The Expanse: Cibola Burn by James SA Corey – Book Review [Bane of Kings]


Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews Cibola Burn, the fourth novel in the epic space opera Expanse series by James SA Corey – the penname of fantasy writer Daniel Abraham and George RR Martin’s assistant, Ty Frank.

“James SA Corey continues to create an incredibly fun, entertaining and awesome book that moves from strength to strength. Like the last three novels in the saga, Cibola Burn is most likely going to be one of the best books of the year. Highly Recommended.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields


The gates have opened the way to thousands of habitable planets, and the land rush has begun. Settlers stream out from humanity’s home planets in a vast, poorly controlled flood, landing on a new world. Among them, the Rocinante, haunted by the vast, posthuman network of the protomolecule as they investigate what destroyed the great intergalactic society that built the gates and the protomolecule.

But Holden and his crew must also contend with the growing tensions between the settlers and the company which owns the official claim to the planet. Both sides will stop at nothing to defend what’s theirs, but soon a terrible disease strikes and only Holden – with help from the ghostly Detective Miller – can find the cure.

Chances are, those of you who have read The Expanse series will have probably either ordered this book already or are going to buy in the near future regardless of what this review says, because we’re now at the stage where this series has a strong fanbase already, most of whom will now be looking forward to the upcoming Expanse TV adaption on Syfy – so it should be interesting to see where it goes both there and in the books. Will we see a Game of Thrones-esque level of quality in space or will it flop like most recent offerings from Syfy (think Defiance, Helix)? I can’t wait for it regardless of how it turns out – (remember Syfy have also given us the incredible Battlestar Galactica), but for now – let’s switch our focus back on Cibola Burn, James SA Corey’s fourth outing in the saga.

Cibola-BurnThe land rush has begun, true wild west style. Settlers from humanity’s core planets are streaming out in endless masses, landing on new worlds. Among these Settlers is the crew of the Rocinante, but they’re not there to colonise. Holden, Naomi, the rest of the crew and the likes of the ghostly Detective Miller have other plans – they’re haunted by the past, and want to find out what happened to the great intergalactic society that was here before them, and the builders of the gates that prevented the people from the Solar System from reaching the stars beyond. And to make matters worse, tensions are growing between various factions, and a terrible disease is brewing.

Despite being the fourth book in the saga that only looks set to get bigger and better, Cibola Burn manages to feel just as fresh as the first book. The novel doesn’t repeat a tired formula, but instead keeps things fresh – the expansion to the rest of the universe playing a large part in this, as well as the expansion in cast members since the beginning of the book. Because of this, it’s a fun read, picking up from where Abaddon’s Gate left off and not disappointing. The action is there and the tension is high, allowing for a page turning read that won’t disappoint fans. Of course, newcomers (if there are any reading this) will want to start from Leviathan Wakes – but trust me, it’s well worth playing catchup. This is one of the best space opera series of recent years and that’s got me looking forward all the more to the upcoming TV series, even if Syfy doesn’t have the best track record.

The cast of characters have expanded since the start of the first novel and only get bigger here. Sure, we get our old favourites – Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are at the centre of things and it’s great to have them back, but there are also new additions that keep things fresh. Development across the whole cast is great, and things are in a very different shape at the end of the novel from the beginning. So when we return to the Expanse saga once more with the fifth book, things should be very interesting indeed.

If there was a tiny problem about this latest entry however is that Cibola Burn sometimes feels like a transition novel, setting up the next act in the saga. However, that’s only a minor issue – because the end result is very positive indeed, with a complex plot that continues the high level of consistency from the previous volumes. The politics and the alien horror/mystery elements are blended well, giving us a very interesting storyline to follow.

So in conclusion therefore, whilst Cibola Burn may feel like mainly a setup novel for the next installment in the series, it’s still executed very well and should satisfy fans of the saga – providing readers with a very strong installment that could end up being one of the best science fiction books of the year. So if you’re a fan who hasn’t brought this book yet, then what are you waiting for? Go ahead and buy it – you won’t be disappointed.


THE EXPANSE: Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, Abaddon’s Gate, Cibola Burn

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer