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Sunday, 11 May 2014

Leviathan wakes, James S. A. Corey


Review by Richard Saar


Leviathan Wakes is a book I've circled around in the book stores for some time now. It has a nice cover and yes I know you can't judge a book like that, but it is a factor that stops me at the shelf. It was a New York Times best seller and had won both the Hugo and Locus Awards...  so what stopped me buying for so long, I honestly have no idea, perhaps it's my fear of trusting a new Author, nevertheless I'm just glad I eventually bought this book!


Leviathan Wakes is set in the near future when humanity has just started to stretch its legs out into our own solar system, having colonised the Moon, Mars, the Asteroid Belt, even all the way out to the moons of Uranus. Roughly 50 million people live out in space variously under control of the dominant Earth or Mars governments, or if you live in the Asteroid Belt, neither.

We centre on two main characters; Detective Miller living and working in the Belt's unofficial capital, Ceres, a hollowed-out Asteroid that serves as the social, political and economic hub of the entire Belt. Miller works for a commercial security force that loosely, sort of officially, keeps the peace on Ceres and he gets handed the job of searching for a missing person, a spoilt rich Earth born girl whose Father wants her found and brought home. 

At the same time we meet Jim Holden, a civilian officer living and working on an ice mining spaceship (barge) who makes a living ferrying ice from the Rings of Saturn to colonies across the Belt. A boring but relatively safe job until his ship finds another spaceship floating dead in space and they stop to mount a rescue. 

The rescue and search for the missing heiress quickly has both men embroiled in the simmering Earth vs Mars political landscape, whilst trying to dodge the seriously unhinged Outer Planets Alliance, a sort of government/rebellion/terrorist group who wants to control the Belt, whether the "Belters" want them to or not. All the while trying to stay ahead of those who don't want either of them to succeed, or if it can be arranged conveniently get killed while trying.

The term "Space Opera" is used a lot when describing this book and I can see why, there are multiple characters that get their own narrative, not just the main two. It involves solar system wide political intrigue, terrorist plots and some great hardcore in-vacuum military action all rolled into one.

What works really well is that we confine all this drama to a smaller setting than most so-called space operas, we are not spanning a galaxy just our own small patch of it, and in a way this heightens the tension; no one is ever that far away from danger, and there's quite a lot of it to go around.

The space nerd in me really liked the hard science elements of dealing with various gravity levels, the constant worry about survival in a setting where one mistake is your last, whether it's running out of air, or getting washed with deadly radiation. 

What works best however, is that it is a genuinely interesting one that compels you to read on...  and ends up somewhere you really don't expect to be when you started.


IBR Rating

Recommendation: Don't waste time like I did, if you are a fan of space operas or hard science fiction, this is one for you.

Source: Purchased, from a real book store...







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Item Reviewed: Leviathan wakes, James S. A. Corey Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Saar
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