Like so many others, I started watching The Expanse because of the well written article above which basically guilt tripped me into watching because well…I loved Firefly, and the article said this was the best bit of sci-fi since! They were right. I binge watched the entire series over the course of 2 weeks, and then…I was hungry for more!
I’ve never been so intrigued by a show that I couldn’t wait until the next season to figure out what happened. Not even with *gasp* Game of Thrones. But The Expanse? I *had* to know what happened next. And so I picked up Leviathan Wakes!
You’d think reading about events that you’ve already seen happen would be boring, but you would be wrong! I read up to where the show left off in a mere 3 days, and the continuation of the story past the season finale was amazing. I’m so glad I picked up the book and continued the story. So if you’re asking yourself “Is it worth it to read The Expanse books if I’m already watching?” the answer is a resounding yes.
When I picked up this book, I was afraid that the book wouldn’t be able to live up to the expectations that the show had given me.
Not really a problem at all, it turns out! The scenes were written so well that it didn’t matter. The action unfolded differently than the way the show portrayed it, so it was still full of surprises. PLUS, the show stopped about ⅔’s of the way through the first book, so all the shit that went down with Eros after the Protomolecule murdered everyone on it was new to me.
I especially liked how the book portrayed the three different factions, Earth, Mars, and the OPA. It gave the members of each of them distinct personalities. Mars, militaristic and driven, probably the smartest of the three. Earth, so populous that it could never have consensus on anything, creating a plausible reason for why it is always so slow to respond. The OPA, made hard and ruthless by circumstance; definitely the poorest, and the most desperate to do something, anything, when shit goes down.
Personally, I’m a fan of the MCRN, but my friend tells me that’s just because I like their shiny ships, like the Donnager haha. I like to believe it’s because I like their efficiency and drive, and because in the book, they are basically as close to good guys as you can get. They get accused of starting a war, which from their perspective, they KNOW they didn’t do, then lose their freaking flagship to mystery vessels, and *still* have the presence of mind and integrity to risk everything getting Holden off of their ship. Every Martian on the Donnager basically dies a hero. They’re good guys in my book.
But enough about me gushing over Mars; let’s head back to the story. Another thing I really liked about the book was the unpredictability of how things unfolded. There wasn’t really a point where I went “Oh yeah, this is obviously where the story is headed.” Julie being dead and pro-moleculed was a surprise to me. Miller not basically joining the Rocinate crew and going on space adventures with them was the exact *opposite* of what I had expected to happen. Miller deciding to off himself was definitely not what I had expected; hell, even the solution to save Earth by driving Eros into Venus was a surprise.
Also, and you’ll hear this a lot from other places as well, I loved how the show tried to keep true to the science and difficulties of living in outer space. The scene where the crew is trying to board the Donnager in the hangar bay? I loved how the gravity cut out, forcing Holden and Naomi into the air; I especially loved Holden’s response to kick Naomi away from him in order to generate the force necessary to get back to the ground and mag lock his boots. I loved watching it when I saw episode 4 of the Expanse and I loved reading about it in print. It just showed how dedicated the authors were to writing with scientific integrity.
Book Amos vs Show Amos
Two characters that imo are pretty different in the show vs in the book are Amos and Holden. Let’s start with Amos, since show Amos is probably my favorite character.
In the show, he is the perfect combination of ruthless, pragmatic, intelligent, strong, but compassionate. Yeah, his moral compass might be a little bit to the darker side, but hell, that’s what he’s friends with Naomi for. Someone called it “outsourcing his moral compass”, and I think that’s the perfect phrase.
The show built his character with two strong scenes that didn’t really happen in the book. First, he suits up to murder the MCRN patrol guys when he realizes that they probably won’t have enough time to crack the safe that’s holding the secret phrase that will keep them all alive. Show Holden goes down there and threatens to kill him if he opens fire on the MCRN cops in a show of naivete, pointing a gun at him at point blank range. Most people? They’d freak out. Show Amos? He basically says “Yeah, if you’re going to do it, go ahead. You’ve got the shot.”, showing that he understands the situation, and that he knows what has to happen to keep everyone alive if they’re boarded. Intelligent, ruthless.
