Leviathan Wakes James S.A. Corey
Mar 22, 2016 review (read between Mar 6, 2016 – Mar 7, 2016)
1st reading read review on Goodreads
I remember reading about Leviathan Wakes a few years ago on some ‘best sci-fi novel of the year’ list, then promptly forgot about it until my friend Andrei recommended it to me. I have a policy to try to read all books recommended to me, so promptly ordered it off Amazon. I was expecting a ~300 page mass paperback novel, so was a bit surprised when I received a ~600 page paperback trade paperback book. The 600 pages, however, went by quickly, and I was soon left wanting more.
Leviathan Wakes tells its story through two primary narrators (excluding the creepy prologue): the charismatic but self-righteous idiot Jim Holden and the solitary and brooding space detective Miller. The two are caricatures of the cheap generic sci-fi archetypes you see littered throughout the genre, but become fleshed out through the pages into almost realistic characters via their convincing inner monologues and interactions with an amazing supporting cast. They both have their faults, but they are also both painfully aware of them. They have their differences, and struggle to make things work with each other for the greater good. This certainly makes for compelling reading, even if some of the chapters have some overlap with each other. Every chapter is a page turner, and even if a chapter doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, you want to continue reading to see the other narrating character’s reaction to the situation at hand.
The world constructed in Leviathan Wakes is compelling, as well. The technology portrayed in the book isn’t over the top. Life and combat in space is portrayed as being technologically advanced but also incredibly dangerous and frail. The culture, economics, and politics of each planet, moon, asteroid, and space station are carefully and realistically crafted. Communication in the solar system isn’t instant. There is no faster-than-light travel, but something good enough that has opened humanity to the different planets and celestial bodies within the solar system. This last bit of world building, in my opinion, was a great decision by the authors. It keeps the scope of the narrative large enough to keep the stakes high and far-reaching, all the while supplying a steady stream of new and unique environments and characters, but not too expansive to potentially dilute the gravity of the situation.
The few problems I do have with the book mainly comes from the fact that ‘James S.A. Corey’ is the pen name for a pair of authors, one of them being the assistant to the famous George R. R. Martin, of A Song of Ice and Fire fame. For better or for worse, this naturally draws me to make comparisons between the two series. And the parallels (or maybe they’re just story beats my brain unconsciously binned together because I’m looking for parallels) I found are probably the weakest elements in the book. Or maybe I think they’re the weakest because I think they’re parallels. I found the threat that plagues humanity to be a bit too similar to the threat beyond the Walls in ASOIAF. The little explanation offered for how this particular threat worked as out-of-place in an otherwise strikingly believable world. Same goes to the threat’s unexplained capabilities and functions. Even the storytelling style of constantly switching narrators seemed like a rip of ASOIAF.
But honestly? When a 600-page book can make me tear through it in two nights and promptly order the next book of the series, it means I don’t have too much to complain about.