Guest post by Adam.
In writing this recommendation, I have tried very hard to eliminate spoilers. That’s rather difficult to do when the book is the fourth in a series where a lot of crazy happenings have been going on. So if it seems like I don’t have a ton of concrete information about the book, you are more than welcome to go let the Amazon description ruin some of the fun of the first three books for you.
The Expanse is a space opera series written by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham under the shared pseudonym of James S. A. Corey (henceforth referred to as a singular person, because I’m a lazy SOB). It currently consists of four full length novels as well as a smattering of novellas. I have yet to read any of the novellas, but that allows me to safely say that you can stick to only the novels and not feel lost. For anyone who hasn’t had the extreme pleasure of trying out this series, I strongly recommend the first full length installment in the series, Leviathan Wakes.
Why is this book (and by proxy this series) so awesome? Let me lay out the bullet points for you.
The Characters. The series follows Jim Holden, an ex-military man from Earth. Holden is the moral compass of pretty much every group he’s a part of, something he’s miraculously able to pull off without being a douche. If you like characters who will do the right thing in the face of danger while simultaneously giving aforementioned danger the finger, then you’ll be a fan.
Along with Holden are many enjoyable ancillary characters. Corey does a great job of keeping the number of characters to a workable level. There’s no need to fear that you’re about to wade into a poorly developed character-fest of Robert Jordan magnitude.
The World. The world of The Expanse is set in the relatively near future. Earth still exists and has humans on it, but so do Mars and many other outposts throughout the solar system. Corey tries to stick to the laws of physics and is able to convey just how insanely vast the distances between these areas are. There’s no quick jump to the outskirts of the solar system in these books. If you want to get there, you’ll have to wait through the days of heavy burn clawing your way up to speed followed by even more days of heavy burn to slow down so as to not crash into your destination at aforementioned breakneck speeds.
I’m particularly enamored with the rift that Corey invents between groups born in various regions of his fictional solar system. The Earther/Martian/Belter tensions seem disturbingly accurate to how we would likely respond as humans. Living in lower gravity gives Belters both a different physical look as well as non-traditional skill sets. This conflict continues on through the series, rearing its ugly head whenever times get tough. Again, accurate.
The Pace. Corey’s books aren’t exactly short or brief reads, but the pace makes them seem that way. I’m not sure I’ve taken more than two or three days to read any of the four. Rarely do any of the novels hit any slow patches. Even in lulls between the action, the interest is kept ratcheted up to 11. This series easily earns the Snarfer tag.
The Ass-Kicking. While my position on the pacifist-militant scale typically puts me somewhere in the “live and let live” range, I still harbor the occasional thought that some problems are best solved with a thorough ass-kicking. Corey may or may not share this feeling, but his characters certainly seem to.
Cibola Burn and the rest of The Expanse series are a great gateway into the Space Opera sub-genre. All the perks while still being surprisingly accessible. Read them and thank me later.
For the entire list of books in our Summer of Sci-Fi Challenge, including Adam's list of bonus books, click here.