Tiamat's Wrath by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Eight doorstopper-sized books in (with one more remaining in the series), The Expanse is still chugging along. This makes it sound like the series is slowing down, and it most certainly isn't. Quite the opposite: it's revving up for the final showdown with the enemy, the aliens that destroyed a galaxy-spanning civilization a few billion years ago and which our stupid humans woke up. You would think this would steer into "Bambi vs. Godzilla" territory, but the authors (James S.A. Corey is actually two people, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) have seeded quite a few things which should come to fruition in the final book.
(However, there's a good reason this book was dedicated to George R.R. Martin, and if you think about it for a moment, you'll realize what it is. Anything else would be descending into some pretty severe spoiler territory, so I'll leave it at that.)
I've read the first four books in the series, then skipped Nos. 5-7. However, with three of the main viewpoint characters in this book being familiar faces (Alex, Naomi and Bobbie, as well as Elvi from book 4, Cibola Burn) it didn't take long for me to get up to speed. The crew of the Rocinante is split apart, dealing with a military dictatorship that took over Sol system using alien protomolecule technology. Alex and Bobbie are on another ship entirely, engaging in Belter-style guerrilla warfare; Naomi is hiding, working for the underground; and Holden is being held as a political prisoner in the dictatorship's home system. Elvi is on the dictatorship's science ship, visiting systems with billion(s)-year-old artifacts in an attempt to learn more about the long-extinct makers of the ring gates. But this mission has a hidden motive, a "tit-for-tat" response to humanity's discovery of the second alien species. (Which, on its face, is profoundly stupid, but you know. Dictatorships gonna dictate, even when all rational response shouts that they should quietly tiptoe away.)
These books are big, sweeping space opera, with some fairly hard science fiction in the worldbuilding. Multiple POV characters are used here, but since many of them are familiar to us from previous books, it's easy for the reader to slide into the flow of the narrative (although you shouldn't start the series with this book). Of the new characters, Teresa, the teenage daughter of the Laconian dictator Winston Duarte, goes on the most interesting journey. And then there's Amos...but that's a paragraph's worth of spoiler territory all by itself.
This book was 530 pages, but it held my interest throughout. I don't know when the ninth and final book is going to come out--sometime next year, maybe?--and the way this is setting up, that's going to be a helluva ride.
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