Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey

babylons-ashes

Once again a world in which almost everyone lives in space is brought successfully to life.

The format of the books which switches constantly between characters can be a problem when you just want to see what happens next to a set of characters, but cliff-hanger-like, you have to wait a few chapters for that story to continue. Those shifting views make it possible to create a believable society in the stars. You know how it all fits together and what lives are like in a way that wouldn’t be as effective with a single narrator point of view.

For someone like myself who has been reading and dreaming about societies with space travel for a lifetime, this is spectacular. It is not only a living breathing society, but the people are so varied and so well written that I’m able to root for strange potentially deadly characters like Clarissa Mao. I know Avasarala so well now, that I laugh out loud in all her chapters. And somewhere towards the end of the story I had tears in my eyes, and that isn’t something that I’d ever expect to see from a hard science fiction novel.

If you read my previous post about Babylon’s Ashes as I was reading it, I was wrong in how things would play out, but also right in a way. Onward, Rocinante!

rocinante-pic

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Currently Reading: Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey

babylons-ashes

The most recent novel in the Expanse universe is Babylon’s Ashes. Released in December 2016, I’m nearly to the halfway point. As usual, many stories are told from a wide variety of viewpoints, so you always see what is happening in all sectors of the solar system, with all of the different players.

The self proclaimed Free Navy led by Marco Inaros has all but destroyed Earth and has taken over the Medina gate to the new worlds, capturing any colony ships that try to go through and commandeering their cargos and resources. They’ve gutted Ceres Station and are destroying ships throughout the system whose owners seem to oppose them.

The tenuous society which existed before with Earth and Mars well situated and the Belt stations barely surviving is gone, but it’s hard to see what will replace it since the supplies and resources for everyone are now dwindling quickly, with no way to even start producing enough to save those who remain. In many ways the war has just begun.

As I say, I’m not finished, but I could see it ending up with a small group who survives making their way through the gates and abandoning our system altogether. That would strand all of humanity on the thousand new worlds full of alien technologies which could activate and destroy the last of them at any time.

Let’s hope things don’t get that bleak, and that our hero James Holden can somehow get everyone to see they’re all one people who need to work together to survive.

Season Two of the Expanse starts on the Syfy channel February 1st. http://www.syfy.com/theexpanse

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

James S. A. Corey is the pseudonym of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. They’ve published five novels in the Expanse series, Leviathan Wakes is the first.

As I’ve written here before, I heard lots of good things about the then upcoming Syfy Series “The Expanse”. After watching the first episode I wasn’t sure I liked it and would watch anymore. Yet I came back week after week, and am now enthralled.

As soon as the series ended I picked up Leviathan Wakes, loved it, and got the rest of the books. A sixth book, Babylon’s Ashes was supposed to come out in late August, then October, and now in December. Agh, how can they do that to the poor eager reader?

Leviathan Wakes switches viewpoints and stories all through the novel. Each book in the series is written this way, and I’m happiest when the story focuses on the crew of the Rocinante, a semi-stolen Martian Navy Ship. The many viewpoints really serve the making of the world of The Expanse well, though. You get a much broader look at an incredibly vibrant solar system that supports very different lifestyles and cultures. I can’t think of any space oriented stories I’ve ever read where everything fits together and makes sense, and you can imagine day to day life in a universe such as this.

Julie Mao

The daughter of a wealthy man she has deserted the life he offers his family and she has joined an organization in “The Belt” bent on righting wrongs and building an Outer Planets Alliance. When we meet her she’s the only one left alive on her small ship The Scopuli, the rest of the crew having been murdered by a boarding party they couldn’t fight off.

The Canterbury

The Canterbury is an ice hauler which brings ice from the rings of Saturn to Ceres Station and other places in the Asteroid Belt, to be used as water for the citizens of The Belt.

Canterbury Expanse

On their way home to Ceres Station, they respond to a distress call in a rather dead area of space. Sending a small crew to investigate the Scopuli, they find the craft that signaled them to be deserted. As they determine the distress signal was not sent by the ship itself, but was jury-rigged, they begin to back out of the troubling, something-went-very-wrong-here ship. Just then The Canterbury warns them to get back to the ship, they’re under attack by fast moving, unidentifiable craft. Before they can get clear of the Scopuli, The Canturbury is blown from space, completely destroyed, all hands lost. Somehow, they get behind an asteroid and avoid the deadly crafts. James Holden, commander of the little ship, sends out a message telling of the Canterbury’s end and imploring everyone to Remember The Canterbury.

Ceres Station/Detective Miller

Ceres Station is a crowded, half starved station with barely enough air and water to sustain its citizens.
Expanse Ceres Station 2

They remain fiercely independent, many of them hating Earth and Mars, planets rich in resources with enough air and water for everyone. Lifetimes in the low gravity have altered the Belters physically, they’re taller and their heads seem elongated. A special language is used by The Belters that outsiders can’t generally understand. Ceres station is in a constant state of unrest as enforced shortages of air and water make life a misery. It is here that OPA (The Outer Planets Alliance) takes a deep foothold, with many convinced independence would give them a better life.

Run down, beat up, noir-ish detective Miller is a Belter who has spent his life on the station. He was once very good at his job, but now he drinks too much, sleeps too much, and cares about nothing much.

Expanse Miller

He’s given a side job of finding out what happened to heiress Julie Mao, a spoiled little rich girl turned rebel. He had stayed clear of OPA agents on the station, but as he investigates Julie’s disappearance and involvement with OPA, he finds a deeper puzzle that she is just a piece of. When Holden’s message about the abandoned Scopuli and the destruction of the Canterbury, a harmless ice hauler, come to light, he finds he can’t stop digging to find out what happened, no matter who threatens him and warns him off.

The Crew of The Rocinante

Holden’s message inflames the Belt and a Martian ship called The Donnager tracks down the Knight, the little ship that escaped destruction. It seems Mars is being blamed in some quarters for the destruction of the Canterbury, and tensions are rising. The former Canterbury crew don’t trust each other or particularly like each other, but when they’re taken prisoner in the Martian ship they begin to think differently. Before the crew can settle in, the Donnager is attacked by the same ships that took out the Canterbury. The captain and crew are certain they can’t be touched by these ships. They fare not much better than the Canterbury. The mysterious fleet takes the Donnager on and is soon boarding the ship. James Holden, Naomi Nagata, Amos Burton, and Alex Kamal are led to a docking bay by one of the officers, where they take control of a ship called The Tachi . They’re expected to spread the word about the fate of the Donnager and prove Mars was not involved in the destruction of the Canterbury. Barely escaping, their guide dies upon takeoff but Alex, a former Martian Navy pilot gets the rest of them away safely.

Making another profoundly impossible escape, they rename the ship the Rocinante after Don Quixote’s amiable and faithful horse.

Don Quixote and Rocinante

With nowhere safe to go, the Rocinante crew accepts an invitation from Fred Johnson, head of OPA, still known to some as The Butcher of Anderson Station.

Leviathan Wakes tells a tale of simmering interplanetary war, scientific experimentation with alien technologies using humans as test subjects, and the smaller, more personal story of Miller working parallel to the crew of the Rocinante to track down Julie Mao, the lost heiress, who can end of humanity.

Railhead by Philip Reeve

In what I’m hoping is the first in a new series (a sequel called Black Light Express is rumored), Philip Reeve brings to life nearly a thousand worlds which can be traveled to instantaneously by means of sentient locomotives.

Will Kirkby’s The Damask Rose of the Dogstar Line

Will Kirkbys The Damask Rose

People like Zen Starling who love the transitions between worlds are called Railheads. They travel world to world for sometimes practical reasons, such as Zen and his thievery, sometimes just to see the sights as the worlds blink in and out along the railway. Long ago mysterious beings called Guardians opened The Great Network to beings all along its routes. The trains themselves have personalities and sometimes vague loyalties to those who arrange commerce along the rail lines.

Zen Starling is a simple thief, stealing a piece of jewelry from the crowded market stalls of Ambersai Station. He normally wouldn’t be so bold but the opportunity was there, and it was done. Soon he’s chased by drones and a red haired girl who follow him along the rail lines all the way home to the bitter, crumbling town of Cleave.

Thus begins an adventure he wouldn’t have guessed possible. He’s offered the ultimate opportunity to steal something that may not even have value. Chased by a relentless detective, finding friendship with creatures not recognized as being alive, and solving the mysteries of his own past as he races through the universe make this a spectacular tale of the sort you wish wouldn’t end.

railhead cover

A Guardian Interview with Philip Reeve on the writing of Railhead

https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/oct/02/philip-reeve-railhead-interview

Philip Reeve’s Website:

http://www.philip-reeve.com/

Philip Reeve on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/philipreeve1

Perilous Reads

I follow so many great authors on Facebook, partially because they are so enjoyable as individuals, and partially because it is a wonderful way to keep on top of what is new and upcoming. It has been my intention to note them here, but I rarely get past “liking” their post. Tsk. I’m going to try to be more organized about it. As you suspect this involves making a Word Table or Excel Sheet that I can have handy and I’ll jot down things as they come up, and post at least weekly my grand finds. Right?

winky face

Good intentions.

good intentions

Railhead by Philip Reeve comes out April 1st.

railhead cover

Reeve is the author of the fantastic Mortal Engines series and my personal favorite series by him, the Fever Crumb books. He has a great blog post talking about how he set out to write an epic space adventure and ended up with a railway through the stars. http://www.philip-reeve.com/railhead-a-z-part-one-a-e/

My loyal DOA blog commenter and Facebook pal Kaye George has two novels coming out in April.

Requiem in Red is the second in her Cressa Carraway series.

requiem in red

She also writes the Fat Cat series, the third of which comes out in April as well. Fat Cat Takes the Cake writing as Janet Cantrell:

fat cat takes the cake

Busy lady that she is, her second novel in the People of the Wind series Death on The Trek comes out in June. She let me have an early sneak peek at this one. I love the characters and their world so much. This one is so good. I’m not sure it has a cover yet.

In case you wonder how an author can juggle multiple series in this way, she has an interview on the Stiletto Gang blog to answer your questions. http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com/2016/03/writing-multiple-series-featuring-kaye.html

I read and enjoy the Inspector Rebus novels by Ian Rankin. They’re set in a very grim and gritty modern day Scotland. I really enjoy the Inspector though the topics of urban crime aren’t my usual favored topics. I can’t put my finger on why I like the character so much. I haven’t read all of them yet, but who knows, I may catch up by November when his latest adventures come out in “Rather Be The Devil”.

ian rankin rather be the devil

Rather be the Devil

Lurlene McDaniel, the prolific writer of teen tales of woe, has a new novel in June called Losing Gabriel: A love story http://www.lurlenemcdaniel.com/home/

losing gabriel

As a YA librarian for 17 years I read and still read a great deal of YA. However, I tend to read the same genres in children’s and YA as I read in adult books, so romance and other typical teen topics don’t get in my reading pile unless, you know, someone is murdered or a spaceship takes a load of teens away somewhere. Still, I love love this author for being a source of reading pleasure for tons of teens, some of whom may not have been readers otherwise. She was always one of the most popular teen authors, hard to keep in stock, all the books always worn to pieces. Ideal!

Garth Nix’s fifth book in the Old Kingdom series Goldenhand comes out in October. He has several series, but my heart is with this one, which begins with Sabriel.

Goldenhand

garth nix Old Kingdom

http://www.garthnix.com/

Old favorite (of mine) Victoria Thompson’s latest Gaslight Mystery is Murder in Morningside Heights which comes out in May. These follow a detective and a midwife who unexpectedly have a fine penchant for solving murders together. Set in 19th Century New York City, it is always a welcome glimpse into the lives of the poor and the wealthy of the time.

murder in morningside heights

http://victoriathompson.homestead.com/

I have a few more to write about, but these will keep you busy till the next post. Happy reading!

Merlyn’s “What I’m Reading”

Sometimes when you’re between books, you start a few and read them as the mood strikes. Usually, you reach a point in one or more where you have to read on to the end of the story or you won’t get any sleep. Here’s my current pile.

Jim Butcher’s Storm Front I actually started this in November and haven’t gotten far. I want to like it but I’m not sure I care for Harry Dresden, the main character. He seems a bit amoral to me, and I like a solid hero. They can be flawed, but I need to see that they are going to end up doing the right thing.

storm front cover

The Shadow Thieves Anne Ursu I bought this quite awhile ago, based on reviews, I’m sure. I’m only a few chapters in, but it has potential. I take it from the jacket Charlotte Mielswetzski, an unlikely heroine, will be rising from her friendless misery to be something special. Very lightly told. Things are about to happen. This is my easy chair/napping book so it will take awhile unless things happen quickly in the plot, then it will be done in a few hours. It is #1 in the Cronus Chronicles with a front of the book quote “What if Greek Myths were real?”

Shadow Thieves

I found a couple of lists of best, “must read” science fiction and fantasy novels, and will post those separately. I knew and loved many of the books on the lists, but there were so many I disagreed with or had, but hadn’t read yet, that I started combing my own shelves for likely titles. I pulled out a pile to read.

At the top of the list was Dan Simmon’s Hyperion, which I own but haven’t read. I started it , and it is great sf so far, but I was struck by how similar the theme and plot (at least as I’m beginning) is to James Gunn’s recent book Transcendental. Both are framed as a set of pilgrims traveling to a particular shrine/holy location and both use the format of The Canterbury Tales to introduce the pilgrims.

Hyperion

I recently watched the Syfy series The Expanse. I hated the first episode, but decided to watch another to see if I liked it. Good thing, because the second episode and all the others were great stories, fascinating characters, and feature a really well imagined time when there is a colonized Mars, Luna and an entire civilization of “belters” working the fringes of the solar system for resources.

I particularly loved all of the sequences featuring the remains of the crew of The Canterbury.
Rocinante crew

This small tight knit group just had one incredible escape after another. I initially disliked the earth-centric and Ceres Station (in The Belt) sequences, not liking the gritty, hopeless life of the residents, and the detective who was trying to figure out how a series of disasters were connected bugged me to death. I hate to say, I think it was his hairdo that just set me on edge. So silly.

Expanse Miller

After seeing all the episodes, I wanted MORE. How fortuitous that the Expanse is based on Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey. I snared a copy and the book is great, and from the first sentence. So many extra details that give character and world background are in the book, that I actually found Miller to be likeable immediately. He didn’t have a creepy stalker vibe going regarding his search for missing heiress Julie Mao at all.

Leviathan Wakes

The story of the Canterbury and subsequent adventures of the tiny Rocinante crew were so satisfying. As I’m reading, I can see the faces of the tv series folks in my mind, and I can picture the ships and the grittiness of life in space.

While I wait the torturous whole year before the Expanse returns to Syfy, I can find out what happens to our merry crew and the world they inhabit in the sequels: Caliban’s War, Abbadon’s Gate, Cibola Burn, and Nemesis Games.