Review | Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Welcome to the future. Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer, Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

Straddling the gulf between noir and sci-fi, with pretensions towards the epic, and a promise of dramatic, Leviathan Wakes filled a much needed hole in my reading schedule this summer—that of the best read of the season, if not the year.

Miller and Holden, each with their human qualms and quirks, more grey than heroic, are just as interesting as the plot they are unraveling and the events they are, however unintentionally, subject to and at the same time causing. They are unwilling actors thrust into the center of the future of intelligent life in the solar system, and they act on the small and personal, for revenge and for vengeance, for justice and for escape. Their personalities are flawed, but the flaws only make them more empathetic.

Leviatan Wakes ranges across the entire spectrum. We meet characters on every level of innocence, power, or peculiarity. From sociopathic scientists concerned with power to military commandos afraid of it, to giant engineering projects that move moons and build city size space ships aimed for generation long trips to distant stars, Leviathan Wakes is full of colorful and credible characters (from powerful megalomaniacs to bottom feeding asteroid dwellers, Mormons headed to stellar colonization, Martian marines, and families that boast several mothers, multiple fathers, but only one off-spring), exotic locations, imaginatively rendered space battles and a plot that never lets up until the final page. Oh, and Corey (which is actually the nom de plume for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) even comes up with a whole version of pidgin English spoken after generations of dwelling in the asteroid belt.

It’s incredibly creative, and I had a ton of fun reading it.

Leviathan Wakes fulfilled the promises it made, proving to be just as epic as the name sounds, putting just enough emphasis on the science, but never forgetting that it is, first and foremost, a story about people. In the end, it provides what every good space opera should—a sense of wonder. Not only at the vastness of space, of how big it all is, at the immense distances between planets and stars, but also at just how small, weak and amazing life is in all that vastness. It provides a backdrop for both the petty and violent politics of nations, as well as the gallant and noble acts of the individual, a place where great acts can shift the movements of nations, even civilizations.

Not one page loses focus on the story, the real struggles—human and fantastic—of the protagonists. It’s a great tale, and I can’t wait to pick up its sequel.

[Previously posted at Walker of Worlds]

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.