Review: Caliban’s War
Where are the great Science Fiction series? It seems like there are dozens of fantasy series out there. A new fantasy book doesn’t come out that isn’t part of a series. It’s actually getting the fantasy authors to finish their series that’s the problem now a days. But Science Fiction? Where are the series? You could make a case for a few. John Scalzi has written at least four books in his Old Man’s War universe (depending on how you count THE SAGAN DIARY, and QUESTIONS FOR A SOLDIER). Robert Charles Wilson just last year wrote the last book in his Spin “trilogy”. But neither of them was a series. A book would come out and it would be a self-contained story written in the same universe. Neither were set up from the beginning to be a small part of something larger.
Good thing we have The Expanse.
CALIBAN’S WAR (the book we’re reviewing just in case you didn’t know), is the second book in The Expanse, and the sequel to last year’s excellent LEVIATHAN WAKES. LEVIATHAN WAKES was great and was amazing. It is currently on the Hugo nominee ballot for Best Novel, and was such a success that Orbit (the publisher of the series) ordered three more books and a series of novelettes. That means we’re getting (as best as I can count) six books in the series.
Folks, that’s good freaking news, cause this series rocks!
I’m gonna talk about the book now, which will inevitably spoil the previous book. So if you haven’t read LEVIATHAN WAKES, STOP READING! You’ve been warned.
CALIBAN’S WAR picks up a year after LEVIATHAN WAKES left off. The protomolecule has crashed into Venus and strange structures are sprouting up out of the atmosphere. Tensions between Earth, Mars and the newly former Outer Planet Alliance are high. On Ganymede a strange creature tears through a unit of Martian and Earther soldiers possibly sparking a war. Instead of just two viewpoints as was the case in LEVIATHAN WAKES, here we have four. Jim Holden is back, leading his crew trying to figure out what is going on with this strange creature and generally making a nuisance of himself. He is joined this time by Bobbie who is the lone surviving soldier when the creature attack. Avasarala, a diplomat from earth trying to keep the sides from war and figure out what is really happening. And Prax a scientist on Ganymede who, in the wake of the creatures attack and the disaster that follows, is trying to find his daughter who may be the key to everything that is going on.
I’m gonna come right out and say this. I think Daniel Abraham is setting the standard for the industry right now. His fantasy book THE KING’S BLOOD (book two in his fantasy series, The Dagger and the Coin) was probably the best thing I’ve read this year. He also co-wrote this book with a friend of his Ty Frank (they write together under the pseudonym James S.A. Corey). So he is writing some of the best fantasy series and the best SF series out there. This guy is unstoppable.
My review of THE KING’S BLOOD could almost just be copied and pasted here with some of the names changed. What Abraham did so well in that book, he and Ty Frank do just as well here. The characters are well thought out and interesting. They feel like people making real decisions, and most of the time the enjoyment in the books comes from watching those decisions have effects on other characters. The interplay between the viewpoints is a joy. The world we got a glimpse of in LEVIATHAN WAKES just got a bigger and more interesting. It all works.
That being said, I’m not sure I liked it as much as its predecessor. The book is good, it set up some truly big and wonderful things, but it felt more like a set up book than a payoff. It was good and great and I love the series, but the stakes seemed a bit higher last time around and the action a bit more intense.
Those are small problems really. The book is still great, the series advancing wonderfully. And as for the ending? I won’t spoil it here, but when my dad finished reading the book (he finished a day or so before me) he called me right away wanting to talk about it. He’s certainly set us up for something special.
Age Recommendation: 14+ Depending on how you take to the language. There’s a fair bit of it in here.
Language: A lot. Three fourths of the time there’s nothing there, but one character likes to swear like a sailor and she does it well.
Violence: A bit but not much. A few scenes of monster action and a few other standoffs.
Sex: Referenced more than shown and not much.
What are you waiting for? BUY THIS SERIES!!!
And don’t forget the bonus piece of short fiction:
THE BUTCHER OF ANDERSON STATION