Auberon – TwoMorePages Book Review

Auberon – TwoMorePages Book Review

What a refreshing novella! I have to admit, I didn’t Persepolis Rising very much, in part because our protagonists just kept getting their teeth kicked in. And then Tiamat’s Wrath came out and well, some small wins, but ultimately, I felt like humanity was pretty fucked. I do not like depressing books; I came to read to escape, not to feel bad!

But I really enjoyed this novella, like a lot. I got to learn about some more relatable Laconian characters. I hated Governor Singh, and I feel like Governor Rittenaur’s story in this novella was written to draw sharp contrast to him.

They both draw from the same well of inexperience, and are both trying to become good leaders for their assigned stations. Big difference is that Rittenaur tries to work within the framework of where he is, and knows the limitations of Laconian power; vs Singh just tried to strongarm his way through.


I had forgotten all about Erich! Took me a hot second to recognize that he was the same character from Nemesis Games, Amos’s old buddy.

So he made it all the way here, eh? huh. I loved seeing his interactions, both with Rittenaur and his assistant.

Erich: Does the new sheriff in town take a bribe or a bullet? Hell of a slogan.

Rittenaur: Are you threatening me?

Erich: What? Jesus, no. We’re just a couple guys talking history.”

Hearing him wax poetic, and talk about things indirectly? His probing of Rittenaur here was oh so fun.

“There’s this thing when you get older where you have to make a choice. Everyone does. You have to decide whether you care more about being your best self or your real one. If you’re more loyal to who you ought to be or who you really are.”


Seriously, I could just listen to him talk all day. Talking abstractly and poignantly about a situation staring you in the face is really entertaining.


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.


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?

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.

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.’


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.



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.”


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.

The Butcher of Anderson Station (Expanse Novella #1) – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Butcher of Anderson Station (Expanse Novella #1) – TwoMorePages Book Review

“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.


The Expanse – Mars and the MCRN get the shaft ALL STORY LONG

The Expanse – Mars and the MCRN get the shaft ALL STORY LONG

Let’s tell The Expanse story from the POV of Mars and the MCRN. They get totally shat on this entire story.

They’re chilling, doing their own thing, and then this random ass little ice hauler shuttle broadcasts to everyone, saying that Mars blew up their ship. From Mars’s perspective, they’re like “??? What? No we didn’t. What the F?”

So they go and save this stupid little shuttle who is broadcasting a distress signal and accusing them of murder. Fine. Whatever. They’ll get to the bottom of this.

They think the OPA did it, and what do you know, there’s a suspected OPA operative in Naomi Ngata on board. So they start investigating, interrogating. As far as actual interrogations go, they treat their prisoners excessively well. No torture (remember the gravity torture back on Earth with Avasarala???). Just piercing questions and paying attention.

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE. Stupid mystery ships attack and BLOW UP THEIR FLAGSHIP. All Martian hands lost. Hundreds, if not thousands of lives.

The Captain basically risks everything to try to buy time to launch one of their Corvettes in order to clear the air. The entire escort contingent of MCRN marines dies getting Holden, Naomi, Amos, and Alex to the Tachi. They’re supposed to go to Mars and tell them the story, clear the name of the Donnager and Mars.

Let’s just gloss over the fact that Holden basically trades MCRN lives for the lives of Naomi, Amos, and Alex since he refuses to be transported without them, endangering EVERYONE.

But what do these jerks do? They claim the Tachi as legitimate salvage, rename the ship the Rocinate and FLY OFF BY THEMSELVES. Thieves!

But wait, there’s more! Earth, full of a bunch of untrustworthy jerks, tricks the Martian ambassador into revealing the site of all of their stealth production facilities, compromising their military position. On top of that, Earth MURDERS HIM! Fuuuuuuuu.

And for what? Mars didn’t do anything wrong in all this! They were just chilling, minding their own business, arguably doing the right things and then…BAM, kicked in the nuts over and over.

MCRN for life.

(but wait, there’s more… BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD)

Caliban’s War

They have to fight Holden and Avasarala’s war, losing two ships in the process, even in victory. And then when they go to take out the facility housing the Protomolecule monsters, A BAJILLION MISSILES CONTAINING THOSE MONSTERS GET LAUNCHED FOR MARS, THREATENING THE ENTIRE PLANET’S POPULATION.

Nemesis Games

And then on top of that, they get TOTALLY OWNED by the discovery of the gates. Their entire purpose of being goes away since nobody wants to terraform Mars anymore when they can just go to other planets. Their society basically crumbles, and lots of their weapons/ships go unaccounted for.

