Title: Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse Book 1) by James S. A. Corey
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 5 Stars
I have been trying to get into more adult science fiction like I did with adult fantasy and The Expanse is a series that has been repeatedly recommended to me so I have decided to pick up Leviathan Wakes. The opening to Leviathan Wakes was interesting as we have multiple perspectives, the first is Julie’s who works aboard the ship, Scopuli when the ship is taken over and something out of the Alien franchise happens to the remaining crew. We are then introduced to our protagonist, Jim Holden, working as the XO on the Canterbury along with the crew containing, Naomi, Amos, Paj, Shed and Ade, who Holden has a relationship with right now although he wants something more serious and she doesn’t. The Canterbury is a hauler bring ice to various planets and moons for water resources since humanity in this universe occupies nearly every planet and moon in our solar system and the Belt beyond. We are also introduced to Detective Miller and his partner, Havelock who are looking into a sudden decrease in organised crime on Ceres when Miller is assigned to a new case. This case is the retrieval of Juliette Mao who has been missing for a while and he is to bring her back. We have also learned about the OPA or Outer Planet Alliance which are a sort of terrorist group. The Canterbury ends up picking up an emergency signal from the Scopuli and they head to investigate and salvage what is left but when the small team consisting of Holden, Naomi, Amos and Shed arrive, they instantly know something is wrong especially when they find a transmitter for the signal which isn’t part of the ship’s equipment. They want to leave but they are informed by their captain that there is an issue aboard the Canterbury. The issues turns out to be a ship firing on them and Holden has to watch as the Canterbury is destroyed, with his crew now reduced to only five including himself Holden decides to put out a broadcast. Just before they learn that the transmitter and technology the enemy ship had seems a lot like the Martian Navy and in the broadcast he states that the Canterbury was destroyed by the Navy and even Havelock and Miller see the broadcast.
As we approach the ¼ mark in the novel, Leviathan wakes definitely had an interesting and fast paced start but the challenge will be to see if the author can maintain it throughout the novel. This very quickly begins to read like an intergalactic space opera and I was loving it. The remaining crew from the Canterbury as being picked up from the Knight by the Martian Navy vessel but they are concerned about what the Navy will do to them as Holden indirectly implied that they were responsible for the destruction of the Canterbury. They decide to put out a second broadcast with this new information so that if they do disappear or turn up dead then people will know who is responsible but members of the OPA are already reaching out to Holden and offering him support. Meanwhile, Miller and Havelock are having to deal with the consequences of Holden’s broadcast which including riots and murders of people from both Earth and Mars and it seems like the shimmering tensions between the planet factions is now ready to explode. The Canterbury crew is picked up but the six ships that were following them engage the Navy ship. For a while they think the Navy will just blow them up but they seem to be putting up a tough fight even for the Navy destroyer and it moves to close combat fighting and eventually the enemy manages to land torpedo blows onto the Navy vessel and during this fight, Shed is killed in a really brutal fashion that I had to read twice just to make sure I read it right. I honestly really want to know who these mysterious people are and why they first targeted the Knight and now the crew of the Canterbury and what secrets they believe the crew now to kill them over and I think it has something to do with the opening chapter but I can’t wait to find out.
