Review of Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

8855321Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey. ★★★1/2

Leviathan Wakes had been languishing on my TBR pile for at least a year before I picked it up for a read along. And I’m glad I finally got to it. While it has room to be improved, Leviathan Wakes is a darn good, rollicking science fiction story.

Several hundred years in the future, humanity has expanded to fill the solar system. Yet tensions grow between Earth, Mars, and the Belters — people who’ve spent their entire life never setting foot on a planet. James Holden’s, the XO of an ice mining ship, responds to a distress call from a spaceship named the Scopuli. They inadvertently stumble onto the biggest secret of the solar system and add fuel to the fire for the brewing war. Detective Miller is hired to find a missing girl, and his path also takes him to the Scopuli, the ship whose secrets may determine the fate of the galaxy.

It took a while for Leviathan Wakes to hook me, but when it did, I wished I didn’t have to put the book down! The plotting is wonderful, full of twists and turns I never saw coming. There’s some truly great ideas that make for a compelling story.

I also loved the world building. Leviathan Wakes is one of the few stories I’ve read that looks at the intermediary ground between humanity leaving Earth and humanity leaving our star. The result is a sci-fi universe that’s recognizably derived from ours but with enough differences that it does feel like it’s set in the future. There’s a certain grittiness to the setting that makes me want to call it “hard science fiction,” but I don’t know enough about the accuracy of the science in the book to debate the point.

However, I wasn’t as fond of the characters. Neither Miller or Holden ever really worked for me. They just felt like walking tropes! Miller’s the noir detective whose got a drinking problem, an ex-wife, and some questionable moral behavior. Holden’s the golden boy space captain, determined to do the right thing and save the galaxy. The characters were most effective when the differences in their archetypes where played off, but they never felt like fully developed characters. I also wish the cast weren’t so male dominated and that Naomi wasn’t the only significant female character. I’m positive this book fails the Bechdel test.

Ultimately, what Leviathan Wakes lacked in characterization, it made up for in plot and world building. I look forward to reading the sequel, especially since I’ve been assured that it improves in regards to female characters.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. I love The Expanse so much! And yes it does improve over time, in a lot of areas. Leviathan Wakes was fun, but for me the series really started hitting its stride around book 3 and with 5 being my favorite so far. Yay, I hope you eventually decide to read them all 😀

    1. I’ve already got copies of books two and three! So I’m planning on it. 🙂

  2. imyril says:

    Spot on – although I’m finding Caliban’s War a big improvement on representation so far 🙂

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