Babylon’s Ashes is book six in The Expanse series, a series that I love and adore. However, this book took me four months to read. FOUR MONTHS. I kept putting it down for weeks at a time and I feel a little weird about that. I really, honestly like this book. There are a couple of reasons for that, but I feel like I need to make it clear that I really, really do love this book. If I were a tween with a notebook, it would be covered in hearts around the name Jim Holden.
This book is a war book. That’s the plot really, I don’t want to get spoilery because book five drops a huge bomb and the war here is in reaction to that, but this book is the war that resolves what happened in book five. The story is told through many points of view, and from both sides of the conflict, as people choose sides, switch sides, and make decisions that will ultimately win or lose them the solar system. Unfortunately, despite being well done and enjoyable both of those things- a war novel and many points of view- contributed to the difficulty I had with the book.
In one of my reviews of previous books in this series, I mentioned that each book is playing with a different type of novel while still sticking to the space opera format. This one is the war novel. So you have generals talking strategy and people going off to die. There is a really touching scene where Alex thinks about how many times humans have said goodbye to their lovers on the way to battle, and that scene is one of the many ways this book keeps touching back to humanity and how very little we’ve changed in the eons since we first started walking upright. It is that connection which keeps me reading; because boy did the war test my resolve. I am… not a fan of war novels. Despite being a visual learner, I am not the best at visualizing spacial relationships and so when reading about how general X took Y stream and blocked Z movement, it doesn’t make sense in my head until I can see it on a map. It is a little better when those battles are in space, because the spacial relationships in space are bonkers anyway, but there was a lot of skimming when the battles happened.
The other thing that bothered me was the many points of view. I think I mentioned in a previous review that I’ve discovered I have difficulty reading a book if it switches POV with any frequency or numbers. Each time a POV is switched around, I have to take a momentary pause to rearrange the events of the book and remember who this person is, where it is that this character was last placed, and how their events influence the plot. It is not a difficult pause to get through but it does interrupt my reading. Yes, this happens even when it is a reoccurring POV, obviously the more connected the character is to the main characters of the book the easier this pause becomes. It is kind of a weird reading quirk, but I feel like I have to justify why it took me so long to finish this book when I love the series so very much. I think that my quirk aside, the multiple POVs are done quite well in the book. In addition, even though it took a lot of getting used to, I did like the different looks at how the characters reacted to the war and their various leaders.
If you’re at all a fan of space opera or science fiction then you really ought to read this series. Just… don’t start here.