may not have intended for this to be commentary about our recent election results, but the parallels are very intriguing…and a little scary.

 

Clarissa

Side note: One of the unexpected things about this book that I *did* like was how much I liked Clarissa joining the crew. She didn’t really have a ton of character development chapters, really only one if you think about it, and that’s when she’s helping Amos and Holden in a firefight outside the ship, but it was nice how she integrated with the crew so seamlessly on nothing but Amos’s word.

I thought for sure it would be a problem, that there would be more tension than Holden just feeling a little antsy. After all, she did try and kill Holden and Naomi and this crew more than once.

It was cute, and I liked it, especially after getting to see her and Amos escape her prison back on Earth.

The Final Confrontation

“Huh. That is super creepy.”

-Amos

I’m probably not the only one who felt like the final confrontation between Inaros and Holden felt a little…anti climactic. I thought for sure that Naomi’s little trick would get Inaros’s 14 other ships and somehow we’d have a firefight between the Pella and the Rocinante. But whatever.

I very much liked how Naomi was the one to finally find a solution to deal with Marco. And she did it thinking that she killed her kid too. Can’t imagine how hard that must have been. It also wrapped up the story in a very nice circle, since she blamed herself for letting Marco get as far as he had in the first place.

 

Things I didn’t understand

 

1. How many ships did the Free Navy have? I thought they had at most like 15, but they got several of theirs tied up and blown up and were still able to send 15 after Holden. How?

Plus, it took the actions of the entire combined fleet to distract Marco and the Free Navy? That makes it seem like they could maybe kind of stand toe to toe with the combined fleet and that makes no sense to me.

2. Why did the dissident factions of the OPA help Holden? I get why Michio Pa did it – she needed protection from the Free Navy, and she wanted to keep helping Belters by commandeering colony ships and distributing the supplies to the Belt. But why all the other people? Particularly the ones that helped Holden try and retake Medina?

If I was a Belter on the Giambattista, I’d be like “Fuck you coyo, I’m not strapping myself into these tiny little capsules and trying to take out those railguns. That seems like a dumb idea that will 100% get me killed.”

And why weren’t UN or MCRN flagships the ones taking on the Pella? Why was it a little outnumbered and outmanned OPA force lead by the guy whose brother got killed, Micah al-Dujaili? That seems like poor strategic planning honestly. Poor guy, lost his brother, then his family and all his ships. I wouldn’t have agreed to that, no matter how charismatic Anderson Dawes was.

3. Why aren’t there more combined fleet ships out there helping Holden? Seems like you should have a ton of ships to spare. Why is the Rocinante the only one out there trying to A) take Medina Station and B) hold Medina station after? I know the plan was to take over the railguns rather than disable them, but it seems like a competent strategist should have planned for the possibility of them not working after you took Medina station.

 

Final Thoughts

There were just a few too many POVs for me (I think we had like 10?), but sometimes you have to overshoot to get the right number haha. I really liked Nemesis Game’s 4, and prefer 10 to the 2 that we saw in Leviathan Wakes, but 10 is just too many. And some characters I flat out disliked (Marco and Filip) or found annoying (Prax and sometimes Michio Pa), so…

That being said, all in all, a nice sequel to Nemesis Games, with two really great action sequences that I very much enjoyed reading, plus we got to see Bobbie as part of the full fledged crew!

I, like many other people, were pretty surprised that the protomolecule plot didn’t really make an appearance, but so be it. I obviously liked what we got enough to finish it within a week!

Too bad I can’t just start the next book like I’d been able to do with the previous books, but oh well. At least I’m not a Game of Thrones book fan, right? It could always be worse.

Paradise (Expeditionary Force Book 3) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Paradise (Expeditionary Force Book 3) – TwoMorePages Book Review

We hit book 3 of the Expeditionary Force series, also known as “The Adventures of Skippy and the Merry Band O’ Pirates!”

I will say I very much preferred this book to book 2, which alas did drag on for a bit, and went a little too heavy with Skippy related material. The switch to and from the perspectives from the characters on Paradise and in the Ruhar and Kristang ships was a nice break, and made me really appreciate the storyline involving Skippy a lot more.

Skippy was hilarious as always, and the ways in which our merry crew got around several obstacles was amusing to read. Specifically, Skippy’s interactions with “Count Chocula” were especially hilarious.

Where the book really shines though is the return to Paradise and picking up with characters introduced in Book 1, but that we never heard from again. Shauna, Perkins, and Bishop’s old Fire Team brought new and interesting perspectives and personalities that we got to know through their own adventures, even with Skippy/Emby.

SPOILERS AHEAD

I honestly thought this would be the last book in the series and our that our Merry Band of Pirates would somehow be able to rescue the remaining humans on Paradise and bring them home, and was surprised that wasn’t the case. So color me shocked when that didn’t happen, and the cliffhanger to introduce the next book was introduced at the very end.

I honestly will probably read Book 4, because I rather enjoy the low brow humor and banter that all the scenes with Skippy bring. But I can see why some other people would not. It kind of gets repetitive. Get in sticky situation; have Skippy say “Oh, well we’re fucked”; Have Bishop be like “Well, what if we did this?”; and then have the problem be solved with a few funny quips in between. I mean, I guess there’s no real way around that when you have painted humans as by far the least technologically advanced race in the book, and Skippy as by far the most technologically advanced. Humans can’t really go toe to toe with any of the other races, so the only way out is basically through Deus Ex Machina via Skippy.

What will be interesting is if Book 4 deals with the problem introduced in Book 2 – who went and killed the Elders, and how exactly Skippy et al are supposed to deal with that. Up until now, we haven’t even been able to deal with the Jeraptha and Thuranin host races, much less a race that is on par or better than the Elders. What exactly is Skippy going to be able to do?

But that’s a problem for another time, and overall, this book was still fun to read. 🙂