Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse Book 1) – TwoMorePages Book Review

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse Book 1) – TwoMorePages Book Review

“You didn’t watch Firefly, did you? Admit it! Not when it was on air, anyway. You didn’t watch, and the show was canceled. It’s basically your fault.”

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.

Impressions

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.

Miller

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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Cibola Burn (The Expanse Book 4) – TwoMorePages Review

Cibola Burn (The Expanse Book 4) – TwoMorePages Review

“I don’t know a damned thing, Elvi. Neither do you. I’m rich in interpretation and poor in datasets, just the same as you.” – Fayez

I think that line might have been my favorite in the entire book haha. I can’t wait to use it in real life and have nobody at all understand what I’m talking about, either because the phrase is so peculiar or (more probably) because nobody has any idea what I’m referencing. Nevertheless, I love it, and think it epitomizes both just a straight up funny line and what the author made me feel while I was reading this book. Hell, when I was reading this series.

Unlike Abaddon’s Gate, I didn’t see most of what happened in Cibola Burn happening until it occurred. Hell, true to Corey’s writing style, I could (and did) glaze over a page or two sometimes and have huge, story-altering events happen without me noticing, prompting a “huh?” moment and forcing me to go back and re-read what just occurred. The twists in this book kept coming, and I was surprised at how everything ended up.

Miller

I still can’t believe Miller’s dead. He was such an awesome character, and I really liked his interactions with Holden once he became a ghost / protomolecule puppet. I’m a little sad that I won’t get to read the banter between the two again.

Plus, his death was so sudden and quick; I had to go back and re-read it to understand what just occurred. So he basically networked into everything on the planet, got smashed in the face for his troubles by multiple robots that didn’t want to die along with him, and then eventually got pushed into the dark spot that killed everything. And this all took space in the span of…5 pages? Oookay. I kind of thought he deserved more than that, but I know that Corey tends to make huge, story-altering changes happen on a dime, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

The Epilogue

That being said, I really liked how Corey wrapped up the story at the end, finally showing the long term ramifications of all the events on Ilus. Up until now, this had seemed like a self-contained episode of Star Trek or something, where at the end, everything kind of resets, minus a few dead extras.

So with the colonists and the RCE personnel now getting along on Ilus, this sets the precedent that everyone is free to go through the gates now and colonize their own worlds, eh? That really sucks for my favorite faction, Mars. Avasarala really put it in context when she mentioned that if even 20% of Mars went “Well fuck terraforming this barren rock” and instead went to go and colonize other planets, the basic foundation of the MCRN would crumble.

It’s funny how much the tone has changed in these novels from Leviathan Wakes. I kind of wonder if this was truly the plan all along, or if this is just kind of how things evolved. The tone of Leviathan Wakes was so much darker and, let’s face it, vomit zombie focused and now it’s like the Protomolecule is just a thing that people live around that they don’t worry about. So different.

I’m not sure which one I prefer, actually. The current one now is certainly much more grandiose, with Holden’s actions affecting everyone on a political and cultural scale. Don’t really have a choice now though, do I? So I guess I’ll roll with the newer one as we roll into Nemesis Games.

Murtry

Speaking of newer things, we got a few new characters to get to know this time around. It’s funny how my feelings on Murtry changed from the beginning of the book to the end; I’d almost say the way that Corey wrote it borders on character assassination.

In the beginning, I was actually super pro-Murtry. I mean, he sees a shuttle he’s supposed to protect BLOW UP, taking out all sorts of equipment and killing several people, including the leader of the expedition. THEN, he sees 5 of his security people murdered in cold blood.

I would have shot Coop in the head too.

I mean, he shows remarkable constraint in the beginning in my opinion. Sure, he could have picked a better time to murder Coop than immediately after Holden shows up on Ilus, but…meh. From his perspective, he tried to play nice and play by the rules, and so far the result is that tons of his people are dead.

So I can understand where he comes from originally. What I don’t 100% get is his descent into…craziness? At the end of the book, he is just super gung ho about protecting RCE’s claim to the planet, to the point where he’s willing to have everyone die for it. And why? I don’t really get that. His motive before was to protect people. Sure, by ruthless means, but he wasn’t ever a dick just for the sake of being one.

