Caliban’s War (The Expanse Book #2), by James S.A. Corey — a book review


I just returned from the Amazon website. I ordered the third book in this series, Abaddon’s Gate. I plan to read something else as a palate cleanser before starting that one. That’s what I did between Leviathan Wakes and this one, and it seemed to work well.

I guess I’m pretending that I have all the time in the world to get caught up on this series. The eighth book in the series, Tiamat’s Wrath, was published this past March, and, according to Wikipedia, the as-yet-unnamed ninth book will be the final book. I look forward to reading them all. And, I’m not going to binge-read them. I’m going to continue to pretend that I have all the time in the world. A fictional world this rich, filled with characters that seem real to me, deserves to be read at a leisurely, measured pace. I’m gonna make this last.

As I wrote in my review of Leviathan, the SyFy television series (soon to be Amazon series, beginning with Season 4) The Expanse was the gateway drug leading me to mainline the source material. I loved the first book, and I thought the television show followed it very closely, even though there were a couple of characters on TV who didn’t show up that early in the novels. As much as I love the television series, I have to say, unequivocally, that Book #2, Caliban’s War, is orders of magnitude better than what was on the screen.

This is the book in which we get UN Undersecretary Chrisjen Avasarala, Martian Gunnery Sergeant Bobbie Draper, and Ganymede botanist Dr. Praxidike β€œPrax” Meng as new protagonists. Like the first novel, Caliban is written in Third Person Limited POV. Leviathan had only two viewpoint characters, James Holden and Det. Joe Miller. Avasarala, Bobbie and Prax all join Holden as viewpoint characters in this novel. This works well for the story being told, and when all of the characters eventually come together in the same place, it feels like a family reunion.

In the broadest sense, the television show tells the same story as we discover in the pages of the book. The novel, however, expands upon the story and includes some details we didn’t get by watching television. Space combat and the weapons of war are given the loving attention to detail that I haven’t seen since Tom Clancy was with us. This gives the story told a sense of verisimilitude and immediacy that is often missed in space operas. These feel like real people, flying and fighting in real spacecraft. Making the technology as plausible as possible also makes the more fanciful notions of the protomolecule and its shenanigans seem more realistic as well.

I’m not going to spoil this novel for you if you haven’t read it yet. I will tell you to read the first novel in the series before tackling this one. It handily creates the world of The Expanse. The writing team of James S.A. Corey tells a story that is epic in scale without sacrificing the individual viewpoint characters. I was so invested in the characters that the possibility of Holden and Naomi breaking up was as equally upsetting to me as the possibility of protomolecule monsters destroying all life in the system. Balancing the big and the small in such a long work is no easy task, but the authors seem to do so with ease. It’s easy to forget that you’re actually reading words as you absorb the story from the pages. Not every writer can pull this off.

I will go as far as saying that the heart of this novel becomes about saving Prax’s daughter Mei from the clutches of evil scientists, while Mars and the Earth seem intent on destroying each other above the moon Io.

The ending is a satisfying one. ‘Nuff said.

Maybe I won’t read another book in-between. This is good stuff.

One thought on “Caliban’s War (The Expanse Book #2), by James S.A. Corey — a book review

  1. Good choice in taking your time with this series: I have no idea what would be like to read the books back to back since I’ve been following The Expanse as it was being published over the years (and I plan on a re-read once it’s complete), but I think this is the kind of story that needs to be… metabolized, for want of a better word, in separate installments.
    Happy reading!!!! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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