The Expanse: Abaddon’s Gate by James SA Corey – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews James SA Corey’s latest outing for the Expanse series, entitled Abaddon’s Gate, published by Orbit Books, the third in a continuously awesome Space Opera series.
“There are some series that I wish could go on forever, and The Expanse is one that fulfils that category. James SA Corey delivers another stunning entry with Abaddon’s Gate, and therefore Book Four cannot come fast enough.” ~The Founding Fields
James SA Corey is the penname of Daniel Abraham & Ty Frank, for those people who do not already know – if you’ve been following the series or at least have read the first volume, then you’ll know this by now. Daniel Abraham it seems can turn everything he touches into awesomeness – I’ve really enjoyed his The Dagger and the Coin epic fantasy series, whilst his urban fantasy Unclean Spirits under the penname of MLN Hanover has made me want to read more of that series, although I have not picked it up in a while, which is something that I really need to get around to.
For generations, the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt – was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artefact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has emerged to build a massive structure outside the orbit of Uranus: a gate that leads into a starless dark.
Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artefact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.
We’re back with the crew of the Rocinante, and it’s very interesting to see how the main cast develop over this instalment, with Jim Holden, Naomi and Amos being the main crew memebers, but there’s also strong showing from other returning characters too. Newcomers, such as Bull, Melba and Anna, also present an interesting, fresh look in the series, and we’re starting to understand for the first time for why this series is called The Expanse. It’s big. There are several characters alongside those already mentioned and the book rarely stays from the POV of most characters for long, which can be jarring for readers who favour one character over the other, but Corey has managed to make each viewpoint enjoyable and there wasn’t a dull one. Another point in favour of the Expanse goes to the Space Opera setting itself, it allows the reader to explore a wide variety of concepts and setting so that we never feel like Abaddon’s Gate is simply just a re-hash of Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War, with Corey coming up with new ideas to bring to the table.
Middle novels in series can be sometimes of a chore to get through. All too often, they are spent setting up the final act, continuing on from the first, and not much really happens. Not so with Abaddon’s Gate, it’s page-turning action all the way through – and even this novel brings a certain sense of conclusion to the book, as the series was originally planned as a trilogy before being extended. I haven’t been finishing novels as quickly as I would like to lately, mainly due to exams (which are now out of the way), but Abaddon’s Gate was one novel that I have been waiting for since Caliban’s War and exam the next day or not, I could not resist staying up slightly later than normal to get as much reading done. So, if I did fail my exam – I blame James SA Corey for crafting such an impressive and mind-blowingly awesome novel.
Seriously. This series has to be among the best of the Space Opera at the moment, up there with the likes of Iain M. Banks & Alastair Reynolds. Corey’s novels keep getting better and better. Whilst I’m no expert in politics, everything seems pretty realistic here, with humanity not being presented as a unified force, which is the problem that I have with such things in other media, Independence Day and Halo being two notable examples, it seems as though we’re never going to put aside our differences at any point. Not even for a big massive alien invasion.
Another thing that I love about this series is the lack of Hyperspace Travel/Warp Drives etc. This is a series not set 40,000 years into the future like the novels of Black Library, and it’s a little closer to home. Technology is still developing, and there isn’t a massive influx of alien races in Star Wars. Fans will be pleased to know that there’s no change here, and Corey continues so that Abaddon’s Gate is still recognisably part of the same series, although it probably isn’t the best jumping on point for newcomers – you’re better off just playing catchup. Whilst it may not be the cheapest option, it’ll certainly be the most rewarding one.
Fans of the series will not need any convincing to buy this book – but I’m going to give this book my strongest recommendation anyway, as it currently stands a contender for one of the best novels of 2013 so far. Count me on board for Book #4 for certain.