Friday, July 19, 2013

On Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Corey - REVIEW

Synopsis (per Goodreads):  

For generations, the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt – was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artefact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has emerged to build a massive structure outside the orbit of Uranus: a gate that leads into a starless dark.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artefact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.


This is book three in James S.A. Corey's The Expanse series.  Book three takes Holden and crew of the Roci out to the edge of the solar system where a mysterious ring has appeared, and it is through this ring where a majority of our story takes place - a starless void, an alien command station, a gateway.  This is a space opera, and as such, the overall plot surrounding the ring is only a small piece of the story.  What is a space opera, you ask?

I am by no means comparing The Expanse novels to Battlestar Galactica.  That would just be unfair.  However, the tone, the reliance on character development to drive the story, the extraterrestrial setting, put this in the same category at some level (this is not "hard sci-fi" where the emphasis is in scientific and/or technical detail).  

This being the third book in the series, it becomes a little easier to pick up on the writers' tendencies (side note: "writers'" is not a typo.  James S.A. Corey is actually two people).  As such, even though the story is unique from books one and two, even though there's character growth and additional characters added, the path of the story feels familiar.  

The blurb on the cover of the novel is something along the lines of "the closest to a Hollywood blockbuster in novel form as you can get" (I may be paraphrasing that).  That is Corey's style.  All three novels could easily be translated into film (should the science fiction scene become mainstream enough to necessitate the use of novels for additional content - and this is a possibility with Star Wars, Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc. hitting the screens).  

What I disliked:  Reliance on new characters to drive the story.  Holden and crew, though central to much of the "purpose" of the events taking place, seemed to take a back seat for a majority of the novel.    Book two also added several new characters (most of which do not make more of an appearance than an off-hand mention by the main cast of this tale), but the driving force behind book two remained the development of the Roci's crew, their relationships with each other, and with various political organizations of the solar system.  

That being said, the book is still an excellent read (don't judge my month-long timeframe to get through the novel as an indication of my enjoyment as there were just too many personal reasons for my lack of reading lately).  Is Abaddon's Gate as good as book one (Leviathan Wakes)?  No.  I'd also venture so far as to say it was not quite the level of book two (Calaban's War) either.  But, the authors that are James S.A. Corey know how to entertain, and I will read the continued (mis)adventures of Holden and crew as they deal with the ramifications of the conclusion of Abaddon's Gate (I'll leave this mostly spoiler free).  Though these novels are generally in the 500 page range, they read like candy - like a popcorn flick.  


  1. I think the 2nd book is my favorite, I loved the side characters in that one. And I heard a rumor that the Corey gents are writing 3 more Expanse novels. And you're right, this series does have a sort of BSG dynamic, maybe BSG minus cylons but plus Firefly? in my head, Holden always sounds like Mal Reynolds.

    1. Yes, I also read that they are signed to write up to #6 so far. Good news! I don't read a lot of science fiction, but The Expanse is up there with books I'm really looking forward to.