A sequel is a tricky proposition at the best of times. ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ was definitely better than ‘Star Wars’, but the second ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies were both less than the first. The J.K. Rowling’s second ‘Harry Potter’ book was better than the first, but Christopher Paolini’s second book in his ‘Inheritance Cycle’ was a poor expression of the first.
The proof is there; sequels are tricky propositions, but you wouldn’t know it reading ‘Caliban's War’ by the pseudonymic James S. A. Corey (made up of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck).
The second book in The Expanse series of novels, Caliban's War picks up where Leviathan Wakes lets off (although the reality is you could very easily read it as a standalone). However, this time we are provided insight into four characters, rather than just the two we had access to in the first novel. As a result this story provides a wider scope from which to view events from.
We are reintroduced to Holden, captain of the Rocinante, and his crew. In addition we step into the lives of botanist Prax, Martian marine Bobbie (a she), and Avasarala, assistant to the undersecretary of executive administration of the United Nations.
It is a robust group of characters, and the events they are forced to share are unlike anything humanity has ever faced off against. Political backstabbing prevails in this heated war time environment, and the smallest act could set of system-wide apocalypse (although, no one is going for the ‘smallest’ acts).
The good guys are flawed, facing off against situations no one should ever be forced to deal with, and make mistakes along the way. The bad guys are greedy monsters out to line their own pockets or protect their interests at the expense of anyone; they are not the “cartoonish” oafs some reviewers might have you think, rather, they represent realistically portrayed men and women who have overstepped the bounds of human decency. Sometimes I feel that this realistic portrayal and the simple-minded justifications which drive individuals such as these make some reviewers uneasy, as if the presence of such realistic evil in their fiction is just too much.
I’m continually impressed with what Abraham and Franck are able to pull off, as expressed in several different ways.
Their grasp of the scientific makes their writing believable, even to the somewhat educated. There’s no faster than light travel, and every action has a reaction and penalty for that action. No science-fiction liberties have been taken, the science in this book is rooted so close to fact as to give everything a solid sheen of realism.
The characters we are regularly exposed to are given more than just token backgrounds, but more than that, those backgrounds are sometimes only hinted at, revealing only small clues as to what really exists. Remember, not even your closest friends will necessarily know the full background of every event that makes you you.
And finally, somehow, despite the fact that space battles in such realistically portrayed vastness should be somewhat academic, there is a sense of the futile to them that gives the reader a different kind of adrenalin rush. No more fleets of ships crammed into the same three square feet, replaced instead with the same number of ships facing much graver odds across the vast emptiness of space; where torpedoes don’t have to be launched within spitting distance and a small defensive round could rip through your ship and behead someone inside.
Abraham and Franck have written a sequel worthy of its predecessor, with the same human-futility crossed with nerve-wracking action and character driven realism. The Expanse is a series you really need to get your hands on, as soon as humanly possible.
Review by Joshua S Hill
1 positive reader review(s) for Caliban's War
Julie from Philippines
Caliban's War is an entertaining novel. The characters , settings, and plot are all well constructed. However, the poor grammar detracts from the book. The constant use of "gotten" in almost every paragraph is some what grating. Surely the authors know more than one verb! Both writers clearly have an understanding of scientific discourse yet they employ schoolboy phrases such as "have to have" when describing suspenseful incidents. A shame really as thorough editing would improve and add to the text.
9.5/10 from 2 reviews