As we cross the ¼ mark in the novel, things really begun to heat up as the tensions between the Earthers and Belters rise. The remaining crew of the Canterbury is down one with the death of Shed and the Martian military are losing the fight so they are abandoning ship. As they try and escape one of their escorts is injured and the pilot is sacrificing his life so they can escape leaving Alex to pilot their escape vessel. Amos is also injured but they are quickly about to test his wound but the officer, Kelly dies of his wounds. With no one to contact and nowhere to run Holden reaches out the OPA member who contacted them earlier for help and he provides them with a safe heaven. However, everything seems a bit too convenient for me as the timing of the OPA contact with the attack on the military ship makes it seems like a trap. Back with Miller he has convinced Havelock to take time off since he is going to become a target as he is from Earth while he investigates Julie Mao’s case and it turns out she was one of the crew abroad the Scopuli which makes it interesting as the Canterbury found that ship empty making her chapter right at the beginning now relevant and tying both Holden and Miller’s stories together. Holden and his crew have arrived into the arms of the OPA but Holden is determined not to let people push him around this time and is stepping up his game now he is essentially a Captain for his small crew. Meanwhile, Miller is watching everything dissolve into chaos as Julie Mao and the rest of the Scopuli’s crew are the only people who can identify who is pushing for a war between Earth, Mars and the Belt but Miller refuses to drop the case which is only going to end in disaster for him. When Earth pulls out of Ceres and Miller is fired from his job I think everything is going to blow up pretty soon as chaos is already descending on Ceres.
As we approach the halfway mark in the novel, Miller is continuing his investigation into Julie Mao and the Scopuli but his funds are quickly going to run out but he has managed to track down Holden heading to Eros and he sets out to meet them there. Meanwhile, we learn that Holden isn’t comfortable spending the next few months or years under Fred’s thumb while they wait for the OPA to take the mystery people to trial once they are caught. However, he learns that Fred wants to borrow his ship into order to pick someone up from Eros. He explains to Holden that they have a person who doesn’t exist except on paper that owns the Scopuli and this person sent a message to them. It means that the person who sent the message knows how the OPA operates intimately and is asking for help but can’t ask for it openly and Holden arranges that Fred will hire them for the mission after they record their depositions and he will have first offer on hiring them for future jobs securing his assets while leaving the crew free to roam as they please but they also get full access to everything Fred knows as well which seems like a good deal right now as everyone is trying to avoid an all out war. Miller actually arrives before the crew of the Canterbury and he follows them when they arrive. Holden and his crew know they are being followed and when they get to the building to pick up the mystery person they are attacked by another group but Miller ends up helping them out. Together they go up to the room and find Julie Mao dead, infected with some kind of virus before they get the hell out of there. While Miller gets some help from his police contacts he works with Holden and they learn Julie was infected with a virus and it was responsible for killing her but before they can do anything else the station is sent into lockdown. The “police” responsible are the company Havelock is now working for but Miller knows something is off about the lockdown as they are wearing the stolen riot gear from Ceres and they soon learn that they are gassing people to possible infect them with the virus Julie had and they have to get off the station as soon as possible but it isn’t going to be easy with armed mobsters everywhere but they have a plan.
As we cross into the second half of the novel, the group are now trying to escape from Eros which has gone into lockdown. They realise the people on the station are collecting Julie’s body and are going to use it to infect other with the same virus. Miller and Holden witness first hand these people turning into zombie and how they infect other but both are currently suffering from radiation poisoning meaning they only have a limited amount of time to get help or they will die anyway. Miller and Holden have split from Naomi, Alex and Amos to give them a better chance of getting off the station without getting caught but there does not seem to be a way out for Miller and Holden. The time limit they set has been reached and the others have returned to the ship and possibly left them behind but there is also a slim chance that they are waiting for Miller and Holden so their new goal is to make it to the ship alive. Miller and Holden have to fight their way through armed men to get to the ship which is miraculously still there and they nearly die from the poisoning in the meantime but they do make just in time for Naomi to help them. When they wake up we witness the most awkward confession in all of fiction but Miller tells Holden not to let Naomi go as she is a woman worth fighting for which is awkward enough as the pair don’t know each other that well yet. None of the crew are sure where to go now but they find coordinates hidden in Julie’s tablet and they decide to head there as that is their only option right now. Despite everything, war seems to be approaching faster than anyone predicted and fingers are being pointed from both sides which doesn’t help. No one seems to be taking responsibility for the attacks and Miller puts it together that someone has an interest in the inner planets and the Belt being at war and that is who is controlling everything. Whoever these people are they are making people believes there is a war between Mars, Earth and the Belt but this might not be the case as we saw Earth is doing everything they can to stay neutral right now. So far I am loving Leviathan Wakes because it is definitely a gorier, more adult version of Illuminae which I also really enjoyed but had some issues with but I have a feeling as long as the ending is good this will be a five star read.
As we approach the ¾ mark in the novel, the team arrive at the coordinates that Julie left behind and what they discover is shocking. The find footage of when Julie was captured during the first chapter and I found it harder to experience second hand with all the characters reactions than from Julie’s perspective in the first chapter. They also uncover what the virus is and how it was discovered as well as the ways they intend to use it and it is far worse than anyone of them thought. However, they also learn that samples are kept in the Captain’s safe and decide to take them after blowing up the ship for they have leverage to use against the people behind this should it come down to that. Honestly, Leviathan Wakes is turning out to be an amazing novel and I can’t wait to see how it ends since Caliban’s War is already on my TBR for October. After finding out all this information Holden wants to release it but Miller urges him to think about what that could do given the state of things right now so they end up returning to Fred. Fred doesn’t really know what to do unless they can find out the location of where the lab is supposed to be so they can capture it for themselves and most likely destroy it. Miller finds out from Havelock that the lab is on the Thoth Station and the group immediately come up with a plan for seizing control of the station after making sure Havelock’s information was correct. The seizure doesn’t quite go according to plan but Holden and Fred take control of the station and find a man named Dresden in charge. Holden wants to know why Dresden has unleashed this virus on Eros and he explains it was to advance humanity into becoming gods but before they can get more information out of him Miller shoots him which Holden despises. Holden actually cuts ties with Miller here because he doesn’t believe in killing people in cold blood even if they deserve it so Miller has now lost everyone except from the imaginary Julie by his side which is very depressing to think about. However, they now have access to all the information from the station which should bring everything into focus and set up the wider story arc for the rest of the series.
As we cross into the final section of the novel, I was both eager and nervous to see how the story ends because I have really enjoyed this story and I want to see what it sets up for Caliban’s War. After the break with Miller and Holden, Miller is seeking work but doesn’t find much until he goes to Fred. Initially Fred doesn’t want to hire Miller but he can’t deny the man is good at what he does and he actually comes up with a plan for stopping others getting their hands on the virus and he wants to drive Eros into the sun using the Nauvoo as a battering ram and it is genius. Fred obviously makes some adjustments to the plan and calls in Holden as he wants the crew of the Roci to distract and stop the Earth ships from getting to Eros before them. Holden agrees to this but Fred also wants the Phoebe virus sample to stay with him which is something Holden can’t agree to and Miller actually comes to his defence because he knows it is safest with Holden and has to appease Fred afterwards. Preparations are made for the mission but during this time Holden and Naomi actually get together which was a nice light-hearted moment when the novel is getting very dark. Holden and his crew get the Earth ships to stop without fighting and the Nauvoo is less than a day away but things begin to go wrong here. The first thing is that the Earth ships have called for backup and now they are dangerously outnumbered and the second is Eros seems to dodge the Nauvoo which shouldn’t be possible but there is nothing Miller can do as he is the only person aboard the ship now and he isn’t qualified to fly it so they are going to have to improvise if they are going to follow through on their plan. The ending of Leviathan Wakes was interesting as it provided enough conflict and action to seem like a standalone but in the final pages it set up a much bigger plot line and I can’t wait to see how that develops throughout the series. However, it did take away on of the main characters of this novel but given the developments towards the end they may pop back up later on in the series. Overall, for my first introduction in hard science fiction I really enjoyed Leviathan Wakes with its space opera setting, scientific themes and possibly a first contact with aliens scenario. The characters were well written if not always likeable but it did give us ordinary people to root for with complex and complicated backstories and I can’t wait to see more of them, definitely a five star read.
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