Monday, January 2, 2017

Book Review: Caliban's War by James S. A. Corey

I follow several authors on Twitter and Daniel Abraham, one half of James S. A. Corey, is one of them (the other half being Ty Frank). As such, I've been hearing a lot of news from him (and other sources) about the second season of The Expanse on SyFy. This book series was converted to a television show and has done very well. I saw a few episodes and hope to catch up this year; as such, I decided to continue reading the series to make sure I've read it before watching it. And so, here's my review of Caliban's War, the second book in the series.

Read on for my spoiler-free review.

Overall Impression
This was a very enjoyable book and very approachable despite being so long since I read the prior book, Leviathan Wakes. The setting is cool, as it's futuristic space-based but with plenty of realism. Characters and plot are decent as well and keep the story moving at a fast pace. It's a solid book in The Expanse series and sets the stage for future events in the series.

Plot
This book takes place shortly after Leviathan Wakes. I read that book a long time ago (~5 years), so I only had a vague memory of the events and characters. Still, the book does a good job catching you up and I remembered more and more as the story went along. Overall, the plot is very good and moves quickly after a moderate start. It starts of as a bit of a horror mystery with the reappearance of the protomolecule from the prior book. There's a bit of political intrigue as well and all in all I would still call it a space opera. It felt like there were two climaxes in the book, but that's fine and the ending had a very interesting cliffhanger.

Characters
There are a number of important characters, many from the prior book. In this occasion, we have 4 viewpoint characters- Bobbie, the Martian Marine; James Holden, the captain of the Rocinante; Avasarala, Assistant Undersecretary of the United Nations of Earth; and Prax, a botanist from Ganymede. In my Goodreads review (as I read the book before I had my blog), I had criticized how the prior book had too few viewpoint characters (2), so this is a certain improvement. The 4 main characters are pretty varied too and evolve somewhat throughout the book. Unfortunately, some of the other characters, particularly the political figures, are lost in the noise.

Setting / World Building
The setting of this book is the same as the prior one, but since I read that before I started my blog, I'll briefly go over it here. Humans have expanded beyond the Earth, establishing bases and colonies on the Moon, Mars, several of the larger asteroids and moons, as well as some free-floating stations. Earth and Mars are the biggest players and tensions are high between them. The various stations in the asteroid belt and beyond have grouped together to form the Outer Planets Alliance, or OPA, which while not as strong as Earth or Mars, can still exert some pressure in solar system politics. Amidst this environment, an alien substance is discovered in one of the outer moons which is the launching point for the first novel.

The setting is futuristic, but still holds to reality. So it takes quite a bit of time for people to travel across the solar system and there's time delay when communicating with others. There's also plenty of descriptions on how life in low gravity is, which is pretty interesting.

Final Thoughts
This was a fun, short read. As the second book in The Expanse series, it takes place shortly after Leviathan Wakes. The setting is excellent, it makes it look like this is a real, possible future for humanity in the space-faring age. The characters and plot are also pretty good, leading to an exciting story overall.

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