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Book Review- “Abaddon’s Gate” by James S.A. Corey

September 3, 2015 Leave a comment

Abaddon's_Gate_(first_edition) I don’t do reviews of them, but late last year I began listening to audio books, while I drive. They’ve proven to be a fun and fulfilling way to pass the time while doing an activity I’m not a fan of. A lot of what I’ve been listening to are books that I always thought looked great, but never got around to for some reason or another. One such series was the acclaimed “Expanse” novels by the two writers who use the collective pen name of James S.A. Corey. I’m glad I tried them because they’re living up to the hype surrounding them.

They take place in this great “lived in” style future reminiscent of television shows like “Firefly” or the new “Battlestar Galactica” where humanity has colonized the solar system. Things are better in some ways, but humanity still suffers from many of the same problems like greed and tribalism. Corporations along with the governments of Earth and Mars are the predominant forces within the solar system while the impoverished asteroid colonies and further out planets look to aid from a burgeoning almost revolutionary style group called the Outer Planets Alliance. Against that back drop a series of exciting and fun narratives that involves high adventures and almost “X-Files” style conspiracy/mystery unfold.

I was able to listen to the first two books in the series: “Leviathan Wakes,” and “Caliban’s War” via audio books from my local library, but my library didn’t have the third book in the series “Abaddon’s Gate” available via audio. So I had to seek that out via print. It was a little weird shifting narrative mediums, but once I got used to it “Abaddon’s Gate” proved to be just as a fun and a fulfilling read as the other books in the series.

This is a good point in the review to stop and warn you. I try to keep my reviews as spoiler free as possible, but seeing as how “Abaddon’s Gate” is the third book in a series it’s going to be hard to discuss it without spoiling some things from the previous books. So if you have not yet read “Leviathan Wakes” of “Caliban’s War” consider this the point of return. Turn back now and go read (or listen) to those books! You’ll be glad you did. They’re fantastic, and don’t worry we’ll wait for you!

Like the previous books in the series “Abaddon’s Gate” unfolds as a series of point of view style chapters where we follow a JamesSACoreyparticular character and the characters that are in their metaphorical and in some cases literal orbit. The main group of course is Captain James Holden and the crew of his ship The Rocinante who helped save the solar system in the last two novels. I’ve grown to really love Holden, his girlfriend and the ships X.O Naomi Nagata, ship’s pilot Alex Kamal, and the Roci’s chief engineer Amos Burton.

Of the four, Holden and Amos are probably my favorites. Holden is a great mix of a Mal Reynolds type with the idealism of someone like Captain Kirk. Amos is one of those fascinating characters that you often see in crime fiction that stick with a noble hero and protect them and their idealism by doing things that might be a little morally murky like Robert B Parker’s Hawk or Robert Crais’ Joe Pike. Holden is the Roci crew member who gets his own P.O.V. chapter, but I’ve love to see future books featuring an Amos chapter or even ones that follow Naomi or Alex.

The other POV chapters feature all new characters. The first new P.O.V. chapter introduces readers to Carlos “Bull” de Bacca a world weary veteran of the OPA who gets assigned as head of security on a massive ship called the Behemoth. Then we’re introduced to Melba, a mysterious woman with a grudge against James Holden. The final new POV character is Anna Volovodov a Methodist Minister.

Initially I wasn’t happy about these new characters because I wanted some P.O.V. chapters from Martian Marine Roberta “Bobbi” Draper or foul mouthed UN politician Chrissjen Avasarala, two of my favorite characters from the last novel. I really enjoyed getting to know these new characters though. I took to Bull right away. Anna’s decency and care for the wellbeing of her fellow man also won me over. Melba initially proved to be a very frustrating character, but I think that’s the point. She also goes on a pretty fascinating journey over the course of the novel.

We get to know these characters and get to follow the crew of the Roci again as they embark upon a journey to the mysterious gateway in space constructed by that the alien protomolecule at the end of the last novel. It seems a lone ship has travelled through it. So the Martian, Earth, and OPA Navies are sending a flotilla of ships to investigate. Holden and his crew receive a contract that leads to them being part of the flotilla.

Now we head into spoiler territory and I don’t want to ruin any of the novels wonderful twists and surprises. So I’m going to talk generally. The mystery of the gate and what might be on it’s other side is a large part of the plot of “Abaddon’s Gate.” The answers the authors provide you with are pretty satisfying and they ultimately lead to some big pay offs.

Those answers also set up some phenomenal action scenes that are really character driven. There isn’t as much ship to ship combat as there was in previous books, but the last half of the novel is full of exciting, twisty, and often poignant action. You got to see a lot of characters pushed to their limits and then some. They were scenes that illustrated the heroism and humanity of many of the book’s characters. The novel was pretty perfectly paced too.

So “Abbadon’s Gate” was my first print Expanse novel, but it proved to be just as great an experience as listening to the series on audio. The ending of the book introduces a set up that will make future novels even more interesting. So I’m excited to read future books in the series and I’m also very curious about Syfy’s television adaptation of the series, which begins in December. If it’s even half as good as the books it will be amazing because for me “The Expanse” is quickly becoming one of the most fun and fascinating series in scifi.

Categories: Book Review