Read my reviews of the previous books in The Expanse series:
- “The Butcher of Anderson Station” (Expanse #0.5)
- Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1)
- Caliban’s War (The Expanse #2)
- Gods of Risk (The Expanse #2.1)
- Abaddon’s Gate (The Expanse #3)
- The Churn (The Expanse #3.5)
- Cibola Burn (The Expanse #4)
- Nemesis Games (The Expanse #5)
- The Vital Abyss (The Expanse #5.5)
- Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse #6)
- Strange Dogs (The Expanse #6.5)
- Persepolis Rising (The Expanse #7)
- Tiamat’s Wrath (The Expanse #8)
An era in excellent science-fiction writing comes to a close with the final book in The Expanse series. At the time of writing this, two episodes of the television show remain and will have aired by the time this post is published. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in this universe via both mediums, especially since the writers (Corey being the duo of Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham) are also involved in the show’s production.
In this epic conclusion, it’s immediately obvious that not only have our heroes aged, but they have also suffered in many ways through their escapades over the years. Some of it is obvious, as in the case of Amos and those lost over the years, but the subtle touches of post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety are clear in the entire crew, new and old. Well, Amos is pretty much the same mentally, despite his otherwise significant changes. He continues to be my favorite character in this entire universe (page and screen), hands down.
The opening appears to set up the return of a previous villain, but the authors flip the script almost immediately. Enter Tanaka, who is set up to be our antagonist in exchange. She quickly evolves into more of an anti-hero as Corey depicts her to be slightly more sympathetic (still in a fairly villainous way) as she is also forced to confront the same overarching issues as the Rocinante crew. I did not want to like anything about her. I failed.
In true space opera fashion, the characters as a whole fight a larger-than-life threat, even outside the interpersonal and governmental conflicts. Despite literally decades of work, there is still so much unknown about the protomolecule creators and the mysterious force who wiped them out (even referred to as the “dark gods” by scientist Elvi). However, in the end, the true bad guy is always just that—a guy. Corey remains true to the heart of the science-fiction genre with this dichotomy of conflict while revealing excellent plot twists and character development along the way. Nothing about any layer of this book’s conflicts is black and white, with even mental health care set up as a legitimate method of protection and combat. (Just don’t do anything Tanaka does regarding brain drugs. Seriously.)
But from the first book, the heart of this story has been Jim Holden and Naomi Ngata. I have adored their love story from the very beginning, as quiet as it is, and through all the hurdles they have faced together and apart. Holden might be set up as the protagonist more typical to the genre (and even in this book he pulls the most Holden of Holdens near the end that had the spouse and me freaking out as we read). Still, I loved that Naomi is the true heart of everything they have fought for and that Corey did not shy away from staging her as the true leader of her cause.
On a more craft-specific note, it did not escape my notice that Holden’s chapter headings change from Holden to Jim between Leviathan Wakes and Leviathan Falls, as we all become closer to the character. That’s the sort of touch that not every reader might notice but that all should appreciate.
I highly recommend this series (both book and show) to all science-fiction fans. Both are solid stories regardless of the medium, and each can be appreciated without the other depending on preference. The big question throughout is whether the cost of humanity becoming an interstellar species was worth the price. I look forward to continuing the discussion as it relates to this series for years to come.
For those who aren’t ready to say goodbye, check out the excellent podcast Ty and That Guy in which writer Ty Franck and actor Wes Chatham (Amos!) discuss each episode of the show. If you’re interested in more of my thoughts, I participated in a podcast specifically about the show last summer, and we’ll be returning with a follow-up conversation after the finale on March 16 (register here).