And what seems like half their fleet goes AWOL burning for the rings. They have no discipline in their military ranks anymore since their fleet won’t listen to their prime minister. AND THEN THOSE IDIOTS GO AND GET THEMSELVES KILLED BY MYSTERY ALIENS IN ONE OF THE RINGS.

So here’s Mars. Society on collapse, with an impotent military, a governing body that seems to have no respect, and a population problem because nobody wants to stay. A ragtag bunch of terrorists calling themselves “The Free Navy” have now confined them planetside on a planet that can’t independently support life. Fuck their lives.

tl;dr Poor Mars. They’re just sitting there, minding their own business and then BAM, everything blows up in their face.

Nemesis Games (The Expanse Book 5) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Nemesis Games (The Expanse Book 5) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Nemesis Games is amazing, like legit amazing. I saw other very favorable reviews before I read it, along the lines of “It’s great, much better than books 3 and 4, though those books do set up book 5 very well.”, and was worried that I had hyped it up too much in my head, but fortunately that wasn’t the case this time. ZOMG, Nemesis Games is far and away not only my favorite book in The Expanse, not only my favorite book read so far in 2016, but might be one of my favorite fiction books of all time.

You know when you get one of those books that you just can’t put down, that you blow off other things in real life to read? That’s Nemesis Games. The action is very well paced through the entire book and keeps you enthralled the entire time. Even the setup to all the events going to shit is really interesting since, unlike the other The Expanse books, the other non-Holden POV characters this time are THE CREW OF THE ROCINATE!

Oh, it was such a joy to read things from the perspective of Amos, Naomi, and Alex. I felt like they had been relegated to side characters somewhat in the previous books; Amos being the muscle, Naomi being Holden’s smart gf, and Alex being the hotshot pilot that was a little past his prime. I know some of them got novellas to flesh out their characters, but really, we hadn’t gotten to know them a ton before this book.

But not now! Now I get to hear Amos’s murder-y thoughts, along with his thoughts on what is moral or isn’t. And you get to experience Naomi and Alex’s trauma as they reconnect with their past lives. It’s *wonderful*.

Okay, let’s get this review party started, shall we? It’s time to go from spoiler-free to spoiler-y.


Oh, Knuckles. Now we know your pain and how you ended up on the Canterbury. You had a homicidal terrorist ex boyfriend who you had a kid with? And you were unwittingly part of the OPA? Now we know why you Mars was interrogating you so harshly waaaaay back when in Leviathan Wakes. They suspected!

And we visit that dark, dark place that you were in. You were suicidal at one point? Actually went through with trying to kill yourself, only thwarted by a security measure? Wow.

And let’s not forget YOU HAVE A KID! A…kid partially responsible for the worst catastrophe to happen to Earth since humans have been on it…but a kid nevertheless. He’s smart, like you, and has been raised thinking you abandoned him and that the inners are cause of all of his problems. *sigh*.

But more than that, we get to see you in action this time, out from under the shadow of Holden and the Rocinate. We see you have to deal with being a prisoner guarded by people you once called friends, including Cyn. Oh, poor Cyn. You had to murder your friend, someone who stepped into that airlock with the best of intentions of *saving your life* because he thought you were going to off yourself again.

But you had to. It was the only way to even have a chance at saving everyone, at saving Holden and the Rocinate. And you did it! You had to survive in vacuum with no eva suit and had to launch yourself out of an airlock multiple times to do it, but you did it!


Bobbie’s back! Okay, technically, she only exists in Alex’s section, but Bobbie is one of my favorite characters, second only to Amos. And she’s back, this time with more than one stupid chapter to hook me (curse you Cibola Burn!).

I was pretty excited when I saw that Alex was going to meet with Bobbie while he was on Mars and beyond ecstatic when I saw the story leaning towards her becoming a crew member on the Rocinate. The scenes with her and Alex were endearing, both in the beginning where she meets him up and asks for help in solving this mystery she’d been looking into, and when they are trying to escort the Mars Prime Minister to safety on the Razorback.

“‘No,’ Alex said, ‘You’re not staying. I don’t give a shit. I’m not leaving you behind.'”

That was such a moving scene to me. I legit thought *exactly* what Alex thought, that she was going to stay behind to buy them some time. It wouldn’t be the first time an MCRN marine died to save a Rocinate crew member…

That scene cemented the growing relationship that she and Alex had been having, and was the first time that I felt like she truly became part of the crew.

The Adventures of Amos and Clarissa

Color me surprised that Clarissa also made an appearance in this book. I guess there was some payoff to having to read all of her chapters back in Cibola Burn.

Surprisingly, I empathized with her really well, considering how much I hated her character back in Cibola Burn. I guess that’s because Amos was such a big fan and well, I love Amos. I trust his character judgments haha. Plus, she didn’t try to murder my favorite protagonists this time around, and seemed genuinely contrite about what she had done. In fact, she was pretty critical in keeping Amos alive. And, it’s easy to feel sorry for someone if she’s a cute girl who is going through some shit, right?

Amos, unsurprisingly, went around being a badass through most of the book. We get to see his interactions with Erich and the crew that he grew up with, hear about his acts of mercy which end up paying dividends now that Erich is in charge, see him getting into violent scuffles in part just because and in part for his own sense of social justice.

This book does a great job of making his character darker, more of a violent killer with a questionable moral compass instead of an aloof mercenary/mechanic who just happens to be good at his craft. Up until now, I wouldn’t blame you if you’d imagined him as Jayne from Firefly: definitely dangerous, but mostly comedic. Nemesis Games highlights his violent side as he makes threats, even against old friends, in order to get what he wants.

But it also accents his loyal side. Erich may have threatened to have him killed once or twice, but when one of the Pinkwater guards tries to manhandle him, Amos beats the shit out of him, making a point to the other guard that he was safe since he hadn’t threatened to skullfuck his friend Erich. Plus, he stays by Clarissa’s side and sticks his neck out at the end with Holden to open the door to Clarissa becoming a Rocinate crew member. Surprisingly, I’m on board with this idea, and hope it comes to fruition in the next book, despite Holden’s obvious misgivings.

And, we get to see some character development too. He saves the staff on the island and brings them with, even though he doesn’t have to; in fact, even though they would slow him down. I like the nuanced way that his motivations exist too as Amos points out it’s not because he wants to do it, but because “it’s something Holden would do.” That counts as growth? haha

Holy shit that story

But beyond getting to know our crew better, and possibly introducing new members to it, Nemesis Games also brings us an *amazing* story, complete with huge changes in the established universe and new antagonists who, this time, don’t end up dead/out of the story at the end of the book.

First off, catastrophic asteroid impacts on Earth. Billions dead. Billions more will follow. Almost kills Amos, but that is actually not the main point of this. This pulls back the entire UN fleet to protect Earth from this happening again. It kills the UN Secretary General and puts our favorite grandmother in charge of the entire government, including the UN Navy. It also turns Earth into a land with a unified purpose, whereas before they were fractured groups of people. I expect to see something like a post 9/11 vibe from Earth in the next book.

Second off, just like Avasarala predicted, Mars is falling apart. Its population is leaving, and it can’t keep track of its military assets. Ships and weapons are going missing. The Prime Minister is almost killed, and a huge section of the MCRN Navy is just up and burning towards the ring for reasons nobody in the story seems to know. Also, it seems like the main bad guy behind Marco either is in cahoots with someone high up in the MCRN command or is that person himself. And that person has enough influence to have murdered at least one MCRN soldier and has tried to murder Bobbie and Alex to cover up his dealings.

Third off, Fred Johnson is now his own political entity. The OPA, the bunch of racist jerks that they are, tries to have him killed because he’s from Earth. Nevermind that he joined them because the UN was murdering innocents on their side; nevermind that he has probably helped the Belt more than almost anyone in the solar system; because fuck him he’s from Earth. Bunch of racist assholes. And they take Medina Station! They now hold Fred Johnson’s trump card, the entire reason he has “a seat at the table” with the other governments of Sol.

The hits just don’t stop coming in Nemesis Games. The entire power structure of the solar system is destabilized by the end of the book. Heck, there’s an entire MCRN fleet headed towards the ring at the end that the Prime Minster can’t control. AND THEY DIE. So not only is there a power struggle here at “home” in our solar system, but something crazy is happening beyond the rings as well. Now I’m sad that I can’t immediately start up the next book and see what happens. Game of Thrones fans, who have to wait for some undetermined about of time for your next book? I don’t know how you do it.

Final Thoughts

I love this book. I love it *so much*. If it were a girl, I would do naughty things to it, get married, buy a house, and raise little book/human hybrid babies with it.

It is a great culmination of all the books before it, and definitely changes the entire landscape of the story. Major characters from the other books are brought back, whether just in memory (Sam! *sob*) or as actual characters in the story (Bobbie and Clarissa!).

The entire universe of the story is changed, with Earth being un-inhabitable-ish, Mars’s society collapsing, and the OPA fracturing into racist vs non-racist factions. And it looks like we’ve gotten our first encounter with an alien species. But which one?! The protomolecule creators? Or the species that destroyed them?!

But at least the crew of the Rocinate is back together, complete with what looks like two new crew members. Avasarala is in charge of Earth, and once she gets shit calmed down, will probably be taking care of business here in Sol against Marco’s “Free Navy”. Can’t wait to see what happens in Book 6.

Sigh, waiting is a game I am bad at.

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.


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.


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*)!