Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Expanse (Book #2 of 9)
Genre: Science fiction, Space opera
Pages: 624 pages (UK paperback edition)
Published: 7th June 2012 by Orbit (UK) & 1st January 2012 by Orbit (US)
Avasarala is finally here!!!
Unlike Leviathan Wakes, I’m venturing into uncharted territory within the series for the first time here. By that, I meant that I haven’t watched any part of Caliban’s War, the second book in The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey duo, in the television series adaptation except for some episodes consisting of Avasarala and Bobbie. Caliban’s War is a superior book compared to Leviathan Wakes in every aspect. This is caused mostly by Corey’s decision to expand—pun intended, get used to this—the number of POV characters from two to four characters. This ended up being a terrific narrative decision. The distinction in character’s voices and personality allows the duo to display their strength as an author further as they tightened the pacing and the plot through several more different character’s perspectives rather than being constricted merely to Holden and Miller’s like before. Although I did love Holden and Miller, there were several chapters in the first book where their narrative felt like indistinguishable; it was like they’re the exact same character in a different situation. This kind of situation doesn’t happen at all in Caliban’s War.
The three completely new POV characters being introduced here were highly entertaining in their own way. Firstly, we have Prax, a scientist searching for his beloved daughter—Mei—in the war-torn Ganymede. Secondly, we have Bobbie, a Martian marine who watches her entire platoon slaughtered by an inexplicably monstrous supersoldier, and now she seeks revenge and revelations. Finally, we have Avasarala, a witty and foul-mouthed politician struggling to prevent an intergalactic war from reoccurring. Obviously, Holden and the crew of Rocinante are back again with their adventures, and they eventually find their fates being connected with all of the new character’s storylines. The increase in the number of POV characters brings balance in emotion and pacing to the narrative; the themes of responsibility, family, redemption, and love were dealt with care through the eyes of these characters.
“If life transcends death, then I will seek for you there. If not, then there too.”
I know I’m only two books into the series so far, and there are still seven more books for me to read before I’m done with it, but the characters are truly the heart of the narrative. The characterizations for all of the characters were wonderful. And I can’t emphasize how much I loved Chrisjen Avasarala. What a freaking badass grandma; we should all bow down to her. Avasarala has appeared in the TV series since the first season; I was disappointed to find that she didn’t appear yet in the first book. But wow, I didn’t expect that Avasarala in the book would cuss more fatally.
“I need not remind you all of the years I spent as a political prisoner.”
“Oh fuck me,” Avasarala said, clapping her hands in glee. “He’s using the outsider speech. That man’s asshole must be tight enough right now to bend space.”
It was incredibly entertaining to witness her cunning and cussing in actions; it reminded me of reading The Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch. However, that’s not the only good part of her story. Avasarala is talented at politics but she’s not all-mighty, she does have a weakness in her, and I think this is what makes her a better character to root for; her greatness that she allowed the public to see is a part of her “mask”. I also loved Avasarala’s and Arjun’s relationship. It’s highly refreshing to read a mature relationship that’s not infuriating to read sometimes. Both Avasarala and Arjun has gone through years of marriage; they could perceive, understand, and comfort each other through facial expressions, gesture, or a few words. All of these praises doesn’t apply exclusively to Avasarala; Holden, Bobbie, Prax, and the side characters do have their own moments to shine. This kind of personalization and relationship building is what Corey does well as an author.
Caliban’s War is a worthy sequel to Leviathan Wakes; it’s better in every aspect. Although Corey’s prose isn’t particularly memorable per se, it truly gets the job of telling an accessibly entertaining story filled with great characters operating in an expansive universe done. I look forward to reading the third book in the series, Abaddon’s Gate, soon.
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)
Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!
My Patrons: Alfred, Devin, Hamad, Joie, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas.