The Expanse is a recent science fiction series by James S.A. Corey. At present it consists of two novels (Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War), a short story I have not read, “The Butcher of Anderson Station,” and a novella, Gods of Risk. I thought I saw a notice on Amazon that a third novel is scheduled for next year, but I can’t seem to find it now. It’s a pity, because I want to read it.
The Expanse stands out among the science fiction novels I’ve read recently; most seem to either take place on Earth, or out in a vast galaxy. Corey, on the other hand, has taken a page from Larry Niven and Robert Heinlein, and set up his world firmly in our Solar System. Earth and Mars are the dominant powers; the Belt and stations and moon habitats in the outer system are generally controlled by one or the other, though there’s a growing movement toward Belt independence. Earth and Mars don’t trust each other, and neither trust the Belters; and then a small Belter-owned merchant ship falls to pirates. The rescue ship is destroyed, and there are signs that Mars is responsible.
Yes, what we have here is thrilling tale of interplanetary politics, intrigue, terrorism, corporate greed and the like…but there’s more to it than that. Because there is something very odd on that small, Belter-owned merchant ship, something that’s going to change everything, and probably not for the better.
There are two main characters. The first is Jim Holden. He’s the XO of an ice hauler in the belt; he and the remnants of his crew stumble upon the pirated ship and find that their lives have taken an abrupt left turn. The second is Detective Miller, a cop on Ceres, a place where they don’t have laws; they have policemen. A Belter working for an Earth security firm, he’s in an unpleasant position. Much of the book takes place in the Belt; one of the little details that I really liked are all of the various gestures the Belters use in place of nods, shrugs, and the like (because nods and shrugs aren’t visible in a pressure suit).
The books are thrilling and horrific by turns (zombies, Julie, there are zombies!); they are somewhat marred in my view by a lot of fairly coarse language and sexual references. On the other hand, they aren’t particularly graphic (except for the zombies). Corey’s not quite as good as Jack McDevitt, but I expect to buy the next book in the series when it becomes available.