But near the end? He’s telling the Edward Israel to go and fuck up the Rocinate’s rescue mission just…because? To be a dick in sort of retaliation? If nothing else, Murtry is a very realistic man, and I don’t think he would ever have ordered that. For one thing, he has to know he would take pretty heavy casualties doing that, casualties that he can’t afford. His engineers should be working on solving the no-fusion problem, not running around being militia. For a second thing, he is shown to be pretty pragmatic; messing up the Rocinate’s rescue efforts of the Barbapiccola wouldn’t help him even a little bit. His people are still going to die!

I don’t get that, and I’m a little sad that the story seemed to go to such great lengths to color a gray villain into a black one. Oh well. On to less gray chacters!

Elvi

Let’s talk about Elvi. I’m sure this is the way that Corey meant to picture her, but she is basically like the perfect girl in this story. I would kill to be Fayez. She’s hot, she’s smart, she’s quirky, she’s…a little naive? She stays right in character the entire book, growing from her experiences bust basically staying true to her character.

I should have probably seen it coming that she would end up being the heroine of the story, but honestly, I kind of thought she was going to die multiple times in the story haha. The Expanse isn’t Game of Thrones, but people who make poor decisions definitely still die from them.

Havelock

My only regret with Havelock’s story is that he never got to interact with Miller’s ghost haha. I really wanted some interactions along the lines of “Hey Partner. You kind of look weird in your bug-carapace suit” from Havelock to Miller, but oh well.

Havelock is probably the character that grows the most through the book, even more than Basia in my opinion. You can tell his perspective really shift as the story goes on, from idolizing Murtry to eventually coming to the realization that “This is fucked up.” and helping Naomi to escape.

My favorite section of the book actually might have been the battles that he had with the militia he trained. The conversations he was having with his old team as he was shooting them and telling them what they were doing wrong were downright hilarious. “Hey, that was a good idea with the mag boots taking cover. You left your knee too far out though” (paraphrased obviously).

Basia

I know that Basia was Protagonist B in this story, and I say this knowing full well I may be in the minority, but I really disliked Basia’s character. He is just whiny all the time, and generally makes shit go pear-shaped the entire book.

Maybe the point was that he was acting like an idiot because he lost his son earlier and that was coloring all of his decisions. If so, kudos. If not…I just really hated his character.

It’s sweet that he gets to end up on the colony with his family at the end, but I couldn’t help but think of the colonists that he helped to kill at the beginning of the book. I mean, i know that he grows as a character as well through the book, coming to feel remorse for his actions and all that but…it just seems like in a universe where poor decisions net you poor consequences, Basia got a generally happy ending at the end. And that irks me some.

Unresolved Questions

Uh…didn’t the aftermath of the fusion reactor blowing up flatten like basically everything on the planet? How are the remaining colonists/RCE staff going to live there? They already established that almost nothing there is edible. There are still death slugs everywhere on the planet that will mess people up when it rains. And even though the oncocidals helped people manage the micro-organisms that made people blind, they will run out of those eventually, right? What happens the next time it rains?

I guess it’s not quite important, but I don’t get how anyone’s going to stay on that planet. It’s okay though; minor detail. We’ll just accept it to keep the story rolling haha.

Final Thoughts

With recency bias, I think this might be my favorite The Expanse book to date. Correcting for recency bias, I guess I can stick it right behind Leviathan Wakes and definitely in front of Caliban’s War and Abaddon’s gate. The characters were more interesting and relate-able in this story, especially compared to the ones in Abaddon’s Gate (Sorry Bull; Not sorry Clarissa).

I liked how I wasn’t able to predict what was going to happen with any sort of accuracy. The fusion reactor blowing up? Out of left field. Miller DYING? Waaaay out of left field. The possibility of Amos being dead? I thought he had the thickest plot armor ever. I was freaking out.

And I really liked how the epilogue set up the premise for Nemesis Games. Seems like it will be a very different kind of story, and I’m looking forward to the adventure. I love The Expanse.