Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey – Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey (the penname of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank), published by Orbit in the UK and the first novel of the Expanse series.
“Proper Space Opera at its best. James S.A. Corey’s first novel in the far future is a memorable one, that is not to be missed.” ~The Founding Fields
For those of you who haven’t heard the name James S.A. Corey before, that’s likely because it’s a pen-name for the authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank. Although not having read any of their novels before, Daniel Abraham has written novels such as The Dragon’s Path, and Ty Frank – well, I personally haven’t heard of him before. (In case you haven’t, he’s George RR Martin’s assistant.) But nonetheless, I was hooked right from the first page.
Leviathan Wakes is set in the future, where humanity has colonized the solar system, right from the Moon (renamed as Luna), to the asteroid Belt and planets like Jupiter and Saturn, but the stars remain out of reach. In what, in my opinion, is one of the best world-building that I’ve ever seen in any novel, we follow the adventures of Holden and Miller, Miller being a cop in the belt, whose life changes when he is assigned a case searching for the missing daughter of a rich family, and Holden being the Captain of a ship, who finds things starting to go wrong for himself when his Ice Miner is destroyed.
These two men find themselves united over the course of this huge novel, which stands about five hundred and a bit pages long. Indeed, it’s bigger and larger than The Fellowship of the Ring, the first novel in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien.
Corey (we will call the author by the name on the novel, for obvious reasons, rather than Abraham and Frank), have done an excellent job in creating character tension before. Miller is the cop who isn’t afraid to kill when needed, and Holden is the one who appears to have more morale. Indeed, when the two are brought together around about midway through the novel, the action raises a game as we soon find ourselves caught in gunfights, chases and station raiding.
The characters are likeable and varied as well, for aside from the ‘protanagists’ Holden and Miller, you get Holden’s crew along for the ride as well, two Earthers, and two Belters, the former being Amos, and Holden himself. The belters are the only female on board, Naomi, and Alex, allowing the possibility of tension between the two groups, but Corey chooses to ignore this and there are rarely fights about racism in this book.
Racism is perhaps one of the themes in this Space Opera, with a firm divide between two things – are you from Earth or Mars, or an outer colony in the belt? Not to mention, Corey heightens the tension by pitting Earth and Mars as rivalries as well.
Although this is a huge novel, I had little problem working my way through Leviathan Wakes, mainly due to the fact that (and to use an old cliché here), it drags you in and really doesn’t let you go until the last page, which will only leave you wanting more in the Expanse series.
Unlike certain things that I’ve read, the science is believable and not too distant from reality, allowing us to firmly believe that we could find ourselves in this situation in the future, and that is what helps make this book a fantastic read, alongside the gripping story, the characters and the action that we’re introduced to in this series opener.
Although the book could have perhaps been a bit shorter if Corey hadn’t have dragged out the descriptions, and focused a bit too much time on the characters, it’s still an awesome read, and as far as I’m concerned, possibly one of the best science fiction novels out there.
There is another flaw though, and that’s the pacing, which changes throughout the novel. However, that didn’t bog me down at all, mainly because I found it very addictive and often kept saying ‘one more page’, even though I knew I probably should be getting some sleep.
The cover art is pretty awesome as well, I mean – I’m one of those people who will easily find themselves swayed by such things, and I usually only look at the blurb after I’ve brought it. However, this one was different – I didn’t actually buy this one, as I received a copy from Little Brown Publishers (Orbit is one of their imprints), but nonetheless, highly enjoyable – and a definite recommendation for either the hardcore sci-fi fan, or the one who’s just getting started in the genre.
I have to admit that this is my first Space Opera book, but I can tell that I’ve swiftly become a fan of the genre already and it’s almost a shame that I left the book that I brought in the airport (Surface Detail by Ian M. Banks), in Spain, as I enjoyed that as well.
But anyway, thanks for reading the review and I hope you’ll enjoy the novel!