This review of Babylon’s Ashes: book 6 of the Expanse will only be of interest if you have read the first five Expanse novels. Which is an obvious thing to say but you may have stumbled here by accident.
I love the Expanse, the books as well as the TV show. Again, this should be apparent given that I am now eagerly awaiting book 7. Babylon’s Ashes continues telling the story of the crew of the Rocinante and increasingly, the story of a shitload of other people. The cast is seriously ballooning, which is generally a good thing although it can be hard to follow if, like me, you have time away from the series.
I read somewhere that the series is supposed to be 9 books – 3 duologies and a final trilogy. Babylon’s Ashes was a great read but it did read a little like a “book 6” (if you know what I mean) while at the same time wrapping up the events of book 5. I do find the Free Navy, (and to a lesser extent the OPA,) a bit like an angry teenager banging on about stuff not being fair. This book deals with the Free Navy a lot. In the last book they trashed the Earth, in this one, they mostly act petulant and try to fight a lot. There are some great set pieces though and a load of awesome space battles. There are also some other more mysterious alien elements developing in the background, in case you forgot.
So while Babylon’s Ashes is a great story, it deals more with the OPA/Free Navy and less with stuff I want to read about – aliens, the rings, the new planets, Miller, etc. There is a feeling that it is finishing off some storylines and setting the scene for the epic final trilogy. As such, it wasn’t one of my favourite entries in the Expanse series but I still enjoyed it and I am totally on board for what will hopefully follow. Go Expanse!
The Expanse TV series is finally here. Well, technically it starts on Syfy on the 14th of December but you can watch the pilot online now. I was pretty nervous about it as I loved the books, but I am pleased to report it’s bloody great! I should warn you that the video below is only available to watch in the US, which is where most of my readership lives. For the rest of the planet, you will have to wait. Or if you even vaguely internet savvy, you might work out a way to watch it. I highly recommend you do you so (obviously legally). Here is the Expanse pilot episode:
In case you are one of the poor bastards who were unable to watch this episode and lack the creative internet skills necessary to find it online, here is a 3 minute youtube clip about the worlds featured in the show. Not as good as a whole episode, but better than nothing.
The Expanse books are coming to Syfy and I’m incredibly excited. The trailer looks pretty good and they’re managed to show a lot of the characters without showing much of the action. According to Syfy it’s their most expensive product to date and if you’ve seen Sharknado 2 that’s no small boast. To be fair they are trying to get away from the Sharknado bollocks and make more science fiction so I should be more supportive.
I’ve written about every book in The Expanse series and raved about them but if you haven’t yet, give them a read starting with Leviathan Wakes. Each book feels like it’s a slightly different genre:
Leviathan Wakes – Noir detective / zombies.
Caliban’s War – Political / military
Abbadon’s Gate – Exploration / Arthur Clarke’s Rama
Cibola Burn – A bit like a Western
They are all great though and the recurring characters are awesome. The TV series seems to be just the first book but they have also included a character called Avasarala from the second, who is a brilliant character and is brilliantly cast. In fact the whole cast seems great and I knew the characters just by looking at them, so I that’s a positive sign.
Anyway, that’s enough waffle. Here is The Expanse TV series trailer:
Cibola Burn (The Expanse Book 4)
by James SA Corey is another addition to The Expanse series. It is also a rollicking good read. I personally didn’t think it quite on par with the first couple of books, but it is still bloody good.
After the events of the previous book, the ring system is now open and a 1000 planets are ready for colonisation. Consequently, some people who have been having a pretty shit time of it rush through and start a colony on one of the planets. Technically they had no right to do so and when a corporate colony ship arrives, things getting unpleasant in a shooting and exploding kind of way. With tensions high between the corporate lot and the colonists, it’s decided that a mediator is needed. So James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are called in. Then things go mental.
As I said earlier – Cibola Burn is a rollicking good read. It is different from the previous three in that it is set almost entirely on the disputed planet of Illus rather than leaping about the solar system. This is both a plus and a minus. The plus is that the story feels a bit more rounded and complete. The minus is that at times things slowed down a bit and there was no chance that the narrative was going to leap to another part of the solar system where something exciting was kicking off. While the story slows down a bit around a third of the way in, it does consequently kick into high gear and then things are brilliant again.
The crew of the Rocinante are back and if you have read the series this far then you will probably like them. There are a few new characters – some are good, one is bad. There is a scientist lady who basically just needs to get laid but then becomes more interesting. Another is a miner/settler who is a great and likeable character despite how he starts the book. A third is a security chief who also changes and develops as things kick off. But is is the bad guy who I felt let things down a bit. He was a bit too cut-out baddie. He doesn’t change in any way at any point. I guess that was just his personality and there are people like that in the real world, but I found his personality a bit annoying and slightly unrealistic.
Don’t get me wrong though, I thoroughly enjoyed Cibola Burn and can’t wait for the next one. The world that the James Corey duo are making gets more interesting with each book and there are intriguing developments with the protomolecule and Miller to make this more than just an ‘episode’.
My review is probably redundant anyway. If you have read books one to three then you are going to read book four. While I found Cibola Burn slightly weaker than the others, it is still a great read.
Life has been a bit mental recently but I still find time to read thanks to a regular commute and an even more regular bowel.
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
I am currently reading a book by an author I have been meaning to read for years. I am almost ashamed to say that I have quite a few Dan Simmons books on my shelf but have only just started to read one these epic tomes. I have now almost finished reading his space Canterbury Tales-esque novel – Hyperion – and will definitely be reading a hell of a lot more. It is absolutely superb and unless it has an awful ending (which is unlikely as it is the first part of an award winning series) I can recommend it already. I will review it soon.
Cibola Burn by James A Corey
This has put me in something of a quandary however, as I normally just plow on if I have started a series I like and I have book two – The Fall of Hyperion – sitting quietly on my kindle. BUT the next instalment of James A Corey’s equally brilliant Expanse series is out and is also now on my kindle screaming for attention. In case you haven’t read an of The Expanse series then I should point out that you are wasting your life. I would also suggest that you start with Leviathan Wakes right now. There are also rumours that the series may soon be a TV show, so get in quick if you want to be one of those annoying bastards like myself who always bleats on that “The books are better” to any poor sap that passes by.
I guess this entry is essentially saying – sorry I haven’t written much (I am moving house and country) but here are two books you can be getting on with in the meantime. Well, The Hyperion Cantos is 4 books and so far, so is The Expanse series. So here are eight books to be getting on with. That should be enough. Now if you will excuse me, my kindle and I have to catch the train home and then go to the toilet.