Review: Caliban’s War

Caliban's War (Expanse, #2)Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vomit zombies, a missing child, a possibly sentient planet, a foul-mouthed grandmother politician, dirty-dealing intra-galaxy feuds, a kickass Polynesian warrior, a noble rogue spaceship captain, a brilliant scientist on the edge of despair—this book has everything you could want and more. It’s an engrossing space epic that lives up to the expectations of the first book and leads you desperate for the next one.
If you’re a fan of modern sci-fi shows like Firefly or Battlestar Galactica, and yearn for the depth offered by Asimov or the wicked-cool ideas about how real people would operate in space like in Ender’s Game, this is a book–a series!–you’ll need to pick up.

Following the first (also excellent) book Leviathan’s Wake, Caliban’s War opens with the personal drama of a kidnapped girl and the reappearance of a monster that can survive in the void of space and quickly spirals out to encompass a battle that stretches from Jupiter to Mars.

Our honorable but now-hardened Captain Holden stumbles into the kidnapping and can’t help himself from vowing to find her. Her father, Prax, a biologist from the solar system’s breadbasket planet on Ganymede, guides the crew of the Rocinante as they hurtle from planet to planet to unravel the mystery: who would kidnap a sick little girl…and many other children? And who unleashed the protomolecule monster that attacked hard-line Martian Marine Bobbie and her entire crew?

It turns out the bad apples from the previous book aren’t quite gone, but this time it’s beyond what Holden’s blurt-to-the-system go-to strategy can handle. Luckily he is saved by the fantastically written Avarasala, a shrewd and calculating–but ultimately good-hearted–politician from Earth (I sure wouldn’t want to get on her bad side!).

There are so many great, well-rounded characters in this book that it’s hard to make space for all of them in this review: just trust me. And still I get the thrill of adventure with the incredible, believable, descriptions of humans trying to accommodate life outside of Earth. Everything from the effects of different gravities on human development to what kind of plants would be most beneficial to grow on a space station, to the cultural issues that may stem from human colonies on vastly different planets–it’s a pleasure.

The only thing I can think to ding in this book is that it’s set in the far-ish future and yet frequently references 20th-century American cultural touchpoints (will Alien really still be relevant when we’re actually living in orbit around Jupiter?) but that’s done for the reader’s benefit, not for the realism. And it’s a heckuva lot of fun, I can’t deny.

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