Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey


A friend of mine observed that I don't do things by halves after watching me add every single piece of fiction in the Expanse universe to my To-Read list after finishing both seasons of the TV show and getting about 70% of the way through Leviathan Wakes. The truth is, I do some thing by halves; there are series of books that I enjoy, but that I've been dragging my heels on for years for one reason or another. I let goals go half-completed, and even more often I abandon TV shows mid-season if they haven't sufficiently hooked me. But The Expanse is not one of those things. From the moment I finished the first episode of the first season of the TV show, I knew I was in; I knew that finally, finally, someone was making TV that reached down into my sci-fi loving, character-driven heart and hooked it. I watched the two seasons of the TV show that are currently out in eight days. I don't do that. For those of you that don't know me, know this. I don't do that. And when I was done with the TV show, I needed more, so I turned to the books.

Which is what I'm actually supposed to be reviewing here. The first book, to be exact. I promise, the context is important. My experience with the TV show had a pretty big influence on how I read this book. The first thing that I have to say about Leviathan Wakes is that it's more limited that The Expanse; while the in The Expanse (and in most TV) we have what amounts to a more omniscient narrator in the form of the camera so that we get to see what's going on with multiple characters, in the book we are pretty deeply in the viewpoints of two of our characters: Miller and Holden, and while what the camera shows is pretty neutral, and shows us what's going on around Holden and Miller, in Leviathan wakes we only get what they actively notice because we're so much closer to being inside their heads. While Miller is one of my favorite characters, and I'd be hard-pressed to pick any of the crew on the Rocinante that I did have fond feelings toward, Holden simply doesn't notice his crew, particularly Alex and Amos, in the same way that we get to see them on screen. They're the pilot and the mechanic, and they do their jobs, and they have opinions, and they have particular mannerisms that set them apart from each other, but Holden doesn't actively feel his affection for the two of them very often, which can't help but influence how the reader feels about these versions of Alex and Amos.

The positive of being in Holden's deep point of view, though, is how much attention he pays to Naomi. In the TV show she's a relatively mysterious character. She's clearly competent, but it's hard to tell what her motivations are until you're well into the series and she starts to open up some. We don't get much more of her backstory in Leviathan Wakes, but what we do get is Holden's rock-solid trust that if there's something that needs to be fixed, she'll fix it; we get her intelligence, and her unshakable dedication to keep the crew alive. We get the little details that Holden notices about her, and an overall deeper and more rounded feel for who Naomi is than I did from the TV show. Don't get me wrong, I love show-Naomi. But book-Naomi fills in some gaps that I was missing, and when I re-watch the show, I'll love her even more for having those gaps filled in. I just wish that I'd gotten that for everyone on the Roci's crew, not just Naomi.

There's also some plotlines & characters that were prominently featured in the show that don't show up until the later books in the series. I missed them here, but their absense really only whets my appetite for the later books in this series.

In the end, I'd have to say that this book was pretty damn good, and I'm going to be powering through the rest of the books in the series pretty quickly. I love this Universe. I've gotta know what happens next. But. But. It's the TV show that hooked me first, and the TV show that's got the complexity of characters and plot that I really enjoy. Of course, this is just the first book in a series that I've been told definitely keeps up the quality; if it does that while adding more viewpoints and delving more deeply into characters that maybe we didn't have time for in the first book, I can't definitely see myself enjoying this series more the deeper that I go.

Highly recommend you check out the show, and once you finish that, come back here and get some of the worldbuilding, political, and character details that you'll probably be craving.

4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.