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

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

Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

Holden, with Miller’s ghostly direction managed to open the Ring Gate in Abbaddon’s Gate. Now thousands of worlds are within reach. The overcrowded solar system has an escape valve, and people can spread out among the stars, with plenty of air and water for all.

The nearest planet to the gates has been named Ilus by a colony of refugees from Ganymede. They commandeered their rescue ship and pointed it through the gates when there seemed no place else for them to go. Fiercely independent, determined to build a new life for themselves, they’ve been mining the planet which is rich in lithium and the ruins of a dead alien civilization.

mining colony

The infighting that always existed between Earth, Mars and the Belt still goes on. Earth’s UN is sending their own colony of scientists to this same planet to study it and claim it for their own. They call the planet New Terra. They don’t recognize the current colonists nor, thanks to some corporate string pulling at home, do they plan to let the colonists have mining rights.

As a shuttle carrying the new Governor and a first group of scientists land, the landing pad explodes, killing many on board, including the new governor. The Edward Israel, still in orbit, goes into high alert and sends a signal back to Earth that colonial terrorists have killed the first team sent to the planet.

Another ship, the Barbapiccola waits in orbit for the first shipments of lithium.

The trip from Ilus to home takes a year and a half, though communications take mere hours. The UN and OPA want James Holden to go to Ilus and try to reach a diplomatic conclusion. Miller’s ghostly self wants to go through the gate in the very worst way. Although Holden fears what Miller might do next, or cause to happen, he likes the idea of being a peacemaker, so they go.

While the Rocinante makes the journey, the head of Edward Israel’s security sends more scientists down to the planet and goes down himself to make sure their mission isn’t hampered and no one is killed. He runs a tight colony and never hides his suspicion of the “squatters” as the colonists are known to the scientists.

Just as the Rocinante arrives, a fight breaks out and security teams from the Edward Israel are killed. Murtry declares martial law. And planet itself seems to be waking up.

Holden’s efforts are wasted on the three warring groups, except for a scientist who develops an awkward crush on Holden.

As the planet wakes, it seems bent on destroying those on the surface. As they flee into space and the ships in orbit, the planet’s defenses begin to pull all the ships down towards the surface.

Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey

In the second novel of The Expanse series, the action shifts from the Asteroid Belt to a colony on Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s moons. Ganymede is a planet of domes growing food that is transported to all sectors of the solar system. Botanical experiments and growing techniques have made it a rich source of sustenance for the increasingly crowded expanse of planets and space. It has been untouched by the politics and rivalries growing every day throughout the system.

Expanse Asteroid Belt

Expanse Jupiters Moons

Since the revelations of scientific mass murder on Eros by Julie Mao’s father and his Protogen company in Leviathan Wakes, the solar system now has three seats of political power. The Outer Planets Alliance led by Fred Johnson has gained some measure of legitimacy and Holden and crew have been working for him. Mars, continuing to work on terraforming their planet, spreads its naval fleet defensively into the Belt and out towards Jupiter and Saturn. Earth uses its United Nations forces to try to keep control everywhere. Directed by the amazing and plain spoken Chrisjen Avasarala, Earth’s still vast resources often seem to give them the upper hand.

On pastoral Ganymede, children with certain genetic defects are suddenly disappearing. Rapidly following this is an attack on UN and Martian ground forces by a deadly being that is able to jam their communications and swiftly kill the marines of both factions. Panic and paranoia reign. Everyone is convinced that the “protomolecule” now transforming the planet Venus has sent monstrosities to attack the rich food source that is Ganymede. Fear that the population of Ganymede will meet the same fate as the unfortunate souls on Eros triggers an emergency evacuation of the planet.

Expanse Greenhouse

Into this charged atmosphere go the crew of the Rocinante, ostensibly to help a scientist find his kidnapped child (which will be a huge publicity boost for the warring factions showing how humanely they can work together), more to the point, having had close proximity to the effects of the protomolecule, they can determine if it has been planted on Ganymede and how quickly it’s moving among the desperately escaping population.

The shifting viewpoints in Caliban’s War give us a closer look at Earth and how it functions in the Expanse, and the narrative of Praxidike Meng, father of the kidnapped child Mei, shows what everyday life could be like in a crowded and ever expanding space society. Holden’s crew has become a tight group who bring to any situation their combined wisdom, bravery and knowledge of the worlds that make up the Expanse.