Cover Illustration by: Daniel Dociu
Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Expanse (Book #6 of 9)
Genre: Sci-fi, Space Opera
Pages: 543 pages (UK paperback)
Published: 6th December 2016 by Orbit
A good sequel that feels like a long wrap-up to Nemesis Games.
Babylon’s Ashes is the sixth book in The Expanse series. The story picked up immediately from where Nemesis Games ended, and that’s pretty much what this book is about. Babylon’s Ashes is a long-wrap up to Nemesis Games, and I did feel that almost half of the content in this book could’ve been cut out and put into Nemesis Games instead. I get it, it’s difficult to write a follow-up to Nemesis Games, that book was insane space-opera with actions, stakes, and characterizations at an all-time high for the series. However, for a series that’s now six books long, I must say that the story hasn’t progressed as much as I thought it would. This isn’t me complaining that Babylon’s Ashes wasn’t necessary, but I won’t lie, the pacing of the first half of this novel was painfully slow; the reason behind this is the number of new and random POV characters that I’m forced to read.
“I thought if you told people facts, they’d draw their conclusions, and because the facts were true, the conclusions mostly would be too. But we don’t run on facts. We run on stories about things. About people.”
I’ve said it before, I don’t like the choices Corey took to keep on including new POV characters within each book instead of just following the already established and solid main characters. This is one of the things that has magnificently been fixed in the TV series. And to be fair, most of the new characters outside of the crew of Rocinante that Corey has included throughout the series so far has been great or at least tolerable. But in here, there were so many random side characters POV who didn’t seem to bring anything to the story except to slow down the pacing immensely. I love the crew of Rocinante; if I’m given a choice to do one significant change to the narrative decision in the series, it would be to rewrite the entire series and tell them solely from the crew of Rocinante’s perspectives. Seriously, Holden, Naomi, Amos, Alex, Bobbie, and especially Avasarala were by far the best characters of the series. Now, these favorite characters of mine did play a lot of parts here, and after the extra boost to characterizations done for them in Nemesis Games, their role and appearances only seem to get better and better.
“You use a welding rig to weld things. You use a gun to shoot things. You use a Bobbie Draper to fuck a bunch of bad guys permanently up.”
Their chemistry and relationship between each other in the face of danger and appreciating every small moment of peace were easy to empathize with. Now, does this mean that ALL the new characters were boring? Not really, just the one that appeared only once or twice as POV characters. Filip and Michio Pa as POV characters, though, were engaging and interesting; I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed their chapters in the second half of the book. I’ll have to give Corey a point on that one.
“History, Michio believed, was a long series of surprises that seemed inevitable in retrospect.”
Overall, I have a bit of a mixed opinion on Babylon’s Ashes. I would summarize my review on Babylon’s Ashes by concluding that the first half of this novel was a snooze fest, the second half was brilliant. It definitely felt like it could’ve been shortened or maybe even include on Nemesis Games, which would make Nemesis Games even more amazing. The conclusion of the conflict was a bit anti-climactic, but I highly enjoyed reading the last closing chapters. It seemed to me that Babylon’s Ashes has wrapped everything up, if no one told me there was a sequel coming, I would’ve believed this to be the end of the series; not a satisfying one, but it could work.
All things said, and I’m not sure I’m mistaken on this or not, but I’ve heard from several people that there’s a huge time skip coming in Persepolis Rising. If that’s true, I’m excited about it; a time skip could be what the series really needs now. As for the villains? I have no idea who or what they’re going to fight next. Probably a return or resurrection of an old enemy or something; that’s usually how it goes.
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