Second, in the Brothel scene in the show, he’s shown to be intelligent again, this time in a different way when he advises a prostitute that a certain other patron looks to have bad intentions because of a concealed weapon. This is actually radically different from book Amos, since book Amos is shown to enjoy whoring, letting his guard down then and show Amos actually abstains from whoring, but knows how to spot trouble in the same situations.
I rather like what they did with show Amos, showing him as much more cunning than book Amos. I can see why many people basically thought of book Amos as Jayne from Firefly; he’s written in a similar vein: strong, aloof, not terribly smart, but doesn’t need to be. Show Amos on the other hand is extremely smart, is perpetually vigilant instead of aloof, and is shown to not blindly trust like book Amos. He is a much more deep character in the show than in the book; I almost find that the author uses book Amos more as a tool than anything else, but maybe that’s just because that’s kind of what book Holden does generally. Speaking of Holden…
Book Holden vs Show Holden
As much as I liked show Amos vs book Amos, I’d have to say the opposite is true for show Holden vs book Holden. I feel like they made show Holden so much…dumber than his book counterpart. I mean, both of them are characterized as naive. I like how both Holdens had to have it spelled out for them that immediately broadcasting everything they knew was killing people because people then acted on imperfect information.
But show Holden is portrayed as so much dumber in my opinion, and that’s too bad. What I think the writers were trying to do was showcase his naivete in the extreme to have him grow later as a character. We’ll see if that works. It’s hard to carry a show when your audience thinks the protagonist is an idiot haha.
One thing that both the books and the show got right though was Miller. Hooo-boy, did they get that right. I’ve already said that my favorite character is show Amos, but Miller comes really close. I think this is a popular opinion amongst the rest of the interwebz as well.
One thing that surprised me a ton was when Miller got sacked. Certainly, the circumstances in the show and in the book were a little different (in the show, because he got too close to the truth; in the book because he started drinking and slacking off on the job), but with the plot armor most characters have, I definitely didn’t see that coming.
One thing book Miller has on show Miller though is that since you’re party to his thoughts, you can see why he was so obsessed with Julie more clearly. In the show, I was pretty confused as to how Miller got so fascinated with Julie and just kind of rolled with it so that way I could understand the story. In the book, you see him slowly get more interested and build up this image of Julie that he wants to chase. It’s built up well, and I like how ghost Julie echoes his inner thoughts after he finds her protomoleculed on Eros.
I really did think that once he and the Rocinate crew met up, they would join up and become one happy family. I was pretty pissed at Holden when he freaked out and kicked Miller off of the ship for shooting Protogen’s mad scientist; and I definitely did not see him volunteering to off himself on Eros because he’s depressed and feels he has nothing left to live for. He’s a complex character yo haha.
I very much liked how Corey put him as Holden’s foil, contrasting his experience and efficiency with Holden’s naivete and idealism. The whole incident with Protogen’s mad scientist was the perfect example of that. Miller’s not the law; he’s justice, and when he shoots the Protogen guy’s smug, stupid face, it is perfectly in character and you, as the reader, definitely empathize more than a little with him.
Showing him slowly crumbling after that, after he loses his remaining purpose in life, is sad, but poetic in a way. I’m glad that he ended up getting to be a hero at the end of the story, basically being *the* reason that Eros doesn’t crash into the Earth and kill everyone there. It was a fitting end. Miller did what needed to be done, and had no qualms about it.
I am so glad I took the time to read Leviathan Wakes. The nuanced differences between the show and the book were great to appreciate, and I loved getting into the heads of Holden and Miller to better understand their motivations.
Plus, I wouldn’t have learned about all the cool things that happened after Eros is infected for *another year* if I had been lame and waited for the next season like I did with Game of Thrones. Continuation of that storyline in and of itself is worth reading Book 1.
I’m sad book Amos is less cool than show Amos, but oh well. Getting to hang out in Miller’s head and see his interactions with ghost Julie kind of make up for it. Plus, book Holden is less of a dufus than show Holden, and isn’t it nice when the main character isn’t dumb?
So, are you thinking about reading Leviathan Wakes after watching The Expanse Season 1? Do it. It’s so worth it. If you like it (and I’m sure you will), keep on going to Caliban’s War. I’ll meet you there.