Review: Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1) by James S. A. Corey

Rating: 8/10

Synopsis

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.

Review

“People always whispered when they were hiding. Wrapped in a space suit and surrounded by vacuum, Gomez could have been lighting fireworks inside his armor and no one would have heard it, but he whispered.”

Thank you to Hachette Audio for the listening copy of Leviathan Wakes. Receiving this audiobook did not affect my review in any way.

I always like to start my audiobook reviews with a mini-review of the narrator. Jefferson Mays did an amazing job giving a distinct voice to not only the two main characters Holden and Miller, but also Holden’s crew and the many other characters that are involved in this epic story. He also spoke in a clear voice that made it very easy to follow and understand what was happening, even though it was such a world spanning story.

The biggest strength of Leviathan Wakes can be found in its characters. Miller especially was very compelling. Miller’s struggles with depression and alcoholism, his determination to solve mysteries, and his resolve to help people were riveting and helped me love Miller’s sections of the book.

Holden was also a good character, but what made his perspective compelling and at times highly entertaining was his crew. Naomi, Amos, and Alex stole the spotlight from Holden. Their comraderie, humor in the face of danger, and loyalty to one another, along with their distinct and well fleshed out personalities, made me care about each character and what was happening in the world as a whole.

The authors that make up the team James S.A. Corey made an incredible world that was both relatable and far enough away from our reality to remain fantastical. I could see that if humanity does ever reach other planets and the moon that we would be a society very similar to the one portrayed in Leviathan Wakes. I really enjoyed the difference between the Earthers, Belters, people from Mars, and the rest. They were all distinct and it was fun to learn about the differences between them all. Having said that, there is so much more to learn about each, especially the Martians and Earthers, and I’m excited by the prospect of diving in even more.

The whole mystery behind who was behind committing an act of war at the beginning of the book is really well done. We get tidbits of information, misdirection, and a slow build up until the truth is revealed. Along with that, the political tension and threat of all out war was incredibly high throughout the story. That was a huge part of what kept me wanting to turn the page (press the play button) to find out what happens next.

The action sequences involving spaceship battles, onboard ship, and on planet individual warfare were really well done. The descriptions painted a picture of the randomness and chaos of war. There were civilian casualties and even deaths of named characters. The action was a compliment to the slow build up of the plot and made for a perfect pace.

The only complaint I have about this book is what felt like a rushed resolution. We have a methodical, slow, beautiful build up throughout the plot that keeps the reader thoroughly engaged. However, the climax of the book ended up being rushed through and felt too easy. It almost felt like the author had a page limit and a lot was cut out so it wasn’t too long. Don’t get me wrong, the resolution makes sense, but the quickness of it made it so the emotional investments that I had with the characters was not fully satisfied and I was quite disappointed.

Overall, this was a really good first entry to the Expanse series. The world, the characters, and the plot were set up really well with plenty of information to keep me interested and wanting to continue the series.

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