Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey. ★★★1/2
Cibola Burn is the fourth book in The Expanse series, a sci-fi series that’s getting increasingly more “space opera” like. If your not familiar with the series, you should head over to my review of the first book, Leviathan Wakes, because there have been some huge developments since the start of the series. Like, wow. I wasn’t predicting a ton of this.
Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been offered a new job: playing peacemaker to growing conflict over the planet of New Terra (or Ilius, depending on what side your on). After the events of last book, a group of Belter colonists rocketed through the ring to settle on one of the newly discovered planets. Without a charter. An expedition sent by a mega-corporation (which does have a UN charter) also claims the planet, and the relations between the two groups shatter when a group of colonists destroys the landing pad of the corporation’s shuttle, killing many. Can Holden keep the situation from devolving farther? And is it even safe to be on this mysterious alien planet anyway?
Cibola Burn follows the familiar Expanse pattern of having a slow build up that leads to an action packed second half. At this point I know I’ve just to sit and wait for things to get exciting, and Cibola Burn didn’t disappoint.
Unfortunately, yet again I wasn’t a huge fan of the POV characters. As usual, we’ve got Holden and some new comers. This time around their Havelock, Basia, and Elvi. Havelock is Miller’s former partner from the first book (and it took me forever to realize this). He’s also incredibly boring. For most of the book, he tends to just react to the people around him, not thinking much on his own. Yes, he does get some character development, but it was never enough to make me interested in him.
Then there’s Basia. What does he even add to the story? I guess he does some stuff at the climax (even if I’ve mostly forgotten it a week out), but he mainly seems to exist because Corey needs an viewpoint to be in the areas where Holden can’t be. Basia himself isn’t particularly interesting — he’s a Belter colonist who gets involved with the terrorist group who blows up the shuttle’s landing pad, but he’s very reluctant about it and not owning up to what he did. In the beginning he’s also got some toxic masculinity stuff that makes him controlling of his daughter. Basically, from the get go I was not predisposed to like him, and my opinion never really changed.
Elvi, the last of the new POV characters, is a scientist who arrives with the chartered corporation to study the biosphere of the newly discovered planet. She’s naive about human interaction and mostly interested in her work. Unfortunately, her main character development/subplot is all about how she needs to get laid. I’m not even going to get into it…
Additionally, Cibola Burn gives us another simplistic, un-nuanced villain. In this case it’s Murtry, the head of company security who uses the unfolding disaster that is New Terra to go on a complete power trip. He’s sort of similar to the villain of last book, Captain Whatshisface. At least he sort of has a “character who you love to hate” thing going for him? In my read along group, pretty much all of us were rooting for Amos to shoot him in the head.
On the bright side, I did like some of the new world building introduced in Cibola Burns. This is the first time The Expanse has had a book set primarily on a planet. It ended up working well, and I enjoyed the little bit of the alien world we did see, death slugs and all.
I don’t think Cibola Burns is my favorite addition to the series, but I’m still happy to continue on with the next book.