Review: Babylon’s Ashes
If you haven’t at least heard about this series by now, it’s likely that you’re not a fan of science fiction. If you’re looking to be a fan, this is a great series to start with as it is, in my not-so-humble opinion, one of the best Science Fiction series being written today. The writing duo of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck have been doing a bang up job of it, and this book has FINALLY arrived. I include the emphasis here only because it feels like I’ve been waiting for this book for so long, and nothing to do with the book being delayed. The authors have been doing a great job of keeping these books coming on a regular schedule, and I can do nothing but applaud the work they’ve done so far. That being said, it did feel like a long time since book five, and I know that has to be because of the zinger of a hit the story took, when the Free Navy finally brought their war from out of the shadows.
BABYLON’S ASHES (Amazon) is the sixth book in the planned nine-book series called the Expanse, and picks up just shortly after Nemesis Games. Earth is reeling from the hit it’s taken, and Medina Station of the slow zone is now in the hands of the Free Navy. Occupants of Mars and Earth have been leaving in droves within colony ships racing toward the ring and the thousand systems beyond it, but they won’t be getting very far without the express permission of the belter Free Navy command. It seems as if all of Marco Inaros’s plans are falling perfectly into place, but it’s time that the rest of the solar system has something to say about that.
The first thing that hit me about this book was the number of POV characters in it. I’m a character man, yeah? Well, I’ve much enjoyed the focused four-POV books we’ve had thus far. Babylon’s Ashes has fifteen. Despite the fact that this is such a large departure from the story-telling mode of the rest of the series, this high number is completely justifiable. Six books in? Four major political factions? Dozens of story lines? Totally. Not all of them are new, of course. Only a few of them we haven’t met before, and those didn’t really take up a lot of page time.
The regulars are all there: crew of the Rocinante, Bobbie (aw yeah), Avasarala, Marco. Even some input from Praxidike Meng. Member him? Dude that got his daughter stolen from him at the beginning of Caliban’s War? Yeah. All good stuff. As is typical, each of the characters were great. In fact, it felt like the story was even more focused on the characters than usual as they dealt with the wake of destruction and upheaval that the Free Navy has caused because it has impacted everyone. Even with the widening of the character net, the focus got tighter. I really liked that.
The plot itself essentially revolves around Marco Inaros’s attempts to further his plans of a multi-system utopia with him at the governmental head, and the Earth/Mars/OPA combined efforts to knock the psycho out of the ever-loving sky. The myriad of characters entreats us with their loyalty, betrayal, love, hatred, and nobility. There were so many things that the author needed to accomplish in this book, and so many different ways that it could have gone off the rails. Instead, we see detail where detail was necessary and summary where it wasn’t. Two pretty major battles happen, and they were really intense. One of the major characters of the series bites the bullet, and that throws a big old wrench into the works of the good guys, because there still isn’t a single individual in any of the governments or political agencies throughout the entire solar system that trusts anyone belonging to any of the others. So much goodness. Mmm. Tasty, it was.
While it is true that I would have REALLY liked to see something happen concerning the stolen protomolecule and any of the whatever-it-is that was left behind on the scattered planets through the Dandelion Sky, there are plenty of clues telling me that things are about to get sketchy really quick. What with all the chaos sown by the Free Navy, Earth’s entire solar system is limping and failing fast. What better time would there be for a big, nasty, alien mega-work muncher to come blasting through the ring gates and take our heroes to task?
This book was near the top of the list of favorite Expanse books, and definitely one of my favorite Science Fiction reads of the year. Now though, I’m back to waiting for the next one. But did you hear? It has a name already: Persepolis Rising. And cover art too? How nice of them. Now I have something to dream about.
- Recommended Age: 16+
- Language: Not often, but it's pretty strong, especially from Avasarala :)
- Violence: Very little intensity, but deals with themes of death on a massive scale
- Sex: A few references, the mental-elsewhere scenes typical of Abraham's writing, and polygamous relationships