This series has become essentially un-reviewable for me. I give every installment either four or five stars, and I have the same good things to say about every one. Without digging deeper into more specific plot points, which I don’t tend to do in my reviews, there aren’t a lot of new ways to praise overall themes or achievement in character development.
However, Persepolis Rising is actually a bit different from its predecessors, particularly in that last respect. It opens after a considerable time-jump from the end of Babylon’s Ashes and finds some of the crew of the Rocinante — particularly Naomi and Holden — looking toward retirement. The captain and XO stepping down from their positions prompts an interesting re-examination of the relationships among the rest of the crew, as the hierarchy of authority shifts and trust and loyalty are tested when former peers take on new roles. As much as the crew, as ever, works collectively together against a dangerous or oppressive force, the teamwork here is more critically dissected and the motivations of each crew member more critically scrutinized. We know from the previous six volumes that this is a group that works well together, but when the paradigm of that family unit changes, how easily will each individual member adapt? What is the basis of their loyalty toward the group and is it affected when the old group is not a given?
Persepolis Rising does a good job of exploring these dynamics without betraying any of the characters’ senses of ethics and camaraderie that we’ve grown to appreciate and expect over the course of the series. It functions as a keen way of adding yet another angle to already complex characters, by not having them go through precisely the same set of motions every time, and digging into the nuance behind their motivations and decision-making.
This book also re-introduces the alien threat in a major way. A major strength of the whole series is how well it balances the inevitable human in-fighting with the horror of something greater and more advanced than all of us having both the means and the opportunity to crush us, and in Persepolis Rising, finally a potential motive is introduced, and it’s terrifying. It’s terrifying both because of the repercussions to humanity, and because our dumb asses won’t stop bickering and trying to conquer each other long enough to put all of the pieces together and turn united toward the greater problem at hand.
What else is there to say, other than that I can’t wait for the final two installments?