I’ve been reading more sci-fi this year, and I figured I should finally get involved with this Expanse thing everyone is talking about. I’d tried watching the show earlier in the year but it didn’t pull me in, so I figured I’d try the novels first.
Leviathan Wakes takes place in the near future – Mars have been colonized, and there are stations further out supporting millions of humans in the Belt. There are tensions between the Belters and the inner planets, and a political/terrorist movement called the OPA, the outer planet alliance. It’s basically a powder keg waiting for a match as the inner planets have the power while the Belters want more respect and freedom.
The novel follows two characters who find themselves drawn into events which could have repercussions on the entire Solar System. Holden is the XO on an ice hauler, the Canterbury, and as the novel begins, his ship receives a distress call from the Scopuli, another ship. The Canterbury sends a shuttle out to investigate with a five person crew, Holden being one of them. Something weird clearly happened on that ship, and before the shuttle makes it back to the Canterbury, a stealth ship destroys the Canterbury, leaving the shuttle stranded.
Miller is on the security/police force of Ceres, the largest station in the Belt, and he is assigned a case to find a missing young woman. Julie Mao’s family is rich and influential but Mao has left her family behind to work in the Belt; now her family wants her returned home and to stop embarrassing them with her rebellion. His superior soon regrets handing him the investigation as it becomes an obsession for him, and with the destruction of the Canterbury making the situation at Ceres even more volatile, she has more pressing priorities – especially with Miller’s trail running cold given that Julie was on the Scopuli‘s crew.
Holden and Miller both are driven to find out what happened – Holden wants to know why his ship and crew mates died, while Miller wants to find out Julie’s fate, and this leads them to much larger intrigues, making them important players in the system’s political sphere.
Overall, I liked this, but it wasn’t a page turner for me until about midway through. Something about the pacing was a bit off for me. About midway through, it picks up, but even the part that felt like it should have been the climax, happened at about the 80% mark, leaving quite a bit of novel devoted to wrap up. Of course, those final 20% have some significant meaning for later and setting up the rest of the series, and absolutely needed to be included. But to me, it felt like the novel was in wrap up stage and then had another significant action piece tacked on. Everything happened in the order it needed to happen but it seems like it slowed down a bit too much only to pick back up rather than keeping the momentum.
However, it’s the first novel in a series, and the overarching story and long range potential is definitely there (must be why there is a TV show), so I’m definitely planning on trying the show again, and continuing with the novels.