The TV show, The Expanse, prodded me to read this book. The first season ended, and I wanted to know what happened next. Leviathan Wakes contains season one and probably season two of The Expanse. The plot follows closely with some changes for the better. Miller’s partner isn’t murdered and there is more nuance. Due to an economy of time on the show, it seems like some characters were blended together and a character from the second book, Chrisjen Avasarala, was added.
The landscape (solarscape? spacescape?) of the novel is set with three competing factions: Earth, Mars, and Outer Planetary Alliance. Mars is its own independent government with a militaristic bent. Earth is seen as the spoiled child of the solar system. As for the Outer Planetary Alliance (OPA), they could be seen as an organization like the Palestinian Liberation Organization; just the similarity of OPA and PLO is too coincidental. The colonies of the outer planets are sick of being ruled by Earth and Mars and crave their independence. Meanwhile a cold war mentality exists between Earth and Mars with both superpowers keeping one another in check. Enter a powerful corporation with a secret agenda and shit blows up.
The main characters are James Holden, a charismatic officer on a doomed ice-hauling spaceship and Detective Miller, a sad-sack cop obsessed with finding a missing girl. There is a noir feeling to the novel as Miller searches for his missing person, as well as action-packed space battles that trend toward space opera.
One similarity that surprised was like Cixin Liu’s series, Remembrance of Earth’s Past, it seems that aliens preemptively launched a weapon at our solar system. Only in this case, the weapon stalled out billions of years ago. I’m not sure if I serendipitously read those series close to one another or if the policy of preemption is something current science fiction writers are exploring.
So, why should you read this book? There’s an interesting tangle of competing forces, it’s fast-paced and fun, the characters have more nuance than most in these types of books, and finally, it’s a good escape from reality.