Hello Cannonball Read 9 and hello to my very first Cannonball Read review! I’m more than happy to do whatever I can to help kick cancer squarely in the metaphorical nuts.
All right, let’s get down to business.
And by “business” I mean a quick note: Nemesis Games is the 5th book in Corey’s Expanse series which means we’re coming in in the middle of a LOT of stuff. Each book is self-contained, but the further we go in the series, the more it relies on the reader’s familiarity with the universe it’s set in and its pre-existing characters and conflicts. We’re well in mid-stream here and, even though each book’s primary plot is self-contained, I would recommend starting with the first book, Leviathan Wakes, before jumping in here.
That’s enough business, let’s get to the good stuff. And the good stuff is that this entire series is space opera at its finest, and Nemesis Games is no exception. The action is whip-crack fast and intense, the plot pulls you along until you careen into the final climax. Choices have weight, actions have consequences, and sometimes even when the characters win they still end up losing in the long run.
Sometimes, as a reader, I want the heavy, philosophical meal of a Kim Stanley Robinson or a Cixin Liu, and sometimes I just want to skip right to the indulgent, action-adventure dessert. And that’s where Corey always delivers.
With Nemesis Games, Corey levels up like crazy. Shit gets real in a way I never expected and definitely do not want to spoil. It’s intense, and every single character that we know and love has their own part to play, some in ways I absolutely didn’t expect.
I would even go so far as to say that this was the best book in the series (at the very least, it’s neck-and-neck with Leviathan Wakes, come at me bro). I have a feeling that a lot of that comes, strangely enough, from the process of turning the books into a most excellent TV show. Because here’s the thing, my biggest complaint with books 2 to 4 was how little we knew about the most prominent supporting characters. Oh, we know all of the in’s and out’s of Jim Holden, the most upstanding space pirate to ever captain a ship, but the three members of his crew were pretty much ciphers, especially Naomi Nagata, the ship’s XO and Holden’s main squeeze. You can kind of get away with that stuff in a book that the reader digests in one gulp, but it does not fly on a weekly TV show during this era of Peak TV. Not if, you know, you want the show to be any good.
Thankfully, I am here to tell you, she’s not a cipher anymore. No way, no how. Holden, the author’s Golden Boy, takes a back seat, pretty much playing detective (which is funny on a couple different spoilery levels), while Naomi runs this town. Her actions have the most widespread impact of anyone’s in the book and she finally, FINALLY, starts to resemble the character I’d already met on my TV screen.
In the end we’re left with some resolution, a little consolation, and a whole heaping mess of trepidation about what’s going to happen next. As this book shows, humanity is more than capable of ruining everything, but there are other forces out there in the universe that are hungry for their next big meal.
If you love science fiction, I recommend this series; if you love tales of political intrigue, I recommend this series; if you love creative world-building with interesting, flawed characters, I recommend this series; and, if you love rollicking space adventures with action and explosions and feats of derring do, I definitely, DEFINITELY, recommend this series.
And if you love all of that, you should absolutely watch The Expanse on Syfy. Because it’s the whole package and then some.