Review of Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey
There are no spoilers in this review.
I've had this book in my shelf for at least two years before finally getting around to reading it. To be honest, the cover of this book put me off. While the pink title certainly stands out, it’s discordant with the rest of the design, which is, frankly, a somewhat generic space opera cover. So every time I looked at it, I’d think, "Meh."
But then I read about a SyFy show called The Expanse based on Leviathan Wakes that had been canceled and subsequently picked up by Amazon. Also, although I'd never heard of James S. A. Corey before, the cover had a complimentary blurb on it from George R. R. Martin. I was curious how someone I’d never heard of had gotten such a big-name recommendation.
So I looked up the author and discovered it’s actually a pen name. The real authors are Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, the latter of whom is a former assistant of...George R. R. Martin. Ahhhhh...
All that aside, I really liked this book. It's not, as NPR put it, "the science fiction equivalent of ‘A Song of Fire and Ice,’" but nonetheless it's very good. It switches points of view each chapter between two primary characters - Jim Holden, the executive officer (XO) of the ice-hauling space ship Canterbury, and Joe Miller, a detective working for a private security firm on Ceres Station. Ceres is a spaceport and the destination of the Canterbury when it receives a distress call from a ship out in the middle of nowhere. The Canterbury is the only ship remotely in the vicinity, and Holden, going against his commanding officer’s order, has the Canterbury respond to the call. What they find, and the events that follow, lead Earth, the human military colony on Mars, and humans living in the asteroid belt (known as "Belters") to the brink of war. But then, a much bigger problem soon appears.
This book was solid across the board on plot, character development, world-building, technological concepts, and writing quality. Plot-wise it’s a neo-noir with an unexpectedly dark turn halfway through the book, and Miller was a very effectively done antihero. It was a good page-turner too, with medium-length chapters that always had a twist, interesting question, or small revelation at the end of each one that made you want to keep reading. The ending was satisfying while clearly leaving lots of room for future stories. In fact, it has become a long-running series, with 8 books to date and book 9 currently in development.
I’ve started watching The Expanse, and so far it’s been a solid adaptation, although I’m only four episodes in so far. There are a few characters that didn’t appear in Leviathan Wakes, but overall it's faithful to the book and the differences are working for me so far. Overall it is definitely a 5-star read. While I think NPR’s assessment was a considerable exaggeration, but I would agree with Mr. Martin’s opinion that Leviathan Wakes is "a really kickass space opera."
Science fiction writer