Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey. ★★★★
Guess what? The protomolecule’s back!
Despite an iffy start, I ended up having a lot of fun with the first book in The Expanse series, Leviathan Wakes, so I decided to delve straight into the second book, Caliban’s War, A.K.A. The Return of the Protomolecule. While this book has its own plot line, I really think this is a series you need to read in order. If you’re not caught up with Leviathan Wakes, be warned that this review may contain spoilers for the first book.
The belt and the outer planets depend on Ganymede, which houses the major agriculture that keeps the rest of the outer system fed. So when shooting breaks out on Ganymede, it’s seriously bad news. And there’s something else at work too. The shooting starts because of a strange, monstrous creature that was attacking UN and Martian forces alike… and that the protomolecule on Venus seemed to react too. And, of course, Holden and the crew of the Rocinante get involved in the thick of the trouble, arriving on Ganymede and deciding to help a scientist searching for his missing daughter.
So, remember how I complained that the last book didn’t have enough women? Well, this book delivered. It introduces two new female POV characters (and one new male POV character) in addition to Holden’s POV. And the two new ladies are easily some of my favorite characters! Avasarala is a UN politician, one of the un-elected members of the bureaucracy who actually gets things done. She’s wily, tough, and deliberately abrasive. It’s no wonder that I love her so much.
The other new leading lady is Bobbie, a Martian Marine who’s the only survivor of the monstrous attack that set off the Ganymede conflict. She’s devastated by the loss of her comrades, and she’s demonstrating symptoms of PTSD. At first, I was sort of ambivalent towards her. I’ve seen a lot of Action Girl characters, and I wasn’t sure she’d stand out from the crowd. But she eventually sold me, helped in part by some really amazing solo fight scenes. Urgh, she’s just so badass and amazing.
Prax, the scientist with the missing daughter, is the new male POV character. He’s all right, and I do think his perspective contributed something valuable to the narrative. I just never really fell in love with him.
Regarding Holden, he sort of lost his way here for a while. He started doing the whole “shoot first, question later” thing that he got mad at Miller for. He did have a character arc this book, but I don’t know if he ended up anywhere new for him. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge Holden fan, but it’s just possible that I may be coming around (maybe).
Like the first book, Caliban’s War has a lengthy build up to some non-stop excitement in the second half. I handled the lead time better here, since I already had some investment and knew that there’d probably be a delayed delivery. I was right, and Caliban’s War ended up being a lot of fun. Now onward to book three!