James S.A. Corey, Leviathan Wakes. Orbit, 2012 (2011).

Now that James S.A. Corey (the nom de plume of writing team Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) is about to see the Expanse series launched into the realm of television, I though I should probably catch up on what all the fuss is about.

It turns out I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, setting: Corey has a really solid slower-than-light space opera setting here. The worldbuilding is detailed, well-thought-out, and hangs together well. It’s got atmosphere, dented and slightly used, and feels like it’s got depth of field. Even the political alliances are solidly thought through. Good setting is a major plus, and the storyline is decently entertaining – although the pacing staggers a bit in the middle.

On the other hand – and I say this as no judgment on quality – wow is this such a guy book. Let’s talk about how many brothels and bars there are IN SPAAAAAAACE. We first meet one of the two main characters, Miller, as he is interrogating a woman who is later identified as a prostitute. The other main character, Holden, is also a bloke – and he ends up captaining a ship with one woman in a crew of four. I’m not sure this book even passes the Bechdel test: although there are a handful of interesting female characters around, they don’t take up a great deal of space as people. One takes up a great deal of space as an idea: Miller becomes unhealthily fixated on the missing Julie Mao, to the point where he has visual hallucinations about her. I make dubious hand motions. This sort of thing fails to satisfy me: I expect better.

The alien superweapon schtick is cool creepy horror shit, though. And I could really use more space opera with good setting in my life – there are, after all, only so many times I can reread the Imperial Radch books before I have whole chunks of text memorised. I am assured there are more female characters in the next volume, so I will proceed. Cautiously.

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3 thoughts on “LEVIATHAN WAKES by James S.A. Corey

  1. Pingback: Books in brief: Corey, Cambias, Wilde | Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

  2. There are even more strong women in the second book, and a strong and interesting female villain later on. But “The Expanse” doesn’t ever really stop being such a “guy” series since it has a very masculine gaze. I think it’s because Holden is the protagonist, and he’s a terribly masculine guy. Given how the setting changes in future books, there are fewer discussions of brothels and prostitutes in particular, if that helps. I do recommend at least trying the second book, which is slightly better, but if the male gaze puts you off at that point, I’d stop trying.

  3. Well, I really like the second book – give me more cranky old-lady politicians and badass marines, and I’m happy to put up with a lot else.

    And it really is damn good setting.

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