Book Review of “Caliban’s War,” the Second of the “Expanse” Series

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Promotional artwork for the novel “Caliban’s War”

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Not long ago, I reviewed the first book in the “Expanse” series Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). Almost always when I read and review the first book in some series, I tend to wander off in a different direction afterward. I did that for N.K. Jemisin’s Hugo award winning The Fifth Season, for David Weber’s On Basilisk Station, for Martha Wells’ All Systems Red, and in fact, for just about every book I’ve reviewed, regardless of how well I did (or didn’t) like them.

However, “Leviathan” really hooked me, so much so, that I immediately checked book two out of the public library. I just finished reading Caliban’s War and absolutely loved it. The quality was just as high as for “Leviathan.” I was reintroduced to familiar characters such as Holden, Naomi, Alex, and Amos as well as new characters such as Prax, Bobbie, and Avasarala.

It begins on the Jovian moon Ganymede, the “bread basket of the belt,” which is the best location to grow the food needed for the colonized asteroids. It’s the best place for pregnant women to gestate to term. It’s also, apparently, the best place to spawn protomolecule monsters.

It begins with a lonely scientist Prax whose 5-year-old daughter is covertly kidnapped from school and, with other children like her, spirited away from Ganymede to an unknown destination. With the Moon devastated by a battle between UN and Martian forces, Prax is left a desolate, shattered man crying desperately for help in finding where his precious Mei has been taken.

It begins with a Martian Marine named Bobbie, the only survivor of an attack on Ganymede by an altered protomolecule creature. She is taken to Earth to testify before the UN and inadvertently labeled a traitor.

It begins with Holden and the crew of the Rocinante, who become estranged from the OCP and their benefactor Fred, then, in the guise of providing relief to the refugees left on Ganymede, become swept into intrigue, deception, and war.

And at the center of it all, a little girl who might have already become a destructive, alien killing machine.

But lest we forget, there are strange happenings under the clouds of Venus now that the protomolecule asteroid Eros has crashed into the planet. It is turning into…something.

Honestly, I couldn’t read this book fast enough. It’s suspenseful from the first page until the last.

I have to admit, I didn’t like Prax much at first. I thought he was more focused on his dying crops than on his daughter, but in spite of the lack of ability and “credentials,” he became a true hero and the Dad every little girl should have; one who’ll never give up on his child no matter what the odds.

Bobbie is a warrior without a cause. No, that’s not right. She has a cause, to find who and what is creating a new generation of monsters and to kill them in retribution for the slaughter of her fellow Marines. Finding herself in the service of a high ranking UN official Avasarala, she doesn’t know whether to be grateful to her or to hate her. Yet, this bureaucrat is her only chance at redemption, or a warrior’s death.

Avasarala sees everything as a political game and discovers much to her surprise that despite her sophistication, education, and experience that the game can become very deadly, especially when she becomes the next target of the sinister plot to engineer new protomolecule creatures of war.

I hadn’t paid that much attention to him before, but if I were ever in a dangerous situation and I had to pick one person in this book, and maybe one fictional person period to have my back, it would be Amos. Amos and Prax couldn’t be more different and most of the time, Prax finds himself in worlds he cannot possibly cope with. Amos not only protects him but becomes his friend.

In addition to the action, the characterizations are solid. I could “feel” the personalities of each character and found myself drawn to them. It’s a shame they’re not real, except that my imagination and very good writing makes them real.

If The Expanse TV series even approaches the quality writing of the first two books, then it must be outstanding; absolutely head and shoulders above the rest of the crap you’ll find streaming on the web.

I’ve already checked out the third book in the series: Abaddon’s Gate. I start reading it tonight.

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