After the awfulness of Cibola Burn, Nemesis Games by James Corey reinvigorates the Expanse series with a necessary return to the core of the narrative: character-driven, space adventures wrapped in political intrigue.
The crew of the Rocinante find themselves back on Tycho Station after travelling to Ilus. Their ship is beat to hell and they’re dry-docked for six months awaiting repairs. It’s the perfect time to split them all up and explore some back story.
Amos returns to his homeworld and we see the underbelly of Earth: criminals, drug-dealers, prostitutes and scammers living off of basic or opting out of the system. We learn about Amos’ past and some of those he ran with. Along the way he visits Clarissa Mao in prison. Then, all hell breaks loose.
Alex heads to the Red Planet looking to visit his ex-wife unannounced. Yeah, it’s about as good an idea as it sounds. He meets up with Bobbie, one of the most exciting minor characters out of the series and together they get drawn into a mystery about missing ships. Then, all hell breaks loose.
Naomi receives a message from someone in her past and is dragged back into her old OPA cell. A favor turns into something more and then, you guessed it, all hell breaks loose.
He is sort of his own planet which the others revolve. He stays with the Rocinante overseeing repairs and missing everyone. Monica, the reporter from Abaddon’s Gate, contacts him about missing ships. Since Holden is so bored and distracted he starts to dig and then, the hell, it breaks loose.
A Recipe for Hell Breaking Loose
First, threaten the purpose of Mars. Why work generations to terraform a planet when humanity now has access to hundreds of habitable worlds? Second, create a schism in the OPA, with hardliners resisting Fred Johnson’s diplomatic approach. How are belters going to live on these new planets? Their way of life is threatened too. Third, combine with Holden, the shining knight looking to fix things; a badass, former, Martian marine; a sociopath with astounding loyalty; a smart engineer who makes MacGyver look like an amateur; an amazing pilot; and a ruthless politician. Shake well. Add fusion and serve.
Nemesis Games by James Corey pushes the series into new places. When the book is finished the landscape is forever changed and it leaves the reader guessing what will happen next. A lesser writing duo might have taken an easier path; but Corey takes a major risk and it pays off. Again, if you were like me, and thought about quitting after Abaddon’s Gate, don’t quit. Abaddon’s Gate was hopefully an aberration from which the team learned. There are no death slugs and sexist depictions of women.