The Expanse: Caliban’s War by James SA Corey – Book Review [Bane of Kings]


Bane of Kings writes a book review of the second novel in the epic space opera series entitled The Expanse, written by James SA Corey, the penname of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank, Caliban’s War, published by Orbit. 

“An action-packed, awesome sequel that delivers in (almost) every way. One of the best sci-fi novels of 2012.”~The Founding Fields

It’s been a good week for reading recently. Due to long journeys, I’ve had the opportunity to read several fantastic books, and I hope to review as many as possible before I go abroad the following Wednesday for a week and a bit, with no internet access. I’ve got two more reviews planned after this one, one for The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Steven Baxter, and the other being an historical fiction novel by Bernard Cornwell, Azincourt. I’ve also got a bunch of books to read whilst I will be abroad, including stuff by Conn Igguldon, James Patterson, Oliver Bowden and Issac Asimov. But for now though, I’m going to be looking at Caliban’s War, the sequel to one of my favourite sci-fi novels of 2012, Leviathan Wakes, and I’m going to be telling you why I think it’s a strong contender to be the one of the best sci-fi novels of 2012, despite a few flaws that it boasted.

We are not alone.

The alien protomolecule is clear evidence of an intelligence beyond human reckoning. No one knows what exactly is being built on Venus, but whatever it is, it is vast, powerful, and terrifying.

When a creature of unknown origin and seemingly impossible physiology attacks soldiers on Ganymede, the fragile balance of power in the Solar System shatters. Now, the race is on to discover if the protomolecule has escaped Venus, or if someone is building an army of super-soldiers.

Jim Holden is the center of it all. In spite of everything, he’s still the best man for the job to find out what happened on Ganymede. Either way, the protomolecule is loose and Holden must find a way to stop it before war engulfs the entire system.

CALIBAN’S WAR is an action-packed space adventure following in the footsteps of the critically acclaimed Leviathan Wakes.

I loved Caliban’s War. Despite the fact that it’s just as long as Leviathan Wakes, I couldn’t put it down. Everything that I liked about Leviathan Wakes returned for Caliban’s War, and as there were several things that I liked about Leviathan Wakes, that’s a good thing. Taking place roughly a few months after the events of Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War is a worthy continuation of the Expanse series, and I can’t wait to see what Corey will do with the third novel in the series. In this installment, the writing continues to flow well, and at no point is there any recognisable change between where Daniel Abraham ended and Ty Frank began. The pace is fast, action-packed and well-written, with no info-dumps that drag the story down.

Returning from Leviathan Wakes are the crew members of the Rociante, and it’s interesting to see how Corey develops them over the course of this novel, and how much they’ve changed from the beginning of the first novel. Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos are all characters that you want to root for, and the characters are really given depth in the book. The only character that I felt that didn’t really work in Caliban’s War was the new introduction of the female Martian Marine Gunnery Sergeant Roberta Draper, known as Bobbie to her friends. After the opening saga, she just felt as though she wasn’t really needed in the novel. However, whilst Bobbie lets the book down a bit character wise, another new addition, Prax – who’s daughter was kidnapped at the beginning of the novel, has a particularly interesting tale that ties into the main story, and much like the rest of Caliban’s War, is full of twists and turns, and you never quite know where it’s going to end.

The action scenes in Caliban’s War are well detailed, and epic in scope. We get space battles and action-packed ground encounters, and all of this adds to the variety of the stuff that you find in this novel – and I wasn’t disappointed by Corey’s approach to this at all. Another minor issue that I had with Caliban’s War were the bad guys, they felt a bit cartoonish, which is a shame, as the novel had the potential to be even better than it was.

However, whilst Caliban’s War is a flawed novel, I found that there were several aspects of this novel that made up for it. The plot becomes more complex as the novel goes on, making it an engaging read and you never quite know which way it’s going to go. And the ending was superb, much like Leviathan Wakes, and I really can’t wait to see how Corey handles the third book, which I will most definitely be picking up. I understand, according to Goodreads, it’s called Abaddon’s Gate, and the title alone is enough to make this novel be one of my most anticipated of 2013 (assuming that is it’s release date), and I can’t wait to see which directions the series continues in.

Verdict: 4.5/5

The Expanse by James SA Corey: Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, Abaddon’s Gate 

Bane of Kings is one our most senior book reviewers here at The Founding Fields, based in England. He’s a prolific reviewer that has contributed to many things here and around the internet.


The Founding Fields - Blogged