I have been an avid reader since I was about ten or eleven, and an even more-avid reader of fantasy since the age of sixteen. Over that time I have read hundreds of fantasy books and dozens of Star Trek, Star Wars, and other franchise books. However, in that time I have very rarely turned my attention towards science-fiction (obviously classifying Star Trek and Star Wars as ‘franchise’ books, as distinct to science-fiction books).
That changed earlier this year with the Christmas gift of ‘Great North Road’ by Peter F. Hamilton. I was spell-bound by this new (to me) genre of science-fiction space opera; grand vistas painted with as much verve as the fantasy novels I have loved, but with an eye towards the future, rather than the past; conversant with the same mirroring of humanity, but with a scientific-spin that betrays our fervour for growth at all costs.
Since then I have ploughed through ‘The Commonwealth Saga’ duology by Hamilton, and have since been eyeing off the work of James S. A. Corey, the pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.
With a momentary lull in review material (which, ironically, ended the day after I started reading, so now I’m horribly behind), I tucked into the Kindle version of ‘Leviathan Wakes’ (subsequently putting me even further behind, now that I am convinced I must read the rest of the recently concluded trilogy as soon as possible).
Set in a world where humanity has spread first to the moon and Mars, and then out to any and every habitable (and uninhabitable) rock in our solar system, Leviathan Wakes tells a tale of inter-planetary distrust, reliance, and war, so beautifully that you can only imagine that the author(s) have been given a view into the future from which to populate their writing.
We split our attention between two main-protagonists with diametrically opposed viewpoints on how to conduct oneself which allows for not only chapter-driven juxtapositions but also character-clashing juxtaposition as well. Kept apart for most of the novel, their coming together is both explosive and inevitably emotional.
The author(s) have so perfectly grafted humanity’s natural talent for segregation and fear of ‘different’ into this captivating fictional future – replete with space travel, space-stations, generation ships, and really good coffee machines – that I am obligated to warn you not to pick this book up if you are expected at work bright and early tomorrow (read: it’s not going to happen). Each character is so naturally relevant to the world in which they live, the environment and situations they find themselves in, that you never want to let go, and while the book is not full of ‘twists and turns to keep you guessing to the very end’, that is effectively what happens anyway; the reader is not filled with any desire to predict the end, as the end simply means there isn’t any more.
Leviathan Wakes is space opera at its best, there are no two ways about it. You will be equal parts devastated and overjoyed by the time you finish that you will want to jump straight into this book’s sequels – ‘Caliban’s War’ and ‘Abbadon’s Gate’, both now published. James S. A. Corey is definitely going to be a name we will be seeing for many years to come, not only on bookstore shelves (though not for long), but regularly as nominated entries for writing awards the world over. If you have even the vaguest interest in science fiction, or even if you just want to read something so addicting as to make it a worry for world governments, go now and pick up a copy of Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey.
Joshua S Hill, 9/10
Leviathan Wakes is by James S A Corey. If you have never heard of him before, there is a good reason for that, because it’s the pseudonym of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. The book is set in “The Expanse” which was created by Ty Franck.
The blurb on the book.
Humanity has colonized the planets - interstellar travel is still beyond our reach, but the solar system has become a dense network of colonies. But there are tensions - the mineral-rich outer planets resent their dependence on Earth and Mars and the political and military clout they wield over the Belt and beyond.Now, when Captain Jim Holden's ice miner stumbles across a derelict, abandoned ship, he uncovers a secret that threatens to throw the entire system into war. Attacked by a stealth ship belonging to the Mars fleet, Holden must find a way to uncover the motives behind the attack, stop a war and find the truth behind a vast conspiracy that threatens the entire human race.
We start following Julie, that’s all we know about her. Her name is Julie, she’s a survivor of a space battle, and things aren’t looking to good for her. Then once it looks like things cannot get much worse for her she disappears from the story for quite awhile.
We then turn out attention to the crew of the Canterbury, a retooled colony transport. We get a quick history lesson about the state of technology in this version of the Solar System, it’s quick and clear, and then we get straight back into the story. The Canterbury is a big ugly ship like most of the ships in this Solar System, if a vehicle doesn’t need to go into the atmosphere it’s big ugly and probably boxy. The crew of the Canterbury know their jobs, they live in the Outer Planets, which has a slight feel of the Wild West about it. I read another review that mentions Firefly, and it does feel along those lines, it’s just the gentlest of nudges that lead you to feel it’s a bit like the Old West out in the Outer Planets. We get to know the crew, and what makes them tick. We especially concentrate on the XO Holden.
We then jump to an asteroid and meet Detective Miller, a hard living cop, divorced, drinks a bit to much… you get the idea, still good at his job, or at least he thinks he is, but a bit battered around the edges.
As the story builds and problems loom on-board the Canterbury the two characters are slowly drawn together. Linked by two separate quests, which unbeknownst to them happen to have a common answer.
As things progress we start to see just how well Holden can hold up under the pressure, and just how kick arse and possibly slightly insane Miller can be.
We have a big corporate baddie who has made some very, very stupid decisions, and a alien entity of unknown origin and unknown powers, and as they all start to converge in the same area of space, all hell starts to let loose, with the Outer Planets going to war with Mars, with Earth trying to stay out of it and then they get dragged in and it becomes a nightmare with the whole Solar System on the verge of MAD (Mutually Agreed Destruction). It’s about now you think someone should pipe up with the "Who are you gonna call?" Ghostbusters theme, and in step Holden and Miller now barely speaking to each other but both hell bent on saving the Solar System in their own way.
This book is pure Space Opera. Don’t sit there analysing it, just breath it in and enjoy the romp. It’s intelligent, fast paced and just daft enough to be great fun. I loved reading this book. It’s quite a large book, but it felt very small, because it’s so much fun. It is not Hard Sci-Fi, it is entertaining Sci-Fi, with just enough detail thrown in to feel very real. I’m happy to give this 9 out of 10. This book was a pleasure to read.
Stephanie Gelder, 9/10
James from England
Basically just a big war book. Really underwhelming compared to other science fiction. Also very slow, the whole book feels like part 1 of an 8 book series, rather than a good novel in its own right. I can see how this book would appeal to some people who just want action and conflict, but if you're interested in the posing questions about humanity that many good science fiction novels explore I would give it a pass.
7.5/10 from 2 reviews