Posted in Reviews

Review: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Image courtesy Amazon.

Humanity may have left Earth and branched out through our solar system, but what makes us human is still there—especially the bad parts. Leviathan Wakes is an entertaining space opera set in a future where technology has allowed humans to colonize the solar system, including Mars and the asteroid belt. It sports of a cast of “usual suspects,” but each is vivid enough to remain captivating.

Space opera is basically dramatic space adventure. The most notable example for many people is Star Wars. The term originated as a means of referring to a soap opera-type show or story set in space, with science fiction elements. As I enjoy the notion of a space opera, I was drawn to this book by a Kindle Daily Deal and the cover review that said “…kickass space opera.” I’m a fan of kickass space operas, so why not?

The story follows the lives of two men, one from Earth working on a ship that hauls ice to the outlying colonies, and one who is a detective on an asteroid settlement. Each has a unique voice, history, and motivation, and the chapters switch back and forth between them. As the book progresses, the lives of the two become intertwined when catastrophe threatens. A series of unexplained ship explosions and a too-honest broadcast lurch the system into war, while a small group of space miners and the detective work to stop the real threat—a biological weapon that aliens aimed at our planet long ago. (Alternate title: “Humans in spaceships going places fast with entertaining goals.”)

The dual point of view is done well and didn’t feel cumbersome. It was a nice taste of different views throughout the story. The setup of the book was a little boring, as we follow a series of events that lead to the part that gets really interesting (around about 15 percent). The overall tale was good, yet I felt the ending to be just a touch too far out of the realm of the story.

Both main characters were charmingly frustrating. Each had his own quirks that made you not like him, but then you’d read something else through his eyes and forgive the previous transgressions. Some of the speech patterns in the book were very difficult to read. The Belter dialect was pretty darn hard to understand, but it was meant to be that way.

I enjoyed the fact that this book didn’t leave our galaxy. It gave it a sense of near future that many sci-fi books lack. The technology felt plausible to me, specifically the notion that fast space travel isn’t comfy, cozy, or really desirable. The Big Bad of the story was dealt with logically, which is refreshing. Instead of yammering about random actions and ignoring facts, the appropriate questions and actions were asked.

My favorite aspect of this story was the human element. We are, essentially, a race that hates difference and change. Sci-fi tends to take a couple of views on this. In Star Trek, humanity has long since learned to work together and pull strength from our differences. The galaxy in Leviathan Wakes is not that sort of humanity. The Earthers don’t like the outer colonies (called Belters) because the people born there are often taller and thinner because of gravity differences. As such, the Belters distrust and don’t like Earthers. This causes all sorts of controversy. It was interesting to see the “united humanity reaches space” notion in a bit more of a realistic view.

Overall, I would call this book a READ. You can easily tell if you’re drawn to this genre or not, and if you are I think there’s a good chance you’d like the story. It has its flaws, and the ending seems a little odd, but not unsatisfying. The bad guys in this book are not super clear, but the threat is there. To me, this is an interesting twist and is a lot closer to the decisions we must make in everyday life.

 

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