Leviathan Wakes (Amazon) is the first book of the Expanse series.
First of all, a warning: Buy this book on a Friday evening. You might not get much sleep after starting reading.
I admit that I felt uneasy after reading the first scene in the “Look Inside” sample chapter. Julie’s fate made me wonder whether this was going to become splatter & gore later. That didn’t happen. The author does use violence when it makes sense at that point in the story. It’s still repugnant but it makes sense.
Which is the strong point: Everyone in the book is smart. There aren’t any stereotype evil guys. Everyone – protagonists and side characters – has a clear plan, a goal, means and will to achieve that goal – even if someone else is getting in the way. If something goes wrong, it goes wrong for a reason. If people make mistakes, they make them because it seemed a really good idea at the time. Shit happens. A lot of shit. The hard-boiled cop and the righteous ex-military, scraping off each other. Each absolutely sure that their course of action isn’t the best but only viable solution. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about cop vs. military. This is the struggle of two completely different characters that need to achieve the same goal and who actually get along pretty well. If one of them isn’t broadcasting information that might kill thousands of people in riots. And the other isn’t shooting people in the head in cold blood because he believes them dangerous sociopaths that might get away with their crimes.
The story takes many twists and turns, never losing enough speed to get boring, but with slower sections to allow the reader to put down the book. To handle the most pressing human urges. Eating. Drinking. Restroom. Reading on to know what happens next.
Characters: Great individuals. Most of them seem to be the usual stereotypes but cracks appear pretty quickly. People get away and people die. I cared. Well done.
World: He doesn’t go into much physics and cuts a few corners (distances are probably not quite right and flight times are probably not accurate) but the world as a whole makes sense. After reading the book, you have a feeling how Ceres and Eros look on the in- and outside, and how they work. Medicine is advanced but not almighty. If your bones break, you’re mobile again after a few minutes but it still takes the bone some weeks to heal.
I have only two minor points of criticism: When Julie comes out of her locker after four days without water, she passes a lot of ship but doesn’t stop to find something to drink. I could imagine that she’s too frightened to stop and get killed but there is no hint either way in her thoughts.
And there is no trace of information how everyone makes sure they don’t get contaminated with the “virus” as they enter and leave infected areas. A few sentences about medical checkups and decontamination would have worked wonders.
Apart from that, I loved the many details.
Q: What’s the most important part of a military ship?
A: A coffee machine that spits out good stuff no matter free fall or 5 g acceleration.