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Nemesis Games (The Expanse) Hardcover – June 2, 2015
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The fifth novel in James S A Coreys New York Times bestselling Expanse series-now being produced for television by the SyFy Channel A thousand worlds have opened and the greatest land rush in human history has begun As wave after wave of colonists leave the power structures of the old solar system begin to buckle Ships are disappearing without a trace Private armies are being secretly formed The sole remaining protomolecule sample is stolen Terrorist attacks previously considered impossible bring the inner planets to their knees The sins of the past are returning to exact a terrible price And as a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left
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Each of our protagonists from the crew of the Rocinante are separated from one another throughout the bulk of the story, all of them longing to return to the family they realize themselves to be for each other.
In the midst of an insurgency from a radical wing within the OPA (supplied by a treasonous, escapist faction of the Mars Navy), we witness periods of combat and senseless devastation from multiple angles that weren't present in the previous novels with nearly this sort of depth and insight. As an added bonus the reader even gets to witness the grand acts of terrorism from within and without, while not providing anything particularly sympathetic where the terrorists are concerned. It was a bold, and well-executed move by the authors...to humanize the perpetrators of unparalleled acts of aggression without making the reader feel like they might have a valid reason to do the horrible things they are doing.
This was a smaller scale piece of storytelling than the galaxy-spanning, alien technology oriented action of the previous novels, but it was a very satisfying exploration of the inner worlds of the characters we've become so close to over the course of the previous four books.
The end does set the stage for something potentially horrifying coming up though, and it certainly kept me invested enough that I want to read the sixth installment.
Specifics about the book (I will avoid spoilers as much as possible): the first half of the book is rather boring and action free. Alex has a few squirmishes that reinforces his bona fides as a bad--ss and the book starts with a mysterious strike on a shipyard that doesn't get explain until 200+ pages later. But the rest of the first half is really all setup and explanation of who the characters are. I have to admit that I put the book down and started reading the Divergent Series, which is an interesting story, but the narrative writing style struck me as freshman HS creative-writing level compared to the crisp narrative of the Expanse series. When I couldn't take anymore of Divergent, I came back to Nemesis Games with a new-found appreciation for the high quality writing of Corey. I really felt like I was on a rapidly depopulating Mars and a decaying overpopulated Earth with many of the same vices and urban problems that hinder us today. Corey's detailed description of these environments, while tedious at time, really brought the varied locations to life.
The work to get through the background--which was tolerable, again, because of the quality of writing and the insights into the rest of the crew--was worth the investment because the action that followed was truly nail-bitter quality. Of course coming down to the final chapters, I began to realize that there was going to be no resolution in this novel. To learn more, I'd have to invest in yet another entry in this series.
Therefore, if you have read the Expanse series to this point, I can recommend Nemesis Games. The criticisms are the large amount of time spent explaining the crew's backstories--which, I believe is worth it to any fan of the series--and the lack of resolution at the end. However, if you are just starting, I recommend starting with the first book in the series, or skipping to the middle of NG. Alternatively if you have read the first 4 books in the series (I lose count, I think this is the fifth), you might consider stopping. The pre-Nemesis Games books are self-contained and provide a nice resolution. You can simply imagine the crew of the Rocinante flying off into the sunset and enjoying the rest of their lives in peace.
As for me, I guess I'm hooked. Corey (the authors who write under this pseudonym) has made the Expanse into a corporate industry, which if they continue the quality of writing, the series can continue indefinitely. For me, as long as the writing is there, I will likely continue flying with the crew of the Rocinante.
The novel fills in some of the back story of Naomi, Alex, and Amos; we meet Naomi's husband and son, Alex's ex-wife, and some of Amos' companions growing up in Baltimore. We don't learn much about James Holden's past. "There was a button," Holden said. "I pushed it." "Jesus Christ. That really is how you go through life, isn't it?" (Fred Johnson)
We see a new professional crew flying the Rocinante (for a short period of time). Bobbie Draper is back aboard the Roci.
The three "big" tribes are Earther, Martian, or Belter, yet on the Rocinante, all 3 live and work together as family. If only this model could be extended to the rest of the solar system (and out through the Rings).
A new political force has awakened (or at least become visible) and it has attacked Earth; Mars didn't need to be attacked since people are leaving it to go through the Rings. The OPA, like the Tea Party, has no solid identity; parts are civilized and parts are unrestrained (they would claim from a life of deprivation in the Belt). As Cyn said, "There's OPA, and there's OPA".
"Doors and corners."
This was the first book (Kindle edition) in the Expanse series that I found a typo in. I reported it to Amazon.