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Leviathan Wakes Paperback – June 15, 2011
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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About the Author
James S.A. Corey is the pen name of fantasy author Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. They both live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Find out more about this series at www.the-expanse.com.
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On the positive, it's a fast paced story and an easy read, and there are occasional glimpses of what a better writer could have made of this story. But all up not enough to make me hold my breath for the next instalment of this "space opera" trilogy. Avoid and save your money.
The main characters here are shallow, cynical, pragmatic, and able repeatedly to survive against impossible odds. They seem like comic-book figures. At no time did I imagine any of them to be anything other than a late-20th century American. Not one person in this book is a dreamer, a philosopher, an artist, a poet, a rationalist, a scientist, or a mystic. We hear a few snatches of Arabic in space, but no one, evidently, is a Muslim—or a Buddhist, Hindu, Jew, or even a member of some new religion that’s sprouted up during the presumptive thousands of years that have elapsed between our present and their fictive present. We’re talking about billions of humans living on far-separated worlds, for thousands of years and over many generations, who somehow managed to stay culturally almost homogeneous—same language, same beliefs, etc.—despite which, they’re also divided by regionalism and the xenophobic prejudice that fosters the ensuing violence. Combatants run around on spaceships shooting machine guns, firing off bullets with no fear whatever of puncturing hulls or machinery. The dialogue, which is quite extensive, is pure 20th century—not to say the author hasn’t coined a word or two, borrowed others, and even invented a polyglot tongue for his teeming lower classes (most of the people in outer space are, again, pretty crooks, smugglers, pirates, and pimps)—but the main characters all wear uniforms and speak like a team of 20th century jocks hanging out in a bar. They eat only ersatz foods but, for some reason, know how “real” lasagne tastes. They live without any oceans but then can purchase salmon. They don’t have very much “futuristic” technology—in fact, they’ve evidently lost some of our existing technology—case in point, at the beginning of the novel, the central characters are transporting chunks of glacier ice through space in order to bring water to some colony—but they don’t seem to have any refrigeration on board, so, when they detect a cliché SOS beacon-thingy out there, they have to decide whether or not to let their valuable glacier chunks melt away. Why don’t they have a big freezer on board? Well, because the author needs them to have this debate about whether or not to go and be humanitarian. If they had a freezer, they wouldn’t be facing a moral dilemma, and then we’d have no way of knowing the were the “good guys.” And thus we see that the drama and the technology both are contrived.
A variety of minor glitches further spoil this book—things an editor should have caught, but didn’t. There are sentences I couldn’t understand—that is, even after multiple re-readings, I could not parse the syntax—so it seems that a word or two had to be missing, or that the logic was corrupted by a typo. There were a few transitions so abrupt that I suspected larger blocks of text were missing. And, turning to a different kind of error, in one scene, a man exploring a spaceship under minimal gravity (he’s able to drift from one side of a room to the other) suddenly steps on some crunchy food spilled on a kitchen floor. Why wasn’t that spilled food floating weightless? And why did the man walk when he could’ve floated? Presumably because the crunching added an interesting, sensory detail—but it destroyed the verisimilitude and so should’ve been red-penciled. In another scene, people are shooting at each other, but none of the bad guys can hear any of the gunfire, so the protagonists are able to employ the element of surprise again, and again, and again. Sadly, none of these glitches proved very important to me in the long run, since I just never cared about any of the characters, nor even “the fate of the whole human race,” which, of course, was hanging in the balance. I won’t be reading any more installments in this series, since I’d like to imagine that all these characters died in the end, and that their whole nasty species died with them. There’s nothing in this author’s vision of the future that appeals to me: there’s certainly no way I‘d ever want to live out there, and it’s also not a very nice place to visit.
The Bad: They started off great, good mystery, decent pacing. Characters are so-so but work well enough given the fantastic setting. They take a great universe and wonderful setting, and then load it up with cliches and rehashes done a million times over. Alien threat, Evil/Amoral corporation justifying crazy actions with predictable rationalizations.
Bottom line: Despite the hiccups, it kept me going to the end, and I will be picking up the next book in the series. The setting and universe was great and intriguing, but the authors (yes there are two, it's two dudes under a pen name) just didn't seem to know what to do with it once they got the setup out of the way and went with the usual suspects.