Author: James S.A. Corey
Blurb: For generations, the solar system—Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt—was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus’s orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark.
Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.
Coming directly off Caliban’s War, I found this book to be a refreshing direction for the Expanse series. Last time, the focus was on mopping up the rest of the mess that started with the Protogen experiments on the protomolecule and wrapping up the hostilities between Earth and Mars that resulted from the “side effects” of those experiments. This time around, we move further into the exploration of the speculative elements of the Expanse’s universe, which will no doubt heavily contribute to the main storylines for the rest of the series.
This book introduced several new characters, a few of which were POV characters whose unique perspectives and positions in the storyline gave us a pretty in-depth view of the complex dynamics between Earth, Mars, and the Belt.
Anna, a civilian pastor, brings forth an interesting take on how humanity’s religious elements might respond to the possibility of a hyper-intelligent alien presence in the universe. Bull, stuck in an awkward position as an “Earther” in the OPA, reveals the internal friction between the various personalities vying to influence how Earth and Mars perceive the Belt. And Melba, who was intimately affected by the events of Caliban’s War, shows how the far reaching the main characters’ actions have been so throughout the series and just what kinds of consequences those actions may cause further down the line.
The plot of this book, like the characters, takes a new and fresh direction, upping the complexity of the universe’s rules and displaying how poorly humanity might react to such a fundamental shift in our understanding of reality. Like usual, there was a good mix of action and drama throughout the story, and it culminated in yet another exciting climactic sequence and a conclusion that sets up a new and interesting path for the later installments of the series.
Overall, I enjoyed this book just as much as I enjoyed Caliban’s War.