Sometimes I think books should count as two, especially when they are 561 pages such as Leviathan wakes by James S.A. Corey. However, despite its size, it truly was a fast read considering, due to the plausible premise, compelling storytelling, and interesting characters of this sci-fi mystery novel. It is the first in the Expanse series, which has also been made into a tv show although the book contains much more depth and detail.
While no year is given, the story is set in the distant future in which Mars has a stable military colony, something disastrous happened to Earth that changed the environment in certain areas, and there are additional human colonies throughout the solar system on stations and moons. Enough time has passed that people born and raised in space alone have different features, being extra tall and lanky among other things–referred to as “belters”. Mars and Earth have a love/hate relationship at this point. The three groups just barely get alone since everyone needs the others to fully survive as they trade resources and provide services or goods unique to their group. However, war breaks out flamed by tension and mistrust between them all, which only obscures the real threat going on that very few know about and a handful are trying to stop it.
The novel consists of alternating chapters by two main characters: Detective Miller and Captain Holden. Miller is a belter working on a missing person’s case until he gets fired when the war breaks out. Holden was part of a larger crew when he and a few other crew members got separated from the rest and saved from the attack on their main ship, making him the new captain on their smaller shuttle; unwittingly, he sets off the war when he broadcasts the evidence of the attack, not knowing at the time that it was all a set-up to allow a greedy corporation to do human experiments with alien technology that they discovered and kept to themselves, believing they could profit from it. However, the alien technology is more of a virus than realized so wreaks havoc and devastation. Miller and Holden, first separately then together, work to expose and correct the actions of the devious corporation in order to save humanity.
Corey writes such a realistic and plausible colonized space, describing the environmental systems running the space stations, negative effects of space travel and the countermeasures in place to counteract them, as well as the aging technology in need of further upgrade that’s not receiving it. Many times sci-fi only showcases shiny, new technology and space travel with zero consequences on the mind and body, but Leviathan wakes captures a more wholistic view and places the story in a “lived in” world, at a time in which space colonies are boring, typical, everyday life. It’s a great take on life in space and likely would eventually happen if we ever actually colonized the solar system. The plot is then more about humanity than space, in that regard.
There’s a great mix of characters and personalities, several of whom the story follows closely. Their perspectives are unique and many times they have to either convince each other or explain their reasoning, which deepens the plots and characters.
Yes! Sci-fi fans will love it, along with anyone who likes space novels or pondering humanity and the fragility of it. Word of caution, there’s a good amount of gore and descriptions about how the alien virus-like technology as it transforms its human victims that can be a bit disturbing. Due to this, it’s more adult reading even though older teens could understand it. Still, it’s a great novel and very enjoyable read. I can’t wait to read more books in the series!