Leviathan Wakes me up...
I really don't get to read anywhere near as much as I would like and that gets coupled with ever diminishing reading speeds as you get 'out of practice'. Suddenly there just isn't enough time in the day or night to get in to the book you just paid for and got kind of excited about in the book store... and yet, something brought me back in to the bookstore anyway (predominantly graphic novels, to be honest) but I just can't help myself just to look a few shelves up and take a gander at what else is floating on through the collective readersphere.
On this occasion my eyes fell upon the spine of Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse 1) by James S. A. Corey. Never heard of you...
Slapped on the front of the book, right at the top, almost to compare with the title of the book itself (which is, in my opinion, a grave insult to any book) the commendation of George R. R. Martin himself: 'kickass space opera'. I nearly put the book right back there and then based solely on my loathing for Martin's only notable work. But the cover is a pretty blue and, on the back, as part of my book-teasing ritual goes, I still read the blurbs and the basic gumpf about the story, already expecting thorough disappointment and a quick trip to the shower when I get home. Charles Stross likens it to the epic works of Peter F. Hamilton... Oh really? The back of the book offers a nice, vague splash of what's going on - we've only managed to colonise the solar system, everything after that is simply too far away and we're not THAT advanced yet... Two primary characters, one an XO on a water mining and transport hauler, the other a cop employed by a corporate security company tasked with keeping the peace on the Asteroid colony of Ceres, both destined to meet as intersystem shenanigans kick off: the promise of planetary disarray, vile and horrid machinations, dead things and more.
Okay... Test one is passed! You have me looking inside the book, teach me something!
Turns out that James S. A. Corey is two guys, one of which has worked with Martin previously and, likely currently as an 'assistant'. Well, I shan't hold it against them, but the sliver of fear drips back in to me like a saline I.V. feed as the idea of being exposed to more GoT-like drama doesn't endear me one bit.
Okay, so I hit the teaser page - it's all or nothing. Books have often had the little teaser-hook page at the beginning for this very reason: the cover, the quotes, the writer and the synopsis have left you unsure of whether or not you should commit your money and time to this book, both of which are of paramount value so this shit had better be worth it. Well, it checked out... I took the chance.
The writing style is free-flowing, uninhibited by the scale of it's surroundings (namely the vastness of space) with a constant reminder that space is BIG and not awfully friendly. Dialogue is fun and punchy, with character interactions that actually made me laugh out loud - not something that often happens with a book and myself; I'm ordinarily able to float through a book and utterly absorb it but without a shift of vocal expression. In this case, not so: I found myself laughing with some of the dialogue, answering back to the characters as they divulged their intnetions and agendas, even being so much as actively non-plussed when certain characters died. What made things even more engaging was that I became aware that this book was one I was thinking about during and after reading it (hence this review). I found it inspiring and little crazy, not to mention that there's a rumour that someone's looking at turning it in to a TV series with Thomas Jayne playing Joe Miller (the cop).
Ultimately, the book had been so fast paced, so plausible in its understanding of flinging things through space, consistant in its characterisation and, where it needed to be, horrid and funny without regret or hesitation, that I found it increasingly hard to put down. In fact, I got to the point where I was having late nights sitting up in bed with a naughty little night-light presenting page after page of relentless science fiction. Coupled with the fact that I am seemingly going off medieval / fantasy literature to the point where I have all but wrapped up Saga on it 26th chapter and wondered whether or not I would write stories again given my personal constraints, Leviathan Wakes has really powered up the old main fusion drive and placed my imagination in to a gravity couch for some high-g maneuvering. If nothing else, it's offered me a real host of different tangents to consider, especially from the'living in space' line of thinking.
I don't care for comparing entertainment to other entertainment, but in the instance that I can find a compelling arguement not to do it, Leviathan Wakes reminds me of a cross between Clarke's 2001, Haldeman's The Forever War and Posthuman Studios' Eclipse Phase. All of which I thoroughly adore. So much so, I've already acquired the following book Caliban's War with teh promise of Abadon's Gate and Cibola Burn to follow, with rumours of more to come.
If you like science fiction with a touch of horror, a simplified political hot-pot and an entirely gut-wrenching, physics-abiding jaunt through our own solar system, then this could well be the book for you. I'd give it a 10, but until books, games, movies and such make me do something that would otherwise never happen, 9 will have to do...
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey
Published by Orbit Books
Also available as an e-book.