Review | Caliban's War by James S A Corey (Orbit)

Title: Caliban's War
Author: James S A Corey
Publisher: Orbit
Format: Paperback
Release Date: June 2012

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For someone who didn't intend to wreck the solar system's fragile balance of power, Jim Holden did a pretty good job of it.

While Earth and Mars have stopped shooting each other, the core alliance is shattered. The outer planets and the Belt are uncertain in their new - possibly temporary - autonomy.

Then, on one of Jupiter's moons, a single super-soldier attacks, slaughtering soldiers of Earth and Mars indiscriminately and reigniting the war. The race is on to discover whether this is the vanguard of an alien army, or if the danger lies closer to home.
When I picked up Leviathan Wakes late in the game I knew that the general consensus of the novel was pretty good, that it was a well portrayed near-future science fiction, and that it lived up to the initial hype surrounding it. My opinion was pretty much along those lines too, and I ranked it right up there with the best novels I'd read that year. To say I was eager to read Caliban's War is somewhat of an understatement, but history does have a habit of repeating itself and here I am over a year after its release finally getting around to it. What I found within the pages of Caliban's War is both the story I wanted, and the story I didn't...

Caliban's War is set against the backdrop of the aftermath of events from Leviathan Wakes, and picks up the story a few short months later. With the protomolecule doing all sorts of strange things on Venus, tensions are high between Earth and the outer planets, with fighting breaking out on Ganymede after a horrifyingly familiar creature attacks both sides. As events continue to unfold, the bigger picture of the solar system becomes clearer, though it is far from straight forward.

While Leviathan Wakes focused on two points of view - starship pilot Holden, and detective Miller - this time it's expanded to that of four: Holden; Earth UN politician Avasarala; Ganymede botanist Prax; and Martian marine Bobbie. Holden is the only returning point of view, and his ship and crew are still very much a part of the picture. Of the new viewpoints, Avasarala is my favourite. She's a straight-talking, no-nonsense politician that, perhaps unintentionally, brings a smile to my face when she's on the page, despite the seriousness of the situation. Bobbie is interesting being the sole survivor of the opening attack. She doesn't play the political game, instead being completely frustrated at those that dance around issues rather than discussing them outright. Prax is the odd one out, if you could call him that. His daughter went missing during the events of the opening chapter, and he's desperate to find her. He hasn't got many resources at his disposal, and it's not until later on that his story starts to really build up speed as he becomes further integrated into the wider plot.

The plot to Caliban's War is good, but it doesn't have the focus I thought it would have on Venus and the protomolecule. There is plenty of action, intrigue, and entertainment to be had in Caliban's War, so it's unfair to say it's not enjoyable, but I was a little disappointed. There is no doubt that Corey is delivering some very good science fiction here, and the promise that the series holds is huge. Suffice to say, if you enjoyed Leviathan Wakes you'll find plenty here to keep you entertained. However, I'll be stepping into the third book, Abaddon's Gate, with a little more caution.

Paul Weimer  – (12 August 2013 at 11:14)  

Yeah, this book ignores the protomolecule on Venus more than I thought, and instead uses a different plot. I wasn't disappointed, just realized he had a three book series to do and needed a plot for this one...

Mark  – (12 August 2013 at 11:45)  

From what I gather the sries has been extended to even more books. While I understandf the need for other plots to fill the gaps, it just felt the whole protomolecule was neglected too much here. I still enjoyed the novel, I guess my expectations were skewed towards it :-/

Ron Buckmire  – (15 August 2013 at 00:54)  

Abbadon's Gate, the 3rd book, may be the best book of the series so far. I think Caliban's War was just slightly behind Leviathan Wakes. To me there's no question The Expanse is the most exciting series in modern sci-fi right now.

Mark  – (15 August 2013 at 10:57)  

That's good to know, thanks Ron. I'm hoping to get to it soon, it's already sitting on my to-read stack!

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