Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey. ★★★★
Are you reading the Expanse series? Yes? Good. No? Well, maybe you should reconsider.
Seven books in, and the Expanse is still going strong. A lot of times series start to loose their way or collapse under their own weight. But the Expanse clearly has an end goal in mind, and somehow it always manages to convincingly up the stakes. Oh, and be forewarned — there’ll potentially be spoilers for earlier books from here on out.
Before I can talk about literally anything else, I need to address the most obvious thing about Persepolis Rising: the time jump. It skips thirty years in between books! What the heck! I had soooo many feelings about this. I tend to have a hard time adjusting to time jumps, both in books and TV shows. All the characters have changed and everything’s so different! But in the case of Persepolis Rising, I can see why James S.A. Corey made the decision. Thirty years gives enough time for the galaxy (and beyond) to recover from the war and for a new status quo to emerge. Of course, it also gives time for the break-away Martian military on Laconia to prepare to wreck that status quo. Remember those people? The ones everyone was sort of content to forget about? Yeah, well they’re back and aiming to conquer all of humanity.
If Persepolis Rising doesn’t quite rise to the heights of Nemesis Games, that might just be a testament to how good Nemesis Games was (plus it’s hard to beat the gut-shock of the asteroid hitting Earth). If possible, the situation in Persepolis Rising might be even worse. The Laconians have new technology fueled by the proto-molecule, things no one has ever seen before. With all the books in the Expanse series, I’ve been sure that the crew of the Rocinante will somehow save the day, that the villains will be defeated, and that the galaxy will be better for it. I haven’t given up hope that our heroes will win out, but Persepolis Rising makes me question it. If Nemesis Games and Bablyon’s Ashes were the stories of a war for survival, Persepolis Rising is the story of resistance. What do you do when the bad guys win?
Of course, the heart of the Expanse is the characters, and I’ll always be happy to spend time with the crew of the Rocinante. Thirty-years have brought some changes. Most heart-breaking is that Clarissa has become ill from those implants she installed so many years before. She’s not much longer for the world, and Amos is loosing his cool. With Amos, that’s really not a good thing. But there’s other changes too. Holden and Naomi are (gasp!) thinking of retiring and leaving the ship to Bobbie. I know, things really must have changed! It’s hard to imagine Holden having a quiet life of leisure. However, this does mean that we end up with one of my favorite tropes: one last job before retirement.
While Persepolis Rising follows in Bablyon’s Ashes footsteps by having a looser hand with POV structure, there are a few main perspectives. Holden, as usual, but also Bobbie, whom I’ll forever love. She might be aging and slowing down, but she’s still a badass. Persepolis Rising also moves a minor character from previous books into center stage: Drummer, the woman I mainly remember as Fred Johnson’s assistant. She’s head of the transportation union and one of the most powerful people in the universe. Her life’s looking pretty great, until, all of a sudden, it really doesn’t. It took me a while to warm up to Drummer, but by the end, I’d come to like her. I hope we see more of her going forward. Otherwise, we’ve got an entirely new character as one of our central POVs. Singh is a Laconian who completely believes in their plan to conquer the galaxy and rigidly adheres to the rules, even when it involves killing people. The question hanging over Singh’s chapters is whether he’ll have some self-realizations about what he’s doing. Will he continue down the path he’s started on, or will he turn to the light? He’s not a character I like, but I did find his perspective interesting.
Persepolis Rising is a new stage for the series. The scale has really shifted since the first book. Things have gotten so much more intense, so much more vast, so much more (dare I say it) expansive. This new plotline is a thrilling addition to the series, even if it does occasionally hit me right in the feels. Seven books in, and I still desperately want the next installment. What ever will I do when this series is over?