Saturday, March 10, 2012

Leviathan Wakes by "James S. A. Corey"

The quote marks will be explained in a bit.

This was an enjoyable and well crafted read.As the cover promised, it is "a really kickass space opera."

Unfortunately, the book has a slightly weak start, after a very suspenseful prologue. In fact, at first I kept reading simply because I wanted to know what had happened to the character in the prologue. The characters it switched to in the first chapter seemed flat and stereotypical - the old fashioned XO, the tough female EO. (At one point, I actually said to someone that if another tough female officer appeared, I was going to put the book down. But luckily that didn't happen till much later, when I had gotten sucked back into the story, and forgotten about my silly declaration.)

As soon as the action started up again, things got better. The XO kept making mistakes, which transformed his character from an archetype to a much more rounded character. The space-based "world" was gritty and full of nuanced detail, just the way I like it. I was very impressed that some Chinese words were used in the slang of the Belters (people that grew up in the asteroid belt) and they were actually the right words. Just enough other details were dropped about space station- and ship-board life to feel the differentness of life in space. And very impressively, when minor characters died they were named AND their sacrifices were remembered.

Still, and although I know space opera is not hard science fiction and therefore not thoroughly grounded in hard, plausible science, the vague descriptions and improbable powers of an alien molecule that plays a huge role in the plot bothered me a little. But I was willing to overlook it for all the other excellent things I mentioned above.

I was pretty impressed that one new and unknown author managed to turn out such a well-crafted, almost ingenious novel. Then I found out that "James S. A. Corey" wasn't a person at all, but the pen name of two writers - one of whom is George R.R. Martin's assistant. And that the two of them were helped along by an all star team of other authors. Well no wonder! The book is still a good read, but less impressive an achievement. Still, I'd highly recommend it, and am looking forward  to finding the sequel.

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