Yeah, five stars. I knew this was going to happen, that I would feel the need to give this one five stars after a re-read, because this is the book that made me fall in love with the series. I’m not sure what it is about it exactly that makes me like it more than the first two books, which I like a lot (five stars worth now for #1!). This story just has such a clear purpose, a clear arc, and wild stuff happens almost constantly. And yet, it holds to a core of humanity that also grounded the series throughout its nine books and various short stories/novellas.
The utter non-sequitur of what it turns out the terrifying Protomolecule from the first two books is actually trying to do is just so great. This isn’t a world-ending threat, it just might have that side effect, especially when weaponized by greedy, arrogant humans. And now that the Protomolecule has become The Gate, the main conflict between it and humanity is misunderstanding, again due to the foolishness and greed of the not-aliens in this scenario. Horrifying things happen to the people on the voyage for reasons that are at the same time banal and sort of profound. This thing has the ability and power to do things we don’t understand, and it’s doing them for reasons we don’t know. And yet, the humans in this book just keep pushing.
I also think that two new characters this book introduces, Clarissa and Anna, are a large part of why I like it so much. I love Anna as a character and think she’s vastly underappreciated. Her kindness and compassion and intelligence stand out amidst her peers, and she’s very much an aspirational character (i.e. one that is also sadly rare in real life). Clarissa’s vengeance quest, and basically her paradigm shift that she goes through this book are also fascinating, and I responded to her this time with much more understanding of her motives than I did the first time through.
I also still love the way this books re-contextualizes the series title, The Expanse. You think it’s just about humans expanding into the solar system after you’ve read the first two books, and then BOOM we suddenly have SPOILERS thousands and thousands of worlds to explore instead END SPOILERS.
Starting my re-read of book four in about twenty minutes.