Do you remember a while ago, when I reviewed Leviathan Wakes, a space opera novel by James S A Corey (who is actually two people)? Well, if yes or if not, Leviathan Wakes is the first book in the Expanse series, and I’ve been eagerly eating up books two, three, and four in wait for the fifth. It came out around a month and a half ago, and I couldn’t get it for a while, and I wanted to compose my thoughts a little, so that’s why it’s happening now and not a couple weeks ago. Review! Engage!
After returning from Ilus, or New Terra, or whatever it was called, James Holden and the crew of the Roctinante are really spent. The Roci is in a dry-dock for the forseeable future, and everyone’s cashed in for some much needed shore leave. Alex decides to go to Mars to reconcile with the ex-wife, but gets more than he bargained for when and he and Bobbie are attacked. Amos heads to Earth to pay his respects to an old friend, but finds himself caught up in Earth politics with Avasarala, and his old life on the streets of Baltimore. Naomi goes to Ceres to help out her son, Filip, but ends up kidnapped by a radical cell of the OPA. And as Holden tries to deal with being alone on the station, he starts digging into a deadly conspiracy. As the crew of the Roci has learned, nothing ever goes to plan.
After reading the first four, I had to wait a couple months for Nemesis Games to come out, and by then the anticipation had ramped up to really high heights. Then, I had to wait a little while longer to get the book itself, so that made me even more excited than usual. And how did it fare? At first, not so well. In the end, better than I could have ever expected. Hold on, let me explain.
One of the things that I think is the most different part of the series is that the authors write in different perspectives, so you can see the same conflict from the eyes of different characters. They all start out in different places with different views, and make their way around a certain situation that the book focuses on, and after dancing around the edges of the problem, finally meet in the center. This writing style gives the narrative a really huge amount of potential, and so far, this has been used all the way to 100%.
But what I was surprised to learn in Nemesis Games was that the James S A Corey decided to use four out of the four perspectives that were in the book for the four main characters that are in every book. The constants, I call them. I thought that this would take away the storytelling heft that the other books had, and cripple it in the eyes of the rest of the series. It wouldn’t be able to stand on it’s own, and certainly wouldn’t be as fun. But I was wrong.
As opposed to having the four constants just sticking together and hanging out on the Roci, Corey put them all in different places, so they all got to see different sides of the conflict. See where this is going? This effectively defused the entire problem, and made me a happy little reader. Sure, I love meeting new characters, but there was so much more to learn about the constants that I almost forgot about my argument in the first place. In addition to that, there were so many returning side characters that helped out in so many good ways that I was nearly speechless. Every main character had at least one returning character almost the entire way.
So, I may not have gotten to meet some new people, but I did have some more witty banter between Amos and Avasarala, and meeting Melba (*cough* I mean Clarissa *cough*) again was just too much fun. Having Monica Stuart interact with Holden again was just as enjoyable as the last time, and I’ll support anything Bobbie is in. Anything. So ultimately, what I thought would slow down and ultimately handicap the plot was what actually ended up making it more enjoyable.
Now, that dosen’t mean that I want this writing style to stay, in fact, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I hope that in book six (which will apparently be called Babylon’s Ashes) the regular way of Expanse storytelling returns. That works marvelously well for the series as a whole, and even though I quite liked the new way, and even so it meshed very well with Nemesis Games in particular, I don’t want this new style to define the series.
Now, for some other small complaints. To be honest, for the first half of the book, Naomi didn’t really have much going on in her little quarter of the book. There rarely was very much action, and it was mostly just her wandering around reminiscing. And that’s fine, it’s just that everyone else was doing that with a steady amount of action and intrigue. By the second half, she was in the lion’s den, so to speak, so everything that happened there almost directly affected everyone else, which was pretty cool.
Nemesis Games (fifth in the series) serves as a testament that the Expanse just keeps getting better. Sure, Corey switched up the entire way he writes the books, but it actually worked very well, despite my worrying. This new format actually enhances the storytelling in Nemesis Games, and even though I hope this style stops here, I still quite enjoyed it. It’s got a very Empire Strikes Back ending, but that only makes me more excited for book six.