This review was originally written in early 2016
Leviathan Wakes is, without a doubt, the beginning of something amazing. I have the next two books in the series and I am looking forward to reading those as well as the additional novels I don’t own yet.
I owned this book for about three years without ever picking it up from my book shelf (I had pretty much forgotten about it) and I may have continued to neglect it were it not for The Expanse being produced by SyFy. Sadly, I watched the first season of the series before reading this novel and I don’t like doing that…but I don’t feel like it was detrimental in any way. I’d like to discuss a couple of the differences for those who have only either read the book or seen the television show before I do anything else.
There are some pretty dramatic differences between the book and the series, the biggest being that the first season ends about 3/5 of the way through the narrative of the first novel, which is something I truly hope SyFy addresses with the second season since there is a lot going on in that third act of the story.
The other major difference between the book and the television series is that we aren’t introduced to the political environment and maneuvering taking place on Earth in the novel, though I appreciate that additional subplot from the show and actually kind of wish it had been part of the book.
Beyond that, the differences are really quite minimal, some characters who don’t quite line up between the two mediums (either because of descriptions that don’t match up with the casting for the series or because the personalities/interactions are just a little bit off) and a couple of plot points that play out a touch differently or occasionally in different sequence…but those aren’t as troubling as they could be.
Written by James S.A. Corey (a fictional person, really the collaboration between Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), this is one hell of an ambitious novel, successfully weaving space opera, militaristic science fiction, and noir mystery into an exciting, intense, and sometimes even scary tapestry.
The stated goal of the authors was to fill in the gap that is almost always present where science fiction is concerned. Typically we either end up with near-future cyberpunk or dystopian stories or distant future space operas and the like taking place after we have spread throughout the galaxy or even the universe itself. This book (and presumably the whole series) provides the reader with a suitably rich and detailed vision of what we have between those intervals, during the time when we are still colonizing our own solar system and only just considering setting our sights further into what we have beyond our galactic neighborhood.
The interactions between Miller and Holden (as well as their separate storylines) are fantastic and well-written enough that the two protagonists really do provide vastly different lenses through which the same events are being experienced. We see a lot of that in The Expanse, but there is a lot of subtext that gets lost in translation between the two mediums.
After reading this book I am determined to pick up some of Daniel Abraham’s fantasy novels, which I might have ended up doing anyhow. The man is an excellent author and Ty Franck clearly learned a thing or two while working for George R.R. Martin where grand, sweeping narratives and visceral (almost punishing) inevitability in narratives are concerned.
Whether you have already seen The Expanse or simply want to read an excellent science fiction novel, I have to recommend reading Leviathan Wakes.