Book Review: "Leviathan Wakes" - Space Opera, My New Obsession

April 1, 2016

OH BOY WHAT A BOOK!!

 

I have a new obsession – Space Operas. Leviathan Wakes, book 1 of the Expanse, by James S. A. Corey, is a masterpiece…and I’m not the only one who thinks so. In 2012 it was nominated for both the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Also, the SyFy channel developed a TV show that premiered this past December. I haven’t seen any of the episodes yet, but don’t you worry. As soon as it’s available on Netflix, I will be binge watching the crap out of it.

 

A little about James S. A. Corey…it’s a pen name used by TWO authors – Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. According to Wikipedia, the names “James” and “Corey” are the writers’ middle names and the initials “S.A.” are Abraham’s daughter’s initials. The name is also meant to imitate the names of 1970’s space opera authors. Abraham has published many short stories and his novelette “Flat Diane” was nominated for a Nebula Award. His novelette “The Cambist and Lord Iron: a Fairytale of Economics,” was nominated for both Hugo and World Fantasy awards. He often collaborates with George R. R. Martin, a fellow resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ty Franck, also works with Mr. Martin…as his assistant. He originally plotted out the Expanse series as a tabletop game, and is credited for creating the main story arcs in the book series. There is much info available on Franck...a man of mystery it would seem. I like it.

 

Leviathan Wakes takes place in a future where the solar system has been colonized, with people living on Earth, the Moon, Mars, the Asteroid Belt, and a few of Jupiter and Saturn’s moons. Given that most of the galaxy’s resources still come from Earth, the rest of civilization remains dependent on main planet, thus political and economical struggles exist.

 

There are two main factions of people: Inner Planet residents, people who live on Earth, the Moon, and Mars, Outer Planet residents, people who live on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and the biggest asteroids in the Asteroid Belt, simply called, “The Belt.” When a spaceship being operated by “Belters” is destroyed by a Martian Warcraft, all hell breaks loose and the galaxy is suddenly on the brink of war.

 

The story follows two main storylines, and as is true with all forms of opera (musical, soap, etc), they eventually intertwine. The book opens from the perspective of Julie Mayo, an Earther, who has renounced her Inner Planet heritage to join the OPA (Outer Planet Alliance). Her spaceship, the Scupoli, has been hijacked, and after emerging from a locker where she was held captive for a week, she discovers she is the sole survivor. The hijackers have left, leaving an alien, biological mass, that has consumed the rest of the crew, in their wake.

 

Cut to James Holden, second in command of an ice-hauler. He, and a small crew of 4, are tasked with rescuing the Scupoli, a ship near the Belt that appears to be deserted. While on mission, they witness their mother ship destroyed by a stealth Martian Warcraft, and Holden immediately broadcasts the news to the Universe. Suddenly enemies of Mars, they find themselves on the lamb, searching for a friends in the Outer Planets.

 

Meanwhile, on Ceres, the biggest asteroid in The Belt, Detective Miller has been tasked with finding Julie Mayo, the daughter of a prominent Inner Planet businessman. When Holden’s news of the Martian Warcraft’s destruction of the ice-hauler hits Ceres, the rock erupts into chaos, and Miller soon finds his allegiance teetering between the Earth security company that hired him and the OPA. His Captain is unsure where his fealty lies as well, and soon terminates his employment, leaving Miller destitute, and without many choices. On a hunch, he decides to track a suspicious ship, the Rociante, and soon finds himself working alongside Holden to uncover the mystery of Julie Mayo, the Scupoli, and the alien biological mass that infected her ship.

 

I really can’t express how wonderful this book is…it hooked me pretty early on and before I knew it, I couldn’t put it down. I think my favorite aspect of the story is that it’s all so believable. Space opera often runs risk of being absurd, but Leviathan Wakes, from the story to the characters to the settings, is written in a way that makes it easy for me to comprehend and relate. Don’t get me wrong, it all IS fantastical, but…when I was reading this story, when I was following Holden and Miller, from moment to moment, it certainly didn’t feel that way.

 

Love love love this book and can’t wait to read (and watch!) the rest of the series.

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writer | author | sci-fi storyteller

Lisa Caskey

writer | author | sci-fi storyteller
© 2016 by Lisa Caskey
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