Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Expanse made it to Book 5 before they finally had their Empire Strikes Back, both in tone and excellence.
Unlike the previous novels, Nemesis Games takes our heroic space-faring foursome and splits them up, with everyone getting their own PoV chapters. It’s like in a tabletop RPG campaign where we focus on individual characters and their own personal stories – except here the book deftly weaves these stories into the main plot as everyone becomes entwined in an apocalyptic event that sets up all new stakes, alliances, and warfare within the inner systems. And we witness it unfold from four different angles! It also finally brings fan-favorite past supporting characters like Bobbie Draper and Clarissa Mao in really cool ways.
My only complaint is that it doesn’t really conclude, instead serving up an intriguing springboard into a new main plot.
Nemesis Games is easily the best book of the entire series up to this point. I only hope the rest of the novels can keep up the momentum.
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Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The fourth Expanse book almost has the opposite problem of the third book, it sets up the characters, setting, and conflict in an exciting way, then drags on for most of the second half of the book.
Cibola Burn tackles early settlement of the first of the new worlds opened up by the gates at the end of the third book. A renegade group of Belters were the first through the gate, and by the time a giant corporation ship from Earth arrives to document, research, and set up facilities, the squatters/settlers are already entrenched, leading to political conflict, especially when the squatters sabotage the newly arrived ship.
In comes James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante to mediate. The human drama take precedent over the exotic alien planet, but the new characters (including a returning old one from the first book) are all solid new additions, particularly the villainous Murtry and passionate scientist Dr. Elvi Okoye.
A cataclysmic event separates the two halves of the novel, and the second half slows to a crawl as we transition into man vs nature. There are two main storylines, and the orbiting ships in space becomes way more interesting and action-packed than the plodding survival story on the planet’s surface.
I still love this series and the characters are fantastic, but so far most of them could benefit from better pacing and about 100 fewer pages.
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