26 November 2018

Review: The Expanse: Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey

Trade paperback, 611 pages
Published 2012

Acquired October 2016
Read August 2018
Caliban's War: Book Two of The Expanse
by James S.A. Corey

This book's events correspond to the second half of the television show's second season and the first half of the third. At the time I read it, I was one episode into season three, so the first half of the book was a new take on familiar events, while the second was all new to me. As always, I'm fascinated by the process of adaptation: in the show, Prax makes it off Ganymede before he runs into Holden and company, who take him back, while in the book he never leaves. In the show, Bobbie Draper has to make a daring escape from the Martian embassy on Earth to see what the planet is like; in the book, she just walks out the front door. Also I'm sort of fascinated by the number of ethnic characters in the book who become white guys in the tv show... yet maintain their ethnic names.

Anyway, I enjoyed this. Chrisjen Avasarala is a delight on screen as played by Shohreh Aghdashloo, the takes-no-crap grandmotherly Deputy Undersecretary for Executive Administration. On the show, she's there all along, but in the books, she turns up for the first time here, broadening the books' array of point-of-view characters. She's just as much a delight on the page as on the screen, taking no crap and getting all the best lines. The first book had two POV characters, and the shit hit the fan when they met; this one has four, but pulls a similar trick. At first they join into two groups, and then those groups unite as well. It's interesting to see Chrisjen's perspective on Holden and company and vice versa, and I look forward to seeing this play out on screen; I think I must be just one or two episodes away from it.

The plot is pretty standard action-adventure stuff, I think, but it has the occasional dark twist as well as the occasional optimistic one; both liven things up. If you want space opera, The Expanse gives it to you in a way that feels familiar, but also very rooted. I like these characters (Amos and Alex are particularly fun, though I suspect that's partially because I import the tv performances to the page), I like the universe they inhabit, and I like the deepening mystery. I look forward to finishing season three and to reading book